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Syracuse football: 2020 may not be the worst season to have questions on defense

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Obviously a lot of offseason left to go. But recent developments seem to bode well for SU’s defense.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason’s not even here yet for all of college football, and yet, there’s already been a decent amount of roster turnover across the sport — especially in the ACC Atlantic Division.

Following Boston College’s coaching change, quarterback Anthony Brown will transfer and running back A.J. Dillon will head to the NFL. In a surprise move, Wake Forest starting QB Jamie Newman is also transferring (likely to Oregon, per Pete Thamel). Florida State seems likely to move on from James Blackman as the Mike Norvell era begins, which could lead to its own growing pains. Plus Cam Akers is headed to the NFL. Obviously the Syracuse Orange lose their own offensive standout in receiver Trishton Jackson, too.

Of the other teams in the division, Clemson could lose non-Trevor Lawrence playmakers, but has the talent to reload quickly. NC State has a lot of question marks on offense. Louisville seems well situated with Micale Cunningham under center.

The shifts set the stage up a year that could be a little more devoid of offense in the division — something that could potentially benefit Syracuse, assuming they ever get around to hiring a new defensive coordinator. SU has returning talent on defense, for certain. But there are major question marks at linebacker and in the secondary. Add in adjusting to a new scheme and there’s reason to think this group may need to take a step back in 2020 before it moves forward.

Unless... the schedule helps out there. Even just looking at quarterbacks, the Orange should have the better passer in all but a handful of games (Clemson, Louisville, Pitt). Many of the teams on the slate are replacing QBs altogether, including Boston College, Liberty, Western Michigan, Rutgers and now Wake Forest too. If you chalk those up to wins, and add in the Colgate game for No. 6, you’re bowling based on QB play alone.

Obviously there’s plenty more to consider in any season than just QB play. It’s just notable that the passers we’re facing next fall should help our cause more than hurt it. Our own quarterback production and effectiveness was questionable at times in 2019 too, so we’re far from assured any result. For now, though, I’d like to trend toward optimism as we look to put a forgettable and disappointing season in the rearview mirror.