The 2019 Syracuse Orange football season kicks off this coming weekend (!!!). And as you’ve probably noticed, we’ve spent the last couple months previewing every position group on the team as we’ve counted down to the most anticipated year of Orange football in two decades.
In case you missed an article or two, though, you can find all of those links below, plus key returning players, narratives and where Syracuse stacks up against the rest of the ACC. So when Saturday rolls around, you should be more than prepared for what we’re about to see on the field.
Top returning player(s): Tommy DeVito
With the Orange, we’ve yet to really see Dino’s offense showcased with a quarterback designed for it calling the plays. So despite it being year four on campus for Babers, we may be watching an attack like we’ve never really seen before at SU. That’s interesting and exciting to think about, provided DeVito, the revamped offensive line and these receivers are up for the task.
Top returning player(s): Moe Neal, Jarveon Howard, Abdul Adams
There’s a lot to like above when it comes to depth and talent. Adams and Neal should be a better 1-2 punch at running back than what we saw last year between Neal and Strickland (no offense to Dontae), and having Howard AND Jordan as the primary backs to jump in as well should lead to a well-rested group that can test defenses for a full 60 minutes of game time.
Top returning player(s): Taj Harris, Sean Riley, Nykeim Johnson, Trishton Jackson
ACC wide receivers/tight ends preview
For all of the good-to-great receivers that have suited up for Syracuse in the last decade, this is potentially the best the Orange have been across the top of the depth chart, with at least four standouts in Riley, Harris, Nykeim Johnson and Trishton Jackson. Better still, this group remains pretty young, which means we’re still likely to see some improvement from many of the contributors.
Top returning player(s): Evan Adams, Airon Servais, Sam Heckel
As mentioned, the Orange are third in the ACC, though a lot of that depends on how easily Ryan Alexander and Darius Tisdale slot in — or if the Orange decide to go the youth route instead, as was prescribed on the recent depth chart update. A lot of SU’s success rides on how well this group performs given the first-time starter at quarterback, and the fact that outside observers seem to believe the pieces fit already is a very good sign for what’s been built over the last few years.
Top returning player(s): Alton Robinson, Kendall Coleman, McKinley Williams
By making a switch in scheme and approach last year, defensive coordinator Brian Ward not only saved his job but also helped set up Syracuse’s best season in well over a decade. Now we see if he can do it again when it’s expected. The line will be a major part of whether that comes to fruition or not.
Top returning player(s): Andrew Armstrong, Tyrell Richards
For years before this one, Syracuse has either had experience, veteran players or both at linebacker. Even last year, when the team came in with big questions, Guthrie and Whitner were still guys who saw the field plenty leading up to earning starting roles. This year, it’s entirely new, which should test the defensive staff a ton as they cook up ways to keep the group as effective (or close) as what we saw last season.
Top returning player(s): Andre Cisco, Christopher Fredrick, Evan Foster, Ifeatu Melifonwu
Assuming — fairly — that the interceptions numbers can’t necessarily stay at the same high level, there are still numerous ways these DBs can continue to make big plays and break up opposing passing attacks. We know they’re going to give up some longer gains here and there, and that’s fine as long as we see the reward to go with that risk. With what should be an even better group in 2019, that’s a good bet.
Top returning player(s): Andre Szmyt, Sterling Hofrichter, Sean Riley
Following a year in which Syracuse was one of the top two special teams units in the country nearly all season, it’s tough to truly get “better.” However, with Lustig back to coach a group that returns pretty much everyone from 2018’s standout season, it’s possible that this one could. As mentioned above, it would be great to see Szmyt get fewer tries if only because it means the offense is probably executing better.