At least for now, we’re having a 2020 Syracuse Orange football season. And as you’ve likely noticed, we’ve spent the last couple months compiling previews of every position group on the team while counting down to what we assume is going to be kickoff.
Of course you read TNIAAM every day, but it’s easy to miss an article or two just the same. To help you catch up, we’ve included every link below, plus key returning players, narratives and how Syracuse stacks up vs. the rest of the ACC. It’s going to be a weird season, after all. might as well be as prepared as possible.
Top returning player(s): Tommy DeVito
On the positive end, this group could really learn a lot from Gilbert — who coached Matt Johnson (briefly) at Bowling Green and Jimmy Garoppolo at Eastern Illinois while working under Babers before. Last year’s offense was a slow-moving group by Babers’s standards, and adjusting that on its own could help this QB group automatically be a lot more productive. Between that and some hopefully improved play-calling, it’ll be an interesting first few games should they happen. We’ll be left to wonder “what if” on how this offense and the QB position could’ve been improved by a full offseason implementing this system in person, though.
Top returning player(s): Abdul Adams, Jarveon Howard, Jawhar Jordan
Not to put this all on Adams, but a lot of this group’s ceiling gets defined by what he can round into during his final season. A steady campaign where he’s the lead ball-carrier likely opens up many more opportunities for the other running backs, and allows for other play-calling wrinkles to show themselves. If he struggles, it could become a game of musical chairs regarding who gets the most carries. At least we have some options there should it occur, though.
Top returning player(s): Taj Harris, Aaron Hackett
Where the receiving group benefits is the fact that these tight ends are experienced and capable of bailing this offense out in the redzone. Plus they have a veteran QB who learns from mistakes and can throw well downfield, AND the line should be improved AND the running game should hopefully be able to take a load off of the passing attack. None of that guarantees success, or even tells you which of these receivers step up past Harris. However, it at least tells me things aren’t as dire as they may appear on paper.
Top returning player(s): Chris Bleich, Airon Servais, Carlos Vettorello
The fact that this group got a good quarter of a season together to start to figure out any wrinkles and quirks of working as a unit can not be understated. Add that to a Tommy DeVito who has another year under him and can learn from his mistakes and you have a solid recipe for improvement from this group. Nothing noted here means that the unit will be world beaters, but there should be a decent bit of optimism for the group, even coming off the season they had last year.
Top returning player(s): McKinley Williams, Kinglsey Jonathan, Josh Black
Still, you probably don’t want to bank on that. I’m excited to see some of the newer players in action at some point, and think the play style for Syracuse may actually lead to getting more bodies on the field, which should help develop meaningful depth. However, we’re largely riding with the four seniors (Williams, Black, Jonathan, Roscoe) as the core of this three-man front in the early goings. Hopefully the 3-3-5 continues to facilitate some quality pass-rushing too. These players are all significantly more effective when the defense is based on generating pressure and havoc from the line.
Top returning player(s): Tyrell Richards
Their lack of experience overall could create some rough patches, especially without the non-conference cupcakes to warm up with. Still, there is a chance that we see the future building blocks emerge by the end of the year (again, provided there is a season). We know Richards appears to be a lock. The rest is up for grabs. That may not be ideal for beating better competition in 2020. I like the potential it provides for down the road, though.
Top returning player(s): Andre Cisco, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Trill Williams
Despite losing two starters in Christopher Fredrick and Evan Foster, there’s still a lot of experience on the field for SU’s secondary. The position group’s collective jobs may also get a bit easier with the addition of a “rover” role in the new 3-3-5 scheme this season. As weird as it may seem, the DBs could very well be the strength of this defense — if no one gets injured, of course.
Top returning player(s): Andre Szmyt
The good news for 2020 is that Andre Szmyt is still kicking, and Lustig’s still coaching special teams. But replacing Sterling Hofrichter is going to be no easy feat. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the top-rated punter in the FBS last year, and was around the top third in the country on kickoffs. That’s not easy production to replace, as the Orange are going to learn this year. But we have replaced star punters before, even if the task admittedly looks tough.