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Syracuse football returns more tackles than any team in FBS

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That’s potentially a good thing.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

As part of his college football season preview rollout, Phil Steele typically isolates certain production statistics and ranks every team by returning percentage. Recently, he took a look at the percentage of returning tackles on every team. A familiar squad was at the top of the list

Of the Syracuse Orange’s top 15 tacklers last year, just two (Marqez Hodge, Ted Taylor) were seniors. And just one additional player (Corey Winfield) is no longer with the program. That leaves 12 of the team’s top stoppers in the fold, including Parris Bennett and Zaire Franklin, who both managed over 100 tackles last year.

Steele uses these numbers around veteran defenses to project improvement on that side of the ball (and usually, a W-L jump to coincide with that) While he hasn’t released his full projections just yet, he does include the Orange as a team he sees improving — in part due to this defense.

While you should never take too much from the spring game, there’s at least some reason to believe the defense we saw that day could be closer to the one we see during the season, too. Even a marginal improvement on that side could make a world of difference for SU, assuming that the offense continues to progress in Dino Babers’s system.

One of those potential inhibitors to progress could be the schedule, of course. And here, we get a look at which teams are best suited to thwarting the Orange attack. Based on Steele’s rankings, here’s where Syracuse’s opponents come in, with regard to returning tackles:

2. Florida State Seminoles (87.2 percent)

38. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (71.1)

44. Louisville Cardinals (69.1)

49. Miami Hurricanes (57.9)

50. NC State Wolfpack (57.9)

57. Boston College Eagles (66.9)

59. Central Michigan Chippewas (65.6)

62. Clemson Tigers (64.2)

103. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (53.8)

119. Pittsburgh Panthers (42.0)

120. LSU Tigers (41.7)

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a clear caveat here about the talent behind that returning percentage as well, so don’t get yourself all riled up about LSU being that far down either. Unlike most teams in the country, the Tigers replace departing 4- and 5-star kids with more of the same. And they acclimate themselves just fine.

Pitt may also have some addition by subtraction themselves. As bad as Syracuse’s defense was last season, Pitt’s was worse. And the Orange shredded the Panthers in last year’s record-setting performance. Replacing most of that D may actually be a blessing for Pittsburgh, even if it takes a few games to get into the flow of the season.

But what do you think? Should Syracuse be excited to bring back that much experience on that side of the ball? Would you rather be able to hit reset after a tough season? Curious if opinions are positive about this statistic.