With the Syracuse Orange season opener approaching, we’re going to put our reputations on the line with predicting the key players for each Syracuse unit. We’re going to save our breakout picks for another piece so let's get to it.
Offensive MVP not named Sean Tucker:
(Ed. note: It’s obvious who the Syracuse offense will run through again this season. We all agree that this is Tucker’s team so we decided to go for a less obvious choice here.)
Kevin- Carlos Del Rio-Wilson
We know Sean Tucker will be good and I expect Syracuse will spread the ball around so that none of the receivers will rack up #1 numbers. History tells us that Syracuse will need their back-up QB to play and there’s a strong chance it’ll happen in a crucial point of the season. I don’t think CDRW will steal the starting job but he’s going to end up winning a game that keeps the Orange on a path to bowl eligibility.
Mike- Damien Alford
I cannot stress enough how important a deep threat will be to have a successful offense against this fall’s schedule, and Alford can be just that. We saw flashes of it last year with his game-winning catch at VT but he’s now in a position to get more targets and will likely find himself in a similar late-game situation at least once this year.
Steve- Enrique Cruz
Since we’re going at least second level depth on this question, likely because we all know the real answer, I’m opting for a second-string lineman. Why, you ask? Well, it’s been a damn long time since we haven’t needed to utilize our sixth lineman in the rotation. Enrique Cruz is that sixth lineman, and to keep that real MVP who’s name we’re not mentioning as the MVP upright and moving towards the end zone, we’re going to need this road grader to step up in a big way.
Kevin- Mikel Jones.
The leader of the Orange defense came back to finish business and I think he’ll see a return to his 2020 turnover ways. The Syracuse defense will need to get the ball away from their opponents this season and look for Jones to lead the way in both interceptions and fumble recoveries.
Mike- Garrett Williams
I’ll go with the other key returning member of the D. With all of the high-end talent on opposing offenses, SU needs a full year of prime production from the corner position. Garrett will also look to get back in the takeaway column while remaining one of the conference’s best pass defenders.
Steve - Duce Chestnut
Garrett’s the obvious choice, but because he’s the obvious choice, he’s also going to get targeted less. That leaves things open for Darian Chestnut, who needs to lock things down as he sees more and more targets when people shade away from Williams on the other side. Just locking down one side doesn’t help the cause as much unless you can lock them both down.
Special Teams MVP:
Kevin- Alijah Clark
This Syracuse team is going to need to make some plays on special teams. They will need to be solid in the kicking game and find a way to set up the offense with short fields. Since we don’t know anything about the punter battle I’m taking a player who could be a menace to opponents. Clark was a dynamic receiver in high school and is the type of athlete who can deliver on special teams either with a blocked kick or delivering big hits to returners.
Mike- Anwar Sparrow
I’ll take Captain Jack’s descendant. A linebacker by trade, Sparrow forced a lot of fumbles in HS thanks to his physicality and reach on his tackles. Coupled with explosive speed, he displays very good potential for both kick and punt return teams while trying to play his way into more defensive snaps.
Steve - Andre Szmyt
We need Szmyt to happen often and accurately this year for the Orange to get back to their winning ways. The Groza winning Szmyt is imperative to anything that Coach Ligashesky puts together out there on the field for this unit.
Riley Dixon “You da real MVP” Award:
To the player who won’t necessarily have the stats to be picked, but the one who will make the difference in a bowl berth or another season on the outside looking in.
Kevin- Chris Elmore
With Elmore in the line-up last season the Syracuse offense was more effective. He’s not only an extra blocker, he’s a smart player who can do the little things to keep the offense on the field.
Mike- The Punter
Although a starting punter hasn’t been named yet, whoever ends up with the job is my pick. Bad punts leading to prime starting field position cost SU way too much last year, so this go around, he’ll need to pin opponents deeper in their own territory to help steal a win or two.
Steve- Chris Elmore
Kevin already said it, but Rhino is exactly the X-Factor that the Orange need to clean up the intangibles and do the dirty work that helps things keep moving. I’m curious as to what craziness “Dr. Bob” Anae cooks up for him as well.
Now let’s hear your choices and if you really want to pick Tucker we won’t object