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How Syracuse’s special teams became the nation’s best

Those woebegone days when the Orange struggled are well in the rearview mirror now.

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest reasons for optimism around the Syracuse Orange football program this season has been the group’s phenomenal special teams play thus far.

We knew what we had in Sean Riley and Sterling Hofrichter prior to 2018, but the entire group’s ability to create opportunities for the Orange offense have been incredible through six games — possessing the second-best field position advantage in the country. The Daily Orange talks about how SU built the best special teams group in the FBS, and to little surprise (to us) part of it has a lot to do with having an actual special teams coordinator in Sean Lustig.

You may recall how bad Syracuse’s special teams were under Doug Marrone (aside from punting). And same goes for GERG (punting tho) and most of Scott Shafer’s tenure too (save punting and when Steve Gregory showed up). But by hiring specifically for special teams, we’ve moved well beyond those lows to some impressive highs.

The rest of your Syracuse-related links below:

Syracuse has built the top special teams unit in the nation (Daily Orange)

Hofrichter, a three-year starter for SU, is currently ranked 17th in the nation in yards per attempt with 45.12. Nearly 54 percent of Hofrichter’s 28 punts this year have resulted in a fair catch and 46.4 percent of them have wound up inside opponents’ own 20-yard lines. Nine of his punts have gone for at least 50 yards, and only three have ended in touchbacks this season.

Syracuse basketball guard Howard Washington hopes to play this season (Syracuse.com)

“He’s still working on his knee. He’s out for a little while yet,” Boeheim said. “We really haven’t seen much of him this fall. We’re going to evaluate him when he comes back in about another three weeks and see where he is.” Washington, a Buffalo native, stayed in Syracuse for all 12 weeks of summer school for the second straight year.

Why Syracuse football coach Dino Babers chose ‘hard’ over ‘nice’ on bye week (Syracuse.com)

“We had an opportunity to be hard or be nice,” Babers said Monday morning during his weekly press conference, “and I decided to be hard on them.” Syracuse last week changed up its schedule, moving afternoon practices to early morning. ”The practice was short,” Babers said, “but it wasn’t easy.”

Isaiah Stewart officially visiting Syracuse this weekend (247Sports)

Stewart is a native of Rochester (N.Y.), and Syracuse has been recruiting him for a long time. He has visited the campus several times, and attended several basketball games at the Carrier Dome. Stewart’s primary recruiter at SU is assistant Gerry McNamara. The two communicate regularly, and that relationship has Syracuse among Stewart’s final six schools.

Dick Vitale’s preseason top 40 (ESPN)

12. Syracuse: Jim Boeheim had to smile when Tyus Battle announced his decision to return to school. The Orange surprised a lot of people in the tournament last year.

Former Syracuse basketball guard John Gillon signs contract with G-League (Syracuse.com)

Syracuse football midseason awards (247Sports)

1923: Syracuse dominates Alabama 23-0 in ‘gridiron battle’ (Syracuse.com)

Djimon Johnson’s position change provides SU stability defensively (Daily Orange)

Mike Jinks out at Bowling Green after fourth straight loss (ESPN)