Spring football camp is underway for the Syracuse Orange. Coming off a 7-6 campaign, Dino Babers looks to get his revamped team into shape early as they begin preparations for the 2023 season. With new faces on the field and roaming the sidelines, along with the veterans’ torches being passed along in several skill positions, there’s a lot to keep an eye on during these five weeks.
Here are the highlights from week 1:
Tuesday, March 21
Day One of spring camp began with the Orange jumping right into drills. With Garrett Shrader in the building to offer some guidance and moral support, younger QB options Justin Lamson and Carlos Del Rio-Wilson saw a pretty equal amount of time on the field. Lamson was the first one on with the offense, but he and CDRW both practiced with first string receivers.
It started out with each player throwing with just their targets on the field: some combination of a receiver, running back, or both. After that, practice transitioned to seven-on-seven, while both offensive and defensive linemen worked on blocking/tackling techniques on the sidelines.
The highlight of the final 11-on-11 period was Lamson throwing a beautiful spiral to D’Marcus Adams for a long touchdown - appropriately the last play media were allowed to see for the day. The defense looked pretty out of order to start things off, and a very vocal Coach Babers wasn’t shy to let them know about it throughout drills. Isaiah Johnson did have a nice pick off CDRW, reading his eyes perfectly and jumping off his assignment outside to get in front of a curl route.
Overall, contact of any kind between players was at a minimum.
Thursday, March 23
Day Two was much more eventful. We got to see much more of the skill positions get to work, as well as extended looks at both lines. First on the agenda was a “goal-to-go” drill. Lamson’s unit converted on three out of four chances: two passing TDs and a toss to LeQuint Allen for another. The miss was a fade to the back right corner of the end zone that sailed too high. Del Rio-Wilson didn’t find any success here, failing to convert through the air.
Once they got to driving the length of the field, the script flipped entirely. Lamson was once again sent out first, but he struggled to lead his receivers, resulting in a punt after only one first down. Del Rio-Wilson had the opposite results, driving 75 yards and hitting receiver Oronde Gadsden for a 15-yard touchdown.
The receivers are shifted a bit from the end of last season. Gadsden is back on the outside instead of at tight end, and Adams seems to now be the primary deep option. Damien Alford seems to be taking on a different role - in addition to the new number 5 on his chest (I will be asking him about that tomorrow), he’s been working the middle of the field more. Max Mang was at TE and was involved in setting up some screens.
My biggest concern early on is the offensive line. The right side once again looks like an issue as both QBs found themselves rolling off to the left more often than is ideal. There are two JUCO transfers who didn’t make it to campus for the spring, so hopefully if the current group continues to look like this the rest of camp, they can make a difference when they arrive.
Remarks to Remember:
- Dino Babers on Shrader’s surgery that will keep him out the entire spring: “We were told by the physicians that if we gave him this spring off and let him work on (his throwing arm), we’d get somebody either the same or better coming back... we can give up 15 practices to have somebody better.”
- Justin Lamson on his strengths and weaknesses: “I think what I want to work on the most is executing the plays, so when I see a play, right off the call I know what to do as quick as possible. My greatest strength is, I think, timing. I’m getting that down with the receivers really well during the offseason stuff.”
- LeQuint Allen on his goals: “Not just running the ball, but catching the ball out of the backfield too. I want to break a record for running back receiving.”
- Caleb Okechukwu on the growth of the Defensive Line: “Last year, everything was just technique. Now they can see the bigger picture, understand and anticipate plays.
- Justin Barron on new Defensive Coordinator Rocky Long: “What he really preaches is knowing why we’re doing what we’re doing, and understanding the defense as a whole, not just your position.”
- Kevon Darton on being considered a veteran: “It’s weird because when you come in, you remember the veteran guys who were here when you came in, like Josh Black and Kinsley Jonathan. It’s definitely different, but you’ve got to step up to the role.”
(Author Note: Transfer players are not made available to the media during the spring, so unfortunately we probably won't hear from them until fall camp.)
What stands out to you from the start of camp? Is there a specific matchup or storyline you’d like to see covered more in-depth? Be sure to let us know in the comments.