With the Syracuse Orange preparing to face the Virginia Cavaliers we reached out to Streaking the Lawn to learn more about Tony Elliott’s first season leading UVA. Zach Carey managing editor of Streaking the Lawn gave us his idea of what Syracuse can expect inside the JMA Wireless Dome.
TNIAAM: It’s early in his tenure, but what’s been the biggest change so far under Tony Elliott?
STL: “From a broader perspective, Elliott has brought a more focused approach on recruiting in Virginia. He’s taking a more traditional approach than everything than Bronco Mendenhall did and, coming from Clemson, that makes sense. There are some concerns that, simply put, it’s not possible to replicate Clemson’s program at UVA. But I think on a number of fronts the way Elliott is going about leading this program is the way it has to if it wants to escape the middling mediocrity we’ve been accustomed to for far too long.
In terms of what matters for Syracuse fans come Friday night, UVA actually wants to run the ball with its running backs now! Coming into this season the last UVA back with 100 yards in a game was Jordan Ellis in the 2018 Belk Bowl. Then, in game one of Elliott’s tenure, fifth year former walk-on Perris Jones went for 104 on the ground. Overall Elliott is more intentional with balancing the offense while adopting a more old school approach for this team. The offense hasn’t put up the numbers it did last year, but it looks like they’ve got a chance to round the corner. Friday is a big test on that front.”
TNIAAM: Last game Syracuse DC Tony White ramped up the pressure on Purdue. Brennan Armstrong is a threat as a runner so how do you expect Virginia to counter the pressure?
STL: “UVA’s biggest hole coming into the season was the offensive line. The ‘Hoos lost all five starters via graduation or the transfer portal and started week one with just one combined start in a Wahoo uniform among the five players. Protection was a huge issue in the 24-3 Illinois loss, but Virginia adjusted versus ODU with more max-protect looks as the offense sacrificed receivers for blockers and decided to rely on the talent in the wideout room to make plays while keeping six to seven bodies in the pocket to block for Armstrong. And it was fairly effective all things considered. Of course, Armstrong making plays will always be a part of the UVA offense and his ability to turn potential sacks into gains is critical for this offense while his ability to throw while mobile is an element that needs to be incorporated more.“
TNIAAM: Nick Jackson’s averaging over 10 tackles per game and looking at his numbers he sure seems to find the ball. How will Virginia look to use him to contain Sean Tucker and the Syracuse ground game?
STL: “Nick Jackson is a very good linebacker. That said, the way I see it is that Jackson is the guy who sets the floor for this defense. He makes plays in the middle of the field to limit the explosiveness of opposing offenses while also being solid in pass coverage when necessary. UVA runs a 4-2-5 defense which means that Jackson and WILL linebacker Josh Ahern along with nickel Jonas Sanker are critical playmakers considering that this defensive line can absolutely get gashed by power-5 schools.“
TNIAAM: Who are players on both sides of the ball that we haven’t mentioned that Syracuse fans should be aware of this week?
STL: “True freshman running back Xavier Brown had a big day against ODU, so look for him
and Jones to trade off carries in the backfield. Keytaon Thompson is Virginia’s safety blanket of a receiver, playing a lot in the slot, so he should be UVA’s leading pass catcher there with the 6’7” Lavel Davis Jr. always capable of making big plays. Wideout Dontayvion Wicks — who set the program’s single season receiving record last year — has been a shell of his former self this season, but he is capable of a big game.
Defensively, defensive end Kam Butler has been the best Wahoo in the pass rush. He’s got speed, intelligence, and toughness and is probably the team’s best chance at creating a turnover. Free safety Jonas Sanker is another name to watch. He’s been a playmaker in the secondary so far this season and has the IQ and athleticism to disrupt an offense trying to establish quick, easy stuff.”
TNIAAM: How do you see this game playing out?
STL: ”Apparently the line for this game has ballooned out to something along the line of eleven points, and I get why. Only beating ODU by two after losing to Illinois by 21 is not a good look. But UVA is better than those two scores — for instance, the offense put up 500 yards of offense ODU. I still think Syracuse wins, but I’ll go with a prediction of Syracuse 24, Virginia 17.”
Thanks Zach and be sure to check out the coverage at Streaking the Lawn all year.