Last week we saw the Orange turn to Derek McDonald to replace Thompson in the linebacker unit and he came up with a key interception in the second half. We also saw Steve Linton make his presence felt with six tackles, a sack and a forced/recovered fumble combo.
It’s unfair to ask one player to replace what Thompson brought to the Syracuse defense so we’ll see how Tony White mixes up the usage of players over the rest of the season. This is an opportunity for him to rotate players depending on opponent and situation. During camp we heard about the progress of young players like Denis Jaquez, Jr. and Chase Simmons and now they will have their opportunity.
On the other side of the ball the loss of Chris Elmore is significant for the Orange running game and now we see the way Robert Anae works with Mike Schmidt to adjust the scheme. Without Elmore acting like an extra lineman out there, will we see the Syracuse offense operate in more spread formations? Will Anae continue to focus on getting Sean Tucker out in space? And what happens in short yardage situations?
Max Mang is now the de facto H-back and while Steven Mahar will see more time at tight end, other receivers will likely see more snaps in the slot. We saw Garrett Shrader develop a nice connection with Devaughn Cooper and Courtney Jackson and having both on the field could spread the defense.
One thing I’ll be watching for tomorrow night is how the Orange offense formations look in Elmore’s absence. While there might be a vanilla game plan this week, we might get some insight into the direction Syracuse will take without Rhino for the rest of 2022.