The Syracuse Orange football team ended their spring practice with an open practice at the JMA Wireless Dome on Friday night. While I’ll get to the event itself later on, I did have some thoughts about the football we witnessed.
I came away from Friday night believing that Justin Lamson and Carlos Del-Rio Wilson can play and win games in the ACC. Lamson seems well-suited for a quick, short passing game while CDRW demonstrated better poise than we saw last season. If Syracuse can keep them both, it’ll set up for an interesting battle the next couple of years.
Oronde Gadsden is going to see the ball a lot this year, but will someone emerge to take on the #2 role? Isaiah Jones and D’Marcus Adams should find themselves facing a lot of single coverage and could be a big key to the offense. There are definitely young players at the skill positions to be excited about as Umari Hatcher and Kendall Long showed on Friday.
Not to sound like a broken record, but Syracuse has to avoid being forced to use a TE and FB to help pass protect this season. If the offensive line is not holding up in the fall, it might be better for the Orange to go five wide and try to move the ball quickly rather than max protect and limit passing options. If David Clement and Steven Mahar can be competent blockers, they could earn more snaps as both present better receiving options than Max Mang.
The benefit of young players being forced into action last year means that Syracuse has a lot of experience back on defense. The defensive line could have the ability to send out a pass-rushing unit that can create havoc while rotating enough players to stay fresh in the second half.
The limited number of linebackers dressed made that position hard to evaluate. I know that people are worried about injuries there, but remember that the Orange signed Lonnie Rice out of the JUCO ranks and he should be ready to contribute this fall. It might be a positive that Syracuse was conservative with players appearing on Friday as they work to get them healthy for August.
While the secondary lost a lot of talent, they should be deeper this fall. Will that depth allow for Syracuse to cover for the losses? Time will tell, but with Jayden Bellamy and Jaeden Gould on the 2nd unit right now, it sure seems like the gap between the 1st two units is smaller than in years past.
Jack Stonehouse has the punting job sewn up and in warm-up demonstrated a lot more hang time on kicks than the others. Will the Orange really have three scholarship punters on the roster come fall? I’d be shocked if that’s the case but maybe James Williams’ place kicking experience makes him more valuable. Brady Denaburg has a strong leg but accuracy was a bit of an issue during the scrimmage period.
When I saw the game listed as Offense vs Defense, I thought we had the return of the Kyle Fetterly scoring system where points were earned by 1st downs or sacks, etc. Instead we just got Syracuse working through random drills with no real sense of what was happening.
Some plays were stopped with two-hand touch, some with thudding, and then there were full tackles. We also had officials blowing plays dead for reasons that no one quite understood. I get that Syracuse was working to avoid injury but it was just all rather dull in-person.
An advertised start time of 7:00 just meant fans got to watch drills for 20 minutes. The 10-minute halftime consisted of a kids race and a way too confident guy dribbling his field goal attempt into the end zone from 25 yards out. Seriously, he took his sneaker just to do that?? Honestly it would have been more fun to watch players try to land passes and/or kicks in a trash can - something that would have allowed for a bit more excitement.
I think the players did a great job engaging with the kids at the event. It would be nice if Syracuse thought about pushing for a Saturday afternoon scrimmage next year to allow more kids to attend. It’s an event that should be about building excitement for next season and instead it was treated like a mandatory participation activity.
Steve and I said that Syracuse should be more proactive when it comes to the event. Season ticket holders should be sent passes for the game and even throw in a concessions or merchandise coupon valid only during the game.
What if every youth football organization was not only invited, but given an opportunity to come out of the tunnel to have a Dome entrance filmed?
Maybe you offer a discount to the biggest home game the following season during the event?
At some point someone has to step in and make some changes to the way this program is presented locally, because if the goal is to sell tickets there needs to be a change to how this event is perceived and delivered.