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Syracuse football’s sophomores are already something special

Yesterday’s Bill C. preview highlighted the stellar start for Syracuse’s now-sophomores.

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

If you missed Bill Connelly’s Syracuse Orange football season preview article yesterday, stop what your’e doing and read that before you go on here.

Done? Good.

Among the many relatively optimistic views in a well-measured and excellent piece, was Bill’s take on Syracuse’s now-sophomores, which read like this:

“The Orange have one of the most impressive sophomore classes — FS Andre Cisco, PK Andre Szmyt, CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, WR Taj Harris, QB Tommy DeVito — in the country. That could help with sustainability.”

Obviously that list could extend even further to include the likes of Tyrell Richards, Trill Williams, Juan Wallace and Jarveon Howard too, if you wanted. But the names Bill called out there were the biggest contributors and the ones that truly guide this narrative.

Looking back at 2018, the now-sophomores made up:

  • 15% of the Orange’s passing yards (DeVito)
  • 14% of run yards (Howard, DeVito and Markenzy Pierre)
  • 19.5% of receiving yards (Harris and Sharod Johnson)
  • 15.1% of tackles (Cisco, Williams, Melinfonwu and Eric Coley)
  • 50% of interceptions (Cisco and Williams)
  • 47.2% of points (Szmyt, Howard, Harris, Elmore and Williams)

That last number should be the most jarring. I’m not going to dive into every single team’s sophomore points production. However, I would almost guarantee that no one else had that many points attributable to then-freshmen last year. And the number’s only bound to increase significantly this year with DeVito under center and Harris playing a much larger role in the passing game from week one too.

Finding players that fit what Syracuse needs has been critical to Dino Babers’s recruiting so far, and as Bill mentions there, it helps make up for a lack of major jumps in those rankings. That happens with back-to-back 4-8 records and then a seemingly random leap to 10-3. But another bowl-bound campaign this year combined with Babers’s ability to coach up young players (see the names above) could make the potential concerns about the on-paper talent level go away pretty quickly.

Is it too much to expect more of the same (and maybe more) from this group? Could we even see other names like Richards join the headliners? It doesn’t seem all that farfetched, even if you take off the admittedly orange-colored glasses. Now we cross our fingers and hope we’re not proven completely wrong by week three this year.