Slowly but surely, the Syracuse Orange football team is getting more competitive with the rest of the ACC.
While we wait for the W-L record to reflect it, another benchmark for progress is the number of players that appear on pre- and post-season All-ACC lists, and how the total has gone up in recent seasons. So was the case again on Wednesday, when Athlon released its four-team All-ACC picks for 2018.
Six Syracuse players made the list this time around — which is the most since SU joined the ACC, as pointed out by Syracuse.com’s Chris Carlson. Carlson also notes that half of those are on special teams, so there’s a caveat here. But nonetheless, a good step forward.
Athlon named Sterling Hofrichter its first-team punter; the lone Orange player to make get a first-team nod and a rightful one given just how good Hof’s been through two years.
Tight end Ravian Pierce was the lone second-teamer. Quarterback Eric Dungey was one of four third-teamers, along with offensive tackle Cody Conway, defensive tackle Chris Slayton and kick returner Sean Riley. Riley also received a fourth-team nod at punt returner as well. Athlon had five SU players on its All-ACC teams to end 2017 after naming the same number to its preseason team.
Though Athlon isn’t the only voice on All-ACC teams, and the votes by league media and coaches are arguably more important, this still represents the gradual culture change for the Orange program under Dino Babers. SU’s contributions to the larger story of the football conference are starting to stand out more. Record-setting performances on offense certainly help that fact.
Looking at these numbers against the rest of the ACC is another good way to look at where Syracuse has progressed to. Those totals, with first-team totals in parentheses:
- Clemson: 15 (5)
- Florida State: 11 (3)
- Boston College: 9 (5)
- NC State: 9 (3)
- Miami: 8 (3)
- Duke: 8 (2)
- Wake Forest: 8 (2)
- Virginia: 8 (0)
- Syracuse: 7 (1)
- Virginia Tech: 7 (1)
- Louisville: 6 (0)
- North Carolina: 5 (1)
- Pittsburgh: 4 (0)
- Georgia Tech: 3 (1)
When you look at it this way, Syracuse has actually worked itself into the middle of the pack already, surpassing several peer programs and sitting just below UVA, Wake and even Miami. This year’s league schedule features three of the five teams below the Orange here, but also four of the top five. It’s not the only way to measure SU’s potential in 2018 (especially given the special teams concentration). But it’s a clear example of just how many toss-ups there are out there for us this year.
Feel like there are any snubs out there? Aaron Roberts is the one that comes to mind most immediately, but he’s also coming off a season-long injury so can’t really make a compelling case for or against. Koda Martin also supplies some intrigue, but his own health questions before leaving Texas A&M likely introduce the same number of question marks for him, too.