If you’re a normal reader of the site this football season, you’ll know that I usually do grades here for the latest Syracuse Orange football game on Tuesdays.
But after that “game” against Wagner, do you really need to see grades?
If you want grades, every unit gets an A except for the offensive line, which gets a B because penalties are a thing.
So in lieu of that, and with Bye Week U coming up this week, let’s take a look back at the season so far at the good, the bad, and the future through the lens of Pro Football Focus. We’ve been a fan of PFF’s ratings for the past few seasons since they introduced college football stats. PFF does a great job of helping us put performances into perspective.
Without further ado, let’s jump in:
An All-Around Team
If you’re going to go undefeated this far into the season, you need a lot of players to pull their own weight. Fortunately for the Orange, the numbers back up that theory.
I’ll be talking a lot about PFF’s ratings throughout this. For those who aren’t familiar with it, a score of 60.0 signifies the starting or average score for a player.
The impressive thing for Syracuse is that a significant number of starters and players have a season rating above 60. 26 of 35 offensive players sit at a 60 or higher, and 25 of 35 defensive players enjoy an above average rating.
Boil it down to the starters and the numbers are equally as impressive. Nine of 12 players with over 100 snaps on offense have an above 60 rating, while eight of 13 players on defense have the above average rating.
The most impressive number is that only two players on offense have a rating below 50 (I’ll get to one of those guys in a bit) and no one on defense has a rating below 50. No one on the team has a rating below 40 either. So while some players are performing below PFF’s average line, there aren’t too many players who are playing at an extremely low level.
Those are the type of ratings that Dino Babers loves to see. He always preaches the “consistently good” mantra and for the most part, his players are marching to that beat this season. This is what you want to see from Syracuse most seasons as well. You don’t need the peaks and valleys of widely distributed ratings, just consistency to build up for bowl appearances.
Offense: The Good and Bad
Raise your hand if you thought Garrett Shrader would be the highest rated player on the whole team. Not just the offense, the whole team.
Shrader has an 89.0 rating so far this season. He’s being buoyed by three 90+ individual game ratings, but we never saw a 90 rating from Shrader last season, even in his second half performance against Albany last season.
The other impressive standout, to no one’s surprise, is Oronde Gadsden II. After some limited usage through the first two games, Gadsden has responded explosively to take his season rating to 84.6, which is the second highest among all the starters behind Shrader, both on offense and defense. Gadsden has not had a game rating below 70 this season.
The other two notable good players, also to no one’s surprise, are Sean Tucker and Matthew Bergeron. Tucker is at 78.2 while Bergeron sits at 77.4. Tucker has four games with a rating of at least 66 while Bergeron has not had a below average performance this season.
The biggest downside right now on offense is Max Mang. It’s hard to replace Chris Elmore, and Mang is doing the best that he can. However, the tight end is the lowest rated starter on the team with a 48.0 ranking, standing out with a 41.8 pass block rating.
Defense: The Good and Bad
Raise your hand if you thought Mikel Jones would be the highest rated player on the defense.
Alright, I see everyone’s hand up. That’s good to see.
One of the leaders of The Mob is enjoying his best season in an Orange uniform so far. Jones hasn’t had a game rating below 65, with three games above a 74. That includes a whopping 90.5 season pass rushing grade.
While there aren’t any other 80+ rated starters on defense, there are still strong players all over with five starters above a 70 rating. Those guys are Duce Chestnut (76.5), Justin Barron (75.3), Marlowe Wax (73.9), Derek McDonald (73.8) and Steve Linton (73.7).
Barron is the one I want to spotlight from that group. We always knew the rover would be a key and integral part of the 3-3-5, and Barron appears to be playing that role exquisitely. His other starting safeties in Jason Simmons Jr., Ja’Had Carter and Alijah Clark sit at a 66.9, 58.1 and 55.3 rating respectively.
On the downside, we knew that the defensive line would be the weak point of the defense, and the numbers back that up. Every starting lineman with the exception of Terry Lockett has a season rating below 60. Lockett had a 66.6, but with him out for the rest of the season with a lower-body injury, the rest of the starters need to pick it up.
The good thing about the defensive line is that none of their season ratings are below a 50, so their performances are just a tad below average. It’s not the worst thing. PFF doesn’t really factor in the primary purpose of the defensive line in the 3-3-5, which is to take up space to let the linebackers wreck havoc.
Most of the starters have been great, so who else could help out the Orange in the last part of the season? I’ve picked out a couple guys from each side of the ball that are rated well by PFF so far.
On offense, I’ve gone with FAU WR transfer D’Marcus Adams and WR Umari Hatcher. It’s a limited sample size with Adams, who’s only been on the field during the scrap time against UConn and Wagner. But he’s got the history of his past collegiate performance at FAU behind him and could be an interesting guy to see in the slot if Courtney Jackson and Trebor Pena aren’t impacting the game like Syracuse wants. Adams so far has an 83.3 grade, which is not something to dismiss, even if he’s only seen the field for 20 snaps.
Hatcher has a bit more run time on the field, appearing in four games for 28 snaps. His PFF rating is 73.3 and after hauling in a touchdown against Wagner, he could be another option behind Damien Alford, who is the lowest rated WR starter at 55.9.
The defense is a little harder because the ones are probably going to stay in for longer due to facing tougher competition. But to give one of the corners a break, Isaiah Johnson is a great option to have to relieve one of them. The Dartmouth transfer has a 70.2 rating so far with 76 snaps played. If he doesn’t see the field too much more this season, Syracuse fans should feel fine for next season when Garrett Williams most likely moves on next year.
What else do you guys want to see from PFF’s stats? Sound off in the comments below.