Syracuse football closed spring practice with its annual Spring Showcase on Saturday, with Team Orange, led by the first-team offense and defense, edging Team White, which consisted of the second-team offense and defense, by a score of 14-0.
Stats from Syracuse's Spring Showcase. pic.twitter.com/ugZu16rHVw— Ari Gilberg (@arigilberg) April 22, 2017
While the game itself lasted just under one hour, there was still plenty to take away from Syracuse’s performance.
Injuries Update: Erv Phillips and Aaron Roberts
Syracuse fans were quickly forced to endure two injury scares on Saturday. The first of which came prior to the start of the game when starting inside wide receiver Erv Phillips walked out of the locker room in street clothes and wearing a brace on his left foot due to an unspecified injury.
Shortly after, Orange fans then saw starting offensive lineman Aaron Roberts forced out of action midway through the first half after appearing to injure his left arm. Roberts immediately went to the locker room and did not return.
After the game, Babers addressed both players’ health.
On Phillips: “No, I don’t think (it’s serious). He’s going to be okay. He had a very physical Thursday practice and got dinged up a little bit and we didn’t want to put him back out there. He’s got some swelling in his foot and when it goes down we’ll be able to pictures and stuff.”
On Roberts: “We’re not sure what happened to him, so there’s no report or anything on that right now but hopefully he’ll be okay.”
Defense Wins The Day
Syracuse’s defense was one of the worst units in all of college football last season, finishing near the bottom in total yards allowed, yards allowed per game and points per game.
However, Syracuse’s defense clearly won the battle versus the offense on Saturday, forcing five total turnovers (interceptions by Eric Dungey, Zack Mahoney and Rex Culpepper as well as fumbles by Mahoney and Ravian Pierce) and keeping the offense out of the end zone until the final few minutes. SU’s second unit held Dungey and Company to just a single touchdown, while Zaire Franklin and the starters kept the second-team offense off the scoreboard entirely.
Franklin said the improvement can largely be attributed to the defense having a full season under its belt in Babers’ Tampa-2 scheme compared to being forced to quickly learn it in such a short timeframe prior to last year’s spring game.
“Just as a team and as a defense, I think we’re way more comfortable and have way more trust,” Franklin said.
Cordy Shines in Return
After not be able to play in front of fans for more than seven months following a season-ending injury he suffered in Syracuse’s loss to Louisville in September, starting safety Antwan Cordy showed no signs of rust in his return to action, swarming opposing wide receivers and looking poised leading the first-team secondary.
Cordy showed off his ball-hawking prowess early on, intercepting Mahoney in the first half and returning it 40 yards for a touchdown. He also had three tackles and broke up a pass.
“It was good being out there today,” Cordy said after the game. “With my injury, it was really tough for me.”
Cordy appears to be one of the few defensive backs whose starting spot is solidified.
Potential Secondary Shuffle
One of the more surprising lineup changes was the inclusion of sophomores Evan Foster and Scoop Bradshaw in the starting lineup. While starting cornerback Cordell Hudson didn’t play, Foster and Bradshaw appear to have leapfrogged over the likes of Rodney Williams, Devin C. Butler and others on the pecking order, as Foster started in the opposite safety spot alongside Cordy and Bradshaw started at corner.
Both Foster and Bradshaw seized the oppoturnity with superb performances. Foster had an interception and a pass breakup, as well as finishing the day tied for a game-high four tackles, including one for a loss. Bradshaw looked great in coverage and also had three tackles.
Babes said Bradshaw has made a number of plays in practice this spring and Foster’s 6-foot and 208-pound frame is extremely desirable when going up against tall, big receivers. He did, however, caution that neither player has secured a starting spot yet and it is still an open competition in the secondary,
“I don’t necessarily believe they’ve moved by the other guys. I think they’re in a position to challenge for those positions,” Babers said. “Based off of what’s going on the in the spring and what happens in the fall we’ll see where the dust settles and who ends up in the lineup.”
Babers Adresses Tough Schedule
There were no uplifting speeches in the post-game press conference, as Babers gave more of a sobering take when asked to give his expectation for this season.
Unlike many players who have optimistically embraced Syracuse’s upcoming No. 1 strength of schedule in tweets, Babers said everyone needs to recognize where the Orange are as a team, and the difficult slate ahead of them.
“I think you need to look at it about how the young men are doing on the football field. You’re (the media) always going to judge by W’s and L’s. No matter what I say, that’s how you’re going to judge it.
But coaches look at things differently. As long as we’re progressing and moving along – it’s not my first rodeo, it’s the third time I’ve done this. I know what I’m looking for and I think these guys are moving in the right direction.
I think we should all understand what kind of schedule we have. Eleven or 12 opponents that are bowl teams. Toughest schedule in the country, based off of a second year rebuild. That’s no joke. Google it, Google it. We’re not making this stuff up to make it sound good.
That being said, we’ll line up every Saturday and play, and wherever the chips fall, they’ll fall. And we’re looking forward to it.”
What else did you learn from Saturday’s Spring Showcase? Let us know in the comments below.