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Syracuse Football: Redshirts Burn All Evening Against Rhode Island

Few redshirts remain after Syracuse's season-opening win.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the 2015 season, we knew parts of the Syracuse Orange roster would be young. Previewing the defensive line and secondary, respectively, the depth chart was littered with freshman we knew would see some playing time this fall.

What we didn't know is that a stunning 48 percent (12 of 25) of the brand new 2015 class -- plus two walk-on freshmen -- would have their respective redshirts burned on night one of the new year. Among a host of other ripple effects from Terrel Hunt's season-ending injury, the Syracuse staff's all-in bet on the team's youth is already very apparent.

Look at some of the top performers from Friday night's 47-0 victory over Rhode Island. True freshman QB Eric Dungey was thrown into the fire, yet threw for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Despite a backfield we thought would be led by two upperclassmen (Devante McFarlane and George Morris II), frosh Jordan Fredericks ended up being the top rusher with 103 yards and a score on 14 carries. Fellow true freshman running back Dontae Strickland had a fumble recovery on the game's opening kickoff and scored a rushing touchdown. And even walk-on frosh Jacob Hill got in on the act, racking up 75 yards on the ground in garbage time.

On defense, Steven Clark and Daivon Ellison were the standout true freshman, but seven in total got out there. Curiously absent from that list were Jake Pickard and Shy Cullen, who arguably have the highest ceilings after Clark. Perhaps the staff's committed to keeping both shirts on because of that potential? It's tough to know based on just one game full of unexpected decisions with regard to redshirting.


Barring more injuries, we'll probably get a better read on the staff's strategies this coming week against Wake Forest. Obviously you put the best talent on the field, redshirt or not, so in a more competitive matchup, your season-long contributors will see a lot more time out there. If that's a boatload of freshmen, then fine. If not, then the questions could begin to arrive around why we burned so many garbage-time redshirts vs. Rhode Island.

All of this brings us back to Hunt's injury, though. With your fifth-year senior QB done, and a true frosh under center in Dungey, the SU program's future is now and the staff's long-term staying power here rises and falls with its well-regarded 2015 class. There are built-in excuses for why the 2015 Orange should fail now. And a bad coaching staff would just throw up their hands and say "welp, look why we finished 2-10." Instead, even if this team does fall flat, it'll be with guns blazing and everything hinging on that class. That may not make you feel better about the rest of the year. But it should make you feel a whole lot better about the staff, at least for the time being. They're buying what they're selling. We might as well do the same.