The Syracuse Orange returned a boatload of experience in 2017, but that obviously didn’t equate to the requisite wins for bowl eligibility.
It helped beat Clemson, mind you. And returning players like Steve Ishmael, Ervin Philips, Parris Bennett and Eric Dungey all put in big statistical seasons. However, the returning production didn’t necessarily see an increase from one year to the next.
So perhaps we try things differently for 2018? The Orange start off ranked 75th in terms of returning production, according to SB Nation’s Bill Connelly.
SU brings back 59 percent of offensive production, and 68 percent on the defensive side -- making for 63 percent overall.
If those numbers seem low despite a relatively young team, there’s an explanation on both sides of the ball. Ishmael and Philips accounted for well over half of the passing game’s production, and Zack Mahoney had enough passing yards to account for a drop as well. Defensively, four of the top seven tacklers are gone (all linebackers), with additional departures from players like Kayton Samuels, Juwan Dowels and Jordan Martin.
And that’s really it. Like I said, easily explained. And while we have lingering questions around receivers and linebackers, particularly, there’s enough experience elsewhere that could potentially help pick up the slack.
Where this returning production (or lack thereof) is most critical, however, is in comparison to the teams Syracuse faces. A quick rundown of where our 2018 opponents rank:
20. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (75%)
28. Clemson Tigers (74%)
30. North Carolina Tar Heels (73%)
31. Boston College Eagles (73%)
37. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (72%)
57. Pittsburgh Panthers (67%)
87. Connecticut Huskies (61%)
93. Florida State Seminoles (60%)
105. Western Michigan Broncos (57%)
112. N.C. State Wolfpack (53%)
124. Louisville Cardinals (46%)
That’s a fairly even split -- six teams with more returning production and five with less. Though obviously FSU having less doesn’t matter much. The questions come in when looking at how high Wake Forest and Boston College are (top-40) and how low NC State and Louisville are (bottom-30).
The latter two programs have recruited better, so younger players are more likely to be able to jump in and contribute. BC and Wake may not recruit as well, but with more experience, that can make up for that perceived lack of talent.
There’s also the matter of which players are returning. If you’re a passing team and all of your rushing production’s gone, that’s less critical than your top wide receivers. If you’re Louisville, losing Lamar Jackson is probably more important than another team losing their own starting QB.
Plenty more time to evaluate Syracuse’s own returning production and new additions once National Signing Day wraps up next week. Find the Orange’s standing here surprising (or not)? Share your own thoughts below.