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Syracuse football 2018 spring game preview

Whether you’re headed to the Carrier Dome or not, here’s what you need to know.

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

The Syracuse Orange football team concludes 2018 spring practice with the spring game on Friday night at 7 p.m. You can catch the game (and parking) for free at the Carrier Dome, or watch via ACC Network Extra like plenty of us plan to instead (nah, why would Syracuse stream this thing for fans, amirite?)

But before things kick off, here’s a rundown of some of our biggest questions to keep an eye on during the action (however long it may last):

How will Tommy DeVito look (probably) taking the majority of QB reps?

Syracuse fans haven’t truly seen much of the former four-star since he arrived on campus last summer. But with Eric Dungey potentially limited and Rex Culpepper unlikely to be available, DeVito should have a showcase event on Friday night — something that should hopefully calm any nerves of Orange fans looking at Dungey’s injury history.

DeVito’s a pro-style passer and a bit more in the traditional mold of Dino Babers quarterbacks. Even in a scrimmage, we could get our first glimpse of what the offense looks like when streamlined to pocket passing (with a player suited for that offense).

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Will the linebackers appear more suited to the Tampa-2?

Whether or not the Tampa-2 sticks around past this season could be dictated by how quickly the new linebacker corps. take to it. Ryan Guthrie’s not a typical middle linebacker for the scheme, but is a veteran. Andrew Armstrong and Kielan Whitner haven’t had much time playing linebacker at the college level, but also fit what we’re trying to do outside. Again, caveat for scrimmages, but how they defend tonight should start providing glimpses of how much we can (or can’t) rely on them for 2018.

Where’s Antwan Cordy playing?

The safety’s spent time with inside receivers this spring, and Friday’s game should show the fruits of that transition — if there are any. Syracuse does have a large collection of inexperienced receivers, and the same goes for the secondary too. How much he plays on one or both sides of the ball will be equally determined by his abilities and the abilities of the younger players on the depth chart.

Will the offensive line improvement be on display?

This year’s Syracuse offensive line is potentially one of its most experienced in decades. Friday is a look at that in practice, and a look at how some players are getting acquainted to new positions. Sam Heckel, formerly a guard, heads to center while Airon Servais goes from center to tackle. Seeing Aaron Roberts back in action will also be a relief. The guard’s absence last year was one of the biggest reasons for SU’s struggles running up the middle.

Likely pass-protecting for a player like DeVito should make things a bit easier, and the backfield has enough experience to potentially look better by default. The better this group is, the more likely Syracuse’s offense becomes a more balanced attack (the way Babers would always prefer). Their ability to protect and get a push early here should lend hints around what we’re getting this fall.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Louisiana State Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

What can we glean from the pass-rush?

It’s a balance between wanting to see the defense find success on blitzes and wanting to see the offensive line hold up against a group (D-line) that’s far from one of Syracuse’s strengths. Ideally, we’d like to see defenders get a good push, but have the O-line ultimately hold them off. Alton Robinson’s the big name to watch after an impressive first year leading the team in sacks and a strong spring where he’s generated more pressure than anyone else on the roster.

Who are DeVito (and/or Dungey’s) primary targets?

Babers isn’t given away the secret sauce, but you’ll see the beginnings of some tendencies for Syracuse’s quarterbacks here. If it’s Dungey, it’ll be telling to see who replaces Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips as favored targets. For DeVito, it could yield insights as to who can step up next (either this season or going forward).

Devin Butler, Jamal Custis and Sean Riley are knowns, as is Ravian Pierce. But everything else is pretty wide open. This should be educational for fans, no matter how familiar you are with the wide receiver depth chart right now. Keep an eye on players like Nykeim Johnson, Sharod Johnson and Russell Thompson-Bishop, who saw little to no field time last year but could be moving up into much larger roles in 2018.


What else are you looking forward to in this one? We’ll also have an open thread tonight, by the way, for those enjoying from home.