The 2021 Syracuse Orange football season kicks off in just over a week. And while glimpses of the team this offseason have been minimal, at best, we’d still like to take some guesses around which SU players we see on the field when they kick off against Ohio on September 4.
Yes, we’ll also fully admit that Dino Babers is not one to release a depth chart unless he has to (/glances at this entire offseason) and even when he does, it’s debatable how much he sticks to it. Still, this is a blog, and the content machine sleeps for no one. So we’ll take a crack at things.
First up, the offense.
Quarterbacks: Tommy DeVito (RJr) | Garrett Shrader (RSo)
Look, you may not be pleased to see zero change atop the depth chart here. But as discussed on Tuesday, DeVito’s going to be given an opportunity to keep this job to start the year. The other side of that coin, however, is that he’ll have a chance to lose it. I’d personally like to see him get a chance to succeed behind a capable offensive line, though. We’ll know pretty quickly if he can get it done or not based on how he looks vs. Ohio and Rutgers to start the year.
Also receiving votes: N/A
Running backs: Sean Tucker (Fr) | Jarveon Howard (Jr)
There were never any doubts that Tucker’s going to be the starter for Syracuse this season. The question is what share of the carries he takes compared to the experienced collection of backs behind him. Howard has been getting some work with the twos in camp, and was definitely a bruiser between the tackles in 2018 and 2019. Having him as a capable third-down and/or short-yardage back to give Tucker a breather would be great. But realistically, the four returning running backs are going to see the field in some way.
Also receiving votes: Cooper Lutz (RSo), Abdul Adams (RSr)
Outside receiver 1: Anthony Queeley (RSo) | Ja’Vontae Williams (Fr)
Outside receiver 2: Damien Alford (Fr) | Devaughan Cooper (RSr)
Inside receiver: Taj Harris (Jr) | Courtney Jackson (RFr)
Harris and Queeley are known commodities, having caught a combined 95 of Syracuse’s 173 receptions last year, so expect them to be on the field plenty. And hopefully Harris is able to shift inside where he’d be even more effective (and had plenty of success last year). After that, though, it’s anyone’s guess.
Alford is now 6-foot-6 at this point, and it would be ideal to have that size outside as much as possible (though it’s notable that he was limited on Tuesday). Williams is another virtual unknown, but he and Isaiah Jones both seem to have the size to be a capable downfield option. Cooper’s a late addition to the roster and as such, is a wildcard (but potentially a good one). Jackson looked alright in limited action last year and seems like the most likely backup on the inside if Taj winds up starting there.
Also receiving votes: Isaiah Jones (So), Kendall Long (Fr)
Tight end: Luke Benson (So) | Chris Elmore (Sr)
The “starting” distinction doesn’t mean a whole lot here, since Elmore’s more of a fullback. But it also seems unlikely we see a ton of both players on the field at the same time unless the offensive line really falls apart. Benson has a unique speed/size combo at tight end to create a lot of mismatches in the passing game. Hopefully he has a chance to actually do that.
Also receiving votes: Maximilian Mang (Fr)
Left tackle: Matthew Bergeron (So) | Mark Petry (So)
Right tackle: Airon Servais (RSr) | Jakob Bradford (So)
Bergeron and Servais are your most experienced tackles, and while there are some critiques about how things have gone for both, they’re your two best options here. Petry and Bradford are unknowns still, further solidifying the starting gigs for the former two.
Also receiving votes: Anthony Red (RFr)
Left guard: Dakota Davis (RJr) | Anthony Red (RFr)
Right guard: Chris Bleich (RSo) | Darius Tisdale (RJr)
Center: Carlos Vettorrello (RSo) | Josh Ilaoa (Fr)
In an ideal world, Davis, Bleich and Vett are your starters on the interior part of the line given their respective experience and skill level relative to the alternatives. Bleich, the transfer from Florida, is assumed to be the team’s best lineman this year, and hopefully that holds. Davis has been hurt for a while in camp, though, which is highly concerning. One plus is that Tisdale started a bunch last year, so we have an option to plug in if needed.
Also receiving votes: N/A
So what do we think? Excited about what’s spelled out above? Concerned? Share your own thoughts — or depth chart picks — below.