As the Syracuse Orange prepare for their Pinstripe Bowl match-up with the Minnesota Golden Gophers we’re going to give our choices for some superlatives for the 2022 season.
Today we look at the Orange offense:
Kevin: Garrett Shrader
I had my doubts about Shrader as a passer but he took major strides forward in 2022. His completion percentage went from 52.6% to 65%. He threw for eight more touchdowns and got the ball downfield more than we saw in 2021. Without him, Syracuse was severely limited.
Dom: Sean Tucker
It’s hard not to go with Shrader considering the leap he took this season, but I’ll make the case for Tucker on this one. He still finished with over 1,000 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 5.1 yards per carry. Compared to last season, he fell just one touchdown and one yard per carry short. The rest of the offense improved, but Tucker’s talent forced teams to gameplan around him, opening things up for other players to step up.
Steve: Orande Gadsden II
It’s Tucker, but I’m taking this in the literal wins against replacement type sense. If Gadsden doesn’t emerge like he does, the passing offense may not have a reliable target for an emergent Garrett Shrader passing game. He made enough clutch catches and was good enough at finding space that it allowed Shrader an outlet to get the ball off. Without him making a number of those plays, the Orange offense stalls, Tucker probably still gets his, but it’s highly unlikely Syracuse is over .500.
Most Improved Player:
Kevin: Oronde Gadsden II
You could make a good case for Shrader here too, but I’m going with Gadsden who emerged as the weapon the Syracuse passing game has been missing. Tight end, wide receiver, football player, whatever you want to call his position he was the go-to player for the Orange.
Dom: Oronde Gadsden II
Gadsden went from a semi-unknown by the average fan to Syracuse's top receiving target over the span of this season. He gave Schrader something of a big play generator who could open the field for a quarterback scramble or another open receive because of the attention he drew. Gadsden added a new dimension to an offense that clearly shifted to more in favor of spreading the floor and not being afraid to throw the ball downfield.
Steve: Garrett Shrader
Since I got cheeky on the MVP, I’ve got to give Shrader his due here. Last year we saw a player who couldn’t complete more than a ten yard crossing route before he wanted to take to his legs and run. This year, Shrader and coach (now-OC) Jason Beck reworked his throwing motion and were able to add a completely different level to this offense by doing so. I noted in the spring game warmups he looked more impressive throwing, but until we saw it in a game situation I don’t think anyone realized how much he had improved.
Kevin: I’m assuming others will take something from Tucker or Shrader so I’ll go with LeQuint Allen’s 90-yard scamper against Wagner.
Dom: It’s a cop-out answer, but Sean Tucker’s 60-plus-yard touchdown run versus Wagner was a reminder of the Orange basically being at its highest point of the season after a win (the 59-0 victory over Wagner led to Syracuse starting 6-0 and finishing as high as 14th in the AP poll). The sentiment alone makes this one an easy pick.
Steve: For what it meant, possibly Tucker’s 25-yard touchdown against NC State late in the fourth to seal the deal. It was a great read, quick cut and a Garrett Shrader lead block. It followed another, probably more impressive, run earlier in the game on the first drive that brought the Orange to the ten, though they couldn’t convert and settled for a field goal. We’re going to miss him this year.
Kevin: The game-winner from Shrader to Gadsden. The toughness from Shrader to stand in there long enough to deliver the ball on-target
Dom: Kevin easily read my mind on this one, but considering the confidence, it took to make the throw, the moments leading up to the game-winning pass, Purdue finishing the season out as a Big Ten division winner, and how absolutely insane that game was, Schrader’s pass takes this one by a landslide.
Steve: Just like last year was the Alford game winner, this one has to be the Gadsden catch versus Purdue. As Kevin said, Shrader hung in there, took the hit and delivered the ball. Gadsden gets a yard on his guy, heads right to the pylon and makes a great blind-shoulder catch.
Offensive Player to watch in Pinstripe Bowl:
Kevin: Umari Hatcher
We saw glimpses of Hatcher during the season but as the Orange look to restock the wide receiver position, a player with his size could take advantage of the attention Gadsden draws.
Dom: LeQuint Allen
Allen flashed his big-play potential in nonconference play with 11 rush attempts for 122 yards and a touchdown, but other than that, there isn’t much of a sample size. With Tucker probably out the door, can Syracuse find another shining star at running back even with half the production Tucker offered?
Steve: Enrique Cruz
Steve stays on brand as he picks the top young lineman. We expect to see more of Cruz in the bowl game and it will be a good look at a potential Matthew Bergeron replacement.