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Syracuse Football: A Way-Too-Early Look at the Orange Offensive Depth Chart for 2016

Sure, it's early. Why should that stop us?

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

(credit for this smart idea goes to Bud over at the excellent Tomahawk Nation, which you already read regularly)

The Syracuse Orange football season officially starts in 241 days. That's pretty far out, but it shouldn't prevent us from looking ahead to the 2016 campaign, SU's first under new head coach Dino Babers.

We start with the offensive depth chart. While the Orange return nearly every skill player on that side of the ball, there's still some questions that come with a new coaching staff and how they'll utilize everybody on the roster. Those questions at least partially explain the various discrepancies from our three-writer panel, Sean, Brandon and myself.

Below is how the depth chart shakes out, based on majority decisions. Then, we provide some explanations about where indecision may exist.

Position Starter Reserve 1
QB Eric Dungey (So.) Wilson/Mahoney/Culpepper
RB Jordan Fredericks (So.) Ervin Philips (So.)
WR Steve Ishmael (Jr.) Alvin Cornelius (Sr.)
WR Brisley Estime (Sr.) Sean Avant (Jr.)
RB/Slot Ben Lewis (Sr.) Strickland/Custis/Philips
TE Josh Parris (Sr.) Kendall Moore (Sr.)
LT Omari Palmer (R-Sr.) Cody Conway (So.)
LG Aaron Roberts (R-So.) Sam Clausman (R-Fr.)
C Jason Emerich (R-Sr.) AJ Deurig (R-Fr.)
RG Evan Adams (R-Fr.) Alex Hayes (R-Jr.)
RT Jamar McGloster (R-Jr.) Jon Burton (R-Jr.)

A ton of these were unanimous. But as mentioned, there was definitely some uncertainty on a few spots...

Backup Quarterback

Sean (Zack Mahoney): I feel like Wilson has shown us his upside and it makes more sense to invest in other players. While I think Culpepper will be the No. 2 by the end of the season (assuming he doesn't redshirt), I feel like Mahoney starts 2016 as the backup.

Brandon (Rex Culpepper): This was a tough one to decipher considering all the possible scenarios. One would have to assume there’s an existing chance that Wilson will transfer and though Mahoney did well down the stretch this season, it is yet to be seen how he will fit in Babers’ offense. Culpepper has a higher upside than the rest of the backups and since he’s enrolling early, he will have ample time to become comfortable with the offense.

John (Austin Wilson): Unless Wilson transfers, I've got him as the top backup. Traditional passer, has started college games and is currently a scholarship player; all give him a leg-up in Babers's offense for the time being. Of course we're appreciative of what Mahoney accomplished last year, but a QB has to be able to throw in this system.

Running Back 2/Slot

Sean (Jamal Custis): Custis has a tendency to get lost in the shuffle on offense and I foresee his role as a change-of-pace guy for the time being rather than a first-stringer. At least until he proves otherwise.

Brandon (Ervin Philips): Fredericks is the best true running back on the roster and that comes without question. Though Ervin Philips has the most experience, he always seemed like a slot receiver to me with his speed and build. Not to say he can’t run out of the backfield, but he’s a bigger threat at receiver. Ben Lewis and Dontae Strickland will certainly see time at the slot position as well, but Philips has shown in his first two seasons that he is meant for that role.

John (Dontae Strickland): Strickland was electric whenever he touched the ball last season, so it's hard to conceive how he's not a primary contributor in 2016. In 30 touches, he had 218 yards (over seven yards per) and three scores. He can take handoffs or catch passes -- which makes him perfectly suited for this role.

Additional back-and-forth:

  • I said Erv was the starting running back, while Brandon and Sean went for Jordan Fredericks. Neither's "wrong." Just depends how much you value Erv's ability to run with burst out of the backfield.
  • Moore and Parris were the tight end picks on Brandon and Sean's respective ballots, but my top choice was Trey Dunkleberger. He's got both speed and size and can spread the field -- something that's pretty useful in Babers's offense (and isn't addressed by the other two options).
  • Offensive line also provided some intrigue, if only because we thought all of the younger back-ups could easily challenge for starting spots. That's a position group to keep an eye on.


So, what do you think? Obviously there are plenty of assumptions made of Babers and his staff. But at least they're educated assumptions, right? Weigh in below if you agree or disagree with any of the picks.