So this is going to be the first spring in a while that these Syracuse Orange football previews aren’t going to be handled by John. This year we’re going to do things differently by spreading them out among the staff here just to keep my sanity while giving others an opportunity to share their perspectives.
We’ll get through all the position groups and coaching staff as we move through the spring but we’ll start with the position under the brightest spotlight, the quarterbacks:
Can the Orange find consistent quarterback play for a full season?
Tommy DeVito started the first three games in 2021 completing 32 of 52 passes for 388 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. He was replaced by Garrett Shrader against Liberty and never saw the field before deciding to transfer. DeVito will finish his career with the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Dillon Markiewicz has also departed, transferring to Texas State University and so has OC/QB coach Sterlin Gilbert.
Who’s on campus?
Garrett Shrader went from mop-up duty in the season opener to unquestioned starter in week four. He showed a lot of heart and his insertion into the starting line-up pushed the Orange all-in to the rushing attack. Shrader used his legs to cause opponents trouble as he amassed 781 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.
He hit some big passes including the game-winner at Virginia Tech but struggled down the stretch when opponents dared Syracuse to win through the air. Shrader completed 122 out of 233 attempts for 1437 yards with 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He only had two starts with over 200 yards passing so there is definite room for improvement in 2022.
Behind Shrader will be Jacobian Morgan, Justin Lamson, Luke MacPhail and Michigan transfer Dan Villari. Morgan has played in four games in two years while Lamson is entering his second spring with Syracuse. Morgan’s time came when the Orange were decimated by injuries and we’ve yet to see anything but brief glimpses of Lamson or MacPhail. Some Syracuse fans might have cooled on Lamson but he came with dual-threat credentials and it’ll be interesting to see if he can take that next step. Can any of the returners benefit from the new coaching staff (more on them in the weeks to come) on offense to take the starting job?
Villari saw limited action for the Michigan Wolverines. He played in four games last year completing 1 of 3 passes and running four times for 35 yards. His style seems similar to Shrader and he’s on campus this Spring and has four seasons of eligibility left. It’s hard to read how prepared he is to challenge Shrader but thanks to the ACC’s new policy we will at least get a spring game to see all these quarterbacks in action.
Who’s arriving this summer?
No one else is currently scheduled but these days who knows what might happen after spring practice.
What does Shrader need to do to keep the starting role?
Consistency is going to be the key for Shrader. We all saw the added dimension he brought to the offense with his running ability. Teams had a hard time stopping the Shrader/Tucker option plays as keying on one left the other open to do damage. We thought the 4th quarters against Virginia Tech and Wake Forest would unlock an explosive Orange attack but when teams shut down the run, Shrader was unable to string together enough throws to make them pay. If he can connect on more deep throws it’ll be hard for someone to overtake him before September.
What does someone else from the depth chart need to do to take on the starting role?
The other quarterbacks are going to need to show they are better suited to operate the Anae/Beck offense. We know they want their quarterbacks to be able to spread the ball around and move when under duress. Shrader has the running part but his accuracy cost the Orange from stringing together drives.
The backups get a bit more of a level playing field this spring with everyone adjusting to the new staff. All of them bring size and athletic ability so if they can command the offense and move the ball they will continue to push for the starting job. At the very least it looks like the Orange have developed some depth and talent at the position and that competition should lead to improved play on Saturdays.
Are we finally going to see a replay of Virginia’s 2021 offense?
No one should expect that any Syracuse quarterback is ready to deliver the performance that Brennan Armstrong did last season. However Virginia didn’t have Sean Tucker in the backfield. Under Dino Babers the Orange have not had the efficient offense that we expected from his system and playing home games in the Dome. Syracuse has had trouble converting in the red zone and sustaining drives so the quarterback(s) need to be counted on to make throws in key situations to keep the ball and to turn field goals into touchdowns.
This is a great time for us to actually have a spring game because this position battle is going to be one of the biggest questions facing Syracuse as we look ahead to the 2022 season.