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Syracuse football: Orange players’ talk about the Louisville opener

Top talents from both sides of the ball chimed in ahead of the season opener

Michael Ostrowski

The Syracuse Orange football season kicks off in just two short days. Before ‘Cuse hits the Dome turf to play the Louisville Cardinals, let’s catch up with some of the stars of this year’s squad:

Sean Tucker

  • Louisville was a down game for Tucker last year, as it was one of only two contests where he was held under 100 yards and did not have a TD. When it was brought up, Sean said that his goal this time around is over 100 yards on the ground and multiple touchdowns.
  • “No matter the opponent, I always prepare the same way” - Sounds like a mentality of focusing on what he can control.
  • “I’m trying to get better in all aspects of my game and improve as much as I can” - Hopefully that also refers to blocking.
  • Sean also aid he’s been modeling his game after Alvin Kamara, so expect him to be active in the passing game as well as on the ground.
NCAA Football: Syracuse at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Garrett Shrader

  • “We’re still going to run the ball. We’ve got a pretty solid running back, I like to think.” - That got a few chuckles out of the room. “It’s going to be a totally different scheme than last year, the way we’re attacking and approaching the game plan.”
  • “We almost felt helpless (against Louisville) last year, but everything is totally different this year.” - New system under Coach Anae + altered o-line give Shrader a lot of confidence.
  • New WR Dan Villari has “embraced that role” after converting from QB. Said that versatility comes naturally, citing his own experience at Mississippi State.
  • “We’ve got a great defense on the other side of the ball.... I’m glad I don’t have to play them every week.”
  • Stressed Damien Alford’s “unique skill set” and expects him to take a big step this season.
  • “Much sharper” preparing for specific crunch-time situations.
  • Expects offensive line to get better as the season goes on and guys adjust to their new positions.

Damien Alford

  • “I had my flashes last year. I was still getting to where I wanted to be.... I got better at working on certain things during the offseason, so I feel like I’m going to be more productive this season.”
  • Said that the offense has been simplified. Plays designed by “clusters” and communicated on the sidelines.
  • Gameplan is “more efficiently downfield”; “way better compared to last year.”
NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Stefon Thompson

  • The young d-line has done a good job communicating assignment adjustments to linebackers. Quick reactions and call outs.
  • LB room has “good days and bad days” but Mikel Jones’s leadership helps make it more good days.
  • Defense has “mob mentality”: work together and play to be the best, and results will come.

Garrett Williams

  • There’s extra motivation opening up against the Cards after the last few years of lopsided losses.
  • Called Malik Cunningham “probably the best dual threat quarterback not just in the conference but probably in the entire country.” Focused on preventing “chunk plays” and allowing the shorter runs and underneath passes.
  • Noted that Cunningham has developed nicely as a passer over three years, especially on post routes. Seems like the top area of concern in man coverage.
  • “We’ve been working toward (a winning season) for a really long time.” Counting on fans to deliver home field advantage in the opener.
  • Syracuse had to scrounge for good film of Louisville’s transfer receivers.
  • Echoing what Stefon said, Williams believes that there’s a lot more cohesion and clear communication in the entire defense.
  • Reiterated wanting a clean slate in his return to the Orange. Feels better both physically and mentally, with improved preparation and focus on staying healthy.

With the season opener approaching does anything the players said stand out to you?