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Syracuse football’s senior class deserved better

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It’s a strange end for a class that could’ve had a fitting ending in a bowl game.

NCAA Football: ACC Football Kickoff Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the Syracuse Orange will close their season against the Boston College Eagles. And win or lose, that’s the final game of the season.

For many members of this year’s squad, it’s also the final game of their Syracuse careers.

Considering the promise these players were recruited with -- for most, SU had come off of two straight bowl games in 2012 and 2013 — it’s strange to see it end like this. Four straight years without a bowl. No players had experienced that at SU since the GERG years (2005-2008).

But these weren’t the GERG years at all. From 2014 through 2017, SU has played fairly competitive football while going 15-32 (so far). Injuries have ravaged this program, as have coaching changes. Their time in the ACC has been jarring in many ways, both on the positive and negative side.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

One of those seniors, defensive captain Zaire Franklin, said “things are different around here” following the Clemson win, and talked about hopefully playing in a bowl game. His story was eloquent and aspirational. But he won’t get that opportunity to play in the postseason now. We’ll miss his leadership next year. As a three-year captain and outspoken ambassador for the program, he’s been one of the best players and people SU football has known in some time.

His fellow linebacker Parris Bennett may not be a captain, but he’s put up even gaudier numbers these past two years and has become an absolute machine racking up tackles. Jonathan Thomas has played his own part in carrying on the recent tradition of strong linebacker play as well. All three players made up an experienced group that’s helped anchor this defense through tumultuous periods recently.

Offensively, it’s obvious we’ll miss Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips considerably. The record-setting wideouts could both find themselves playing on Sundays next year, but the impact they’ve had establishing a new standard for excellence for Orange receivers will be what we remember them for most.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Both players will leave here near the top of most receiving lists for single-season and career benchmarks. Ishmael will be striving to nab a few more records on Saturday, including the career receiving yards mark, which Marvin Harrison still owns for now.

Along with those names, there are many more that helped shape Syracuse football these past four or five seasons, for better or for worse. Whether they hold records or not, or make the NFL or not, I know this group will stick out to me as one that I grew with as a writer and a member of this community. I wish they could’ve seen a bowl game. They all deserved better. It’s not any coach’s fault they didn’t, obviously. But rather, a product of the circumstances this program’s been dealt.

I wish them all the best going forward, and thank them for their time playing here at SU. It’s been a pleasure seeing them all.

The full list of this year’s senior players is below:

  • Clay Austin, WR
  • Sean Avant, WR
  • Parris Bennett, LB
  • Devin M. Butler, DB
  • Zaire Franklin, LB
  • Alex Grossman, K
  • Steve Ishmael, WR
  • Zack Mahoney, QB
  • Jordan Martin, DB
  • Jamar McGloster, OT
  • Cole Murphy, K
  • Ervin Philips, WR
  • Jonathan Thomas, LB
  • Austin Valdez, LB