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Syracuse football: five things and players to watch vs Wagner

We expect to see a lot of players, so which ones are we keying on?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 10 Syracuse at UConn

The 4-0 Syracuse Orange aren’t expected to face much of a challenge from the Wagner Seahawks this weekend. However, with a bye week followed by the toughest stretch of the season, we wanted to pick some reserve players we’ll be watching for in this game.

Kevin: Time to become made men

Dino Babers has referred to his defensive line as young pups but after four games and some significant injuries there will be playing time for more defenders. We know that Wagner isn’t as tough as the upcoming Syracuse opponents but if these defenders can make an impact on Saturday they could earn more practice reps and playing time. I’m keeping an eye on Denis Jaquez, Jr. on the outside as he could allow Tony White the flexibility to slide Caleb Okechukwu to the interior on passing downs.

Christian: FUTURE!!! *insert Squidward meme*

As much as this game is about not getting injured, it’s also about starting evaluations for who steps up next in the coming seasons. So the more interesting part of this game will be to see which young players step up and take advantage of the playing time in a live-action game. I know it’s kind of a cop out answer since we’re all giving a player to watch, but we’ve seen in past seasons what happens when establish starters for multiple seasons leave and the talent behind can’t keep up the production. That’s why I’m looking at Austin Roon, the current backup to Mikel Jones at middle linebacker. We haven’t seen anyone else play middle linebacker for the better part of four years due to Jones’ talent and durability, so seeing Roon’s performance is something I’ll keep an eye on.

Steve: Run game improvement.

I know, on brand again. We need to find some way to allow Sean Ticker to be pleased with his performance. There shouldn’t be any reason a team that returned five starters from the previous record setting season shouldn’t be able to run the ball, but here we are. I’m curious to see what changes are made to the run game to allow them to get going and hopefully set the stage for the rest of the year. Wagner should be a good game speed test to look at the future. In doing so that also means we’ll get to see the likes of Enrique Cruz or the rest of the “twos” and see what we have in the matter of depth. It also may allow some flexibility to see if it makes sense to shift the current line around a little if Cruz is ready and bring Davis back inside. No matter what happens there will be a bit to glean from the trenches.

Andy: Can anyone become Oronde Gadsden’s wingmen?

The podcast discussed the general lack of clarity behind Gadsden at wideout as Damien Alford has really failed to make an impact, Devaughn Cooper seems locked into a hybrid slot/lead blocker role, and no receiver has locked in a consistent third receiver role. Trebor Pena has a ton of ability on special teams, but how can he get involved in the offense more? What happened the Courtney Jackson and Anthony Queeley? Players like Kendall Long and Umari Hatcher have serious opportunities to step up and I’d like to see them make some impact plays.

Michael: #SendVillari

I agree with Steve about trying some different O-Line combinations to try and fix the (lack of) run-blocking. That being said, the guy I want to see most on Saturday is Dan Villari. With this team’s success in developing trojan-horse type players like Chris Elmore and, to a lesser extent this year, Oronde Gadsden, can the Orange get the most out of another guy in multiple positions? Maybe even mold him under the Taysom Hill model? It’s still really early in his development, but it’s never too early to see progress. That’s all I’m looking for.

Tell us a player you’re excited to see out on the field on Saturday.