By Sean Fernandez
As part of our ĎOrange Outlookí series, and in conjunction with Big East Media Day, we caught up with Senior Offensive Lineman Zack Chibane. He has started each of the past 25 games (knock on wood), and looks to be one of the anchors up front again this year. He appeared on the post-spring depth chart as the starting Left Guard, and he is focused on having a successful final season in an Orange uniform. Hereís the interview:
Nation of Orange: During the recruiting process, you originally committed to USF and later chose to become an Orange. Can you tell us what stuck out about Syracuse, and what led you to change your mind?
Chibane: I think the biggest thing is the mix that Syracuse has. Itís not just about athletics here, thereís great academics and on-campus support. If I could pick one thing, itíd be the emphasis that they put on academics. Nation of Orange:
Last season ended on a bit of a rough note. Would you say that the adversity that you guys faced last year will make the team better in the long-run? Chibane: Yeah, I really believe that it will. I think itís already made us better throughout spring and summer workouts. Adversity like that (suffering five straight losses after starting off 5-2) can do one of two things. It can make them go down the tank and get down on themselves, or it can help you rise up and rise to the occasion. I think thatís what weíre doing here this offseason, and itís what weíre ready to do this season coming up. Nation of Orange:
What have you been up to since the semester ended? Chibane: I took a math class, and I got a job. Other than that, though, Iím just working out. Two workouts a day, lifting weights in the morning, running in the afternoon, and practicing after that. Just doing everything I can to make this last college football season that I have a good one. I want to go out on a good note this season and make it as good as possible. Nation of Orange:
Can you describe Doug Marroneís coaching style? Chibane: I think heís got a couple different styles. Itís tough to group him into a category. Heís a playerís coach, all about connecting with the players, but at the same time, heís not just a complete disciplinarian. He really knows when to buckle down and get serious with us. You need that discipline from head coaches.
At the same time, he played (and played here), which makes it even better. So heís able to level with us, and work with us as offensive linemen to work to get better as players. He was an offensive line coach before becoming a head coach, so I think thereís an interesting dynamic that we have with him and that he has with us.
Nation of Orange:
Youíve started each game for the past two seasons, which is pretty rare for an offensive lineman. How do you manage to stay on the field, and stay in top physical condition? Chibane: I think itís about the way you prepare in the offseason, and on a weekly basis approaching each football game. I think that if youíre in shape, and approach all of your workouts as if theyíre games, then the season should be pretty easy for you.
In high school I played two ways, which was really tough for me. But once I got to college, I kept working out, focusing on one position. It becomes pretty easy to stay on the field, but where it becomes difficult is getting on the field and producing at a high level, which Iím trying to get better and better at.
In terms of the conditioning aspect of staying on the field for 60-70 plays a game, I donít think itís a big issue for me, or Justin (Pugh), or Macky (MacPherson). Weíre all in pretty good shape and work hard in the offseason. Nation of Orange:
The SU offensive line has high expectation this year. How do you guys continually play at such a high level? Chibane:
We take pride in our position. Football is a team sport, everyone knows that. We canít be successful unless everyone is firing on all cylinders on offense and defense. I think that itís important as offensive lineman that our communication is at a high level. Being close, being able to interact, and being able to understand that we need to perform at a high level in order for our offense and our team to go, itís something that we try to instill on each other on a day-today basis.
Taking pride in our position and understanding that if we didnít go out there and succeed, then our team wonít succeed helps us to perform at a high level. Weíre not happy with what weíve experienced so far, weíre not satisfied, but it has helped us to be successful up until this point. Nation of Orange:
You were a member of the 2010 team to play in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, can you describe that experience? Chibane: It was awesome. It was a memory that Iíll cherish for the rest of my life. Hopefully, itís not my best college football memory because I want to do even better this season, but itís definitely something that Iíll never forget.
Being able to go to a stadium where Iíve been going while growing up to watch the best baseball players, and best franchise in baseball history play, and for us to step on that field and play a game against a really good team there. And to win, it was an amazing feeling that I really canít put into words. That experience makes me, and all of the other guys who were around in 2010 hungrier to be even more successful. Nation of Orange:
Whatís it like to play in front of thousands of fans at the Carrier Dome? Chibane: Itís a great experience. Itís awesome, especially when the dome is full. I donít think Iíve played in front of a capacity crowd yet, but itís been close a few times. Itís the loudest place Iíve ever played at. Iíve played in front of 110,000 fans at Penn State and it was twice as loud in the Dome.
I love doing that, and itís something Iím definitely going to miss when I leave.
Nation of Orange:
What are your expectations for the upcoming season, both as a team and for you, personally? Chibane: As a team, I want to have a winning season and win more games than we lose. And itís not just that, I want to win a big bowl game, and win the Big East in our last year playing in it.
Personally, if all of those things take care of themselves, then I know I wouldíve had a good season. If that happens, I might even be able to play a little bit at the next level. I think that if we take care of our teamís goals, bright things will be on the horizon. Nation of Orange:
As a senior, have you started to think about your post-graduation plans?
Chibane: The NFL would be my number 1 plan, and if Iím fortunate and blessed enough to get that opportunity, then itíd be a dream come true.
Iíve been thinking about that my whole life, but at the same time, my number 1 priority is this season and playing as well as I can to help this team out, not for any individual goals or anything like that. They will take care of themselves if we go out there and execute successfully as a team.
It sounds clichť, but having a winning season is all I want right now. Iíve never wanted to win so badly in my life. Nation of Orange:
If you had to choose, whatís your favorite restaurant on Marshall Street? Chibane: Iíd definitely have to go with Chipotle, even though itís not a Syracuse icon. You really canít beat their food.