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Syracuse football: is it really the transfer portal?

Maybe it’s about what the players who left aren’t doing

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

After the blowout loss to North Carolina, Syracuse Orange Head Coach Dino Babers can’t be feeling good. You can understand his frustration, but as he’s been prone to do, Dino seems to be looking to explain away the Syracuse troubles by talking about NIL.

He’s not the only P5 Head Coach who did that yesterday, but let’s take a second and deconstruct that. Syracuse lost starters Duce Chestnut, Ja’Had Carter, Jatius Geer and Steve Linton from last year’s defense. There’s no denying that all of those players would be major contributors this year. It should also be pointed out that the Orange also started transfers Jayden Bellamy, Isaiah Johnson, Jason Simmons and Alijah Clark this week with Jaeden Gould and Braylen Ingraham in the rotation.

A bigger issue might be the circumstances around the transfers on the offensive side of the ball. Syracuse tried to shore up the offensive line by adding Joe More, David Wohlabaugh, Jr., J’Onre Reed and Lysander Moeolo. More is just working back into game action and Wohlabaugh is out for the season with injury. Reed earned the starting center spot, but he and Moeolo didn’t join Syracuse until this summer and with returning starter Kalan Ellis still out, the Orange haven’t had their best five lineman together at all. For a unit that requires chemistry, that’s less than ideal and a major reason Syracuse has struggled to move the ball the last two games.

I’m not saying that the NIL issues haven’t hurt Syracuse as Dino alludes to, but it seems like once again injuries are a bigger impact to this team’s depth. In addition to the offensive line, you’ve got the top three wide receivers out, one of the team’s expected pass-catching tight ends and that’s having a bigger impact on the current version of the Orange than who they lost in the portal.

The sliver of hope is that More did get on the field last week and maybe after the bye week, he and Ellis can get back into the starting group and help solidify the offensive line to closer to what was intended. As far as the portal and NIL goes, Bill Connelly sums up my thoughts

Syracuse has taken players who were not seeing the field at their former schools and been able to get contributions from them. Obviously NIL resources can improve that yield, but the Orange have advantages they can offer in terms of exposure and playing time and there are plenty of players out there looking for both.....Syracuse just needs to find the right ones.