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Syracuse football: Garrett Shrader and Oronde Gadsden listed as top 10 returning players at their position by PFF

The Orange are counting on the productive qb-receiver combo to thrive yet again.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

With the departure of some notable names in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Syracuse Orange football team plans to count on its veteran, playmaking quarterback-receiver pairing to shine for a second straight season. But can the Orange count on a repeat of the 2022 production from Garrett Shrader and Oronde Gadsden II during the 2023 season?

On paper, the duo ranks as some of the best returning offensive talent in the country. In fact, Syracuse is one of a select group of programs returning both a top-10 quarterback and receiver according to Pro Football Focus.

PFF currently ranks Schrader as the 10th-best returning quarterback in the nation (3rd in the ACC behind Florida State’s Jordan Travis and North Carolina’s Drake Maye) and Gadsden as the eighth-best wide receiver overall. Syracuse joins the Florida State Seminoles and the Oregon Ducks as the only three programs returning a top-10 QB-WR duo for next season.

Especially given the roster turnover over this offseason, getting both Shrader and Gadsden back for the 2023 season gives the Orange a solid floor on offense especially following impressive leaps in production, role, and impact from the 2021 season to this past year.

Shrader remains one of the more underrated “the pocket imploded and it’s time to pull some magic” playmakers in college football right now. Syracuse generated more big-yard plays in 2022 compared to 2021 and his ability to keep drives alive with 3rd down scrambles is an asset to the Orange. Shrader is one of five active FBS QBs with career marks of at least 5,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards during next season.

The Mississippi State transfer evolved from a scrambler with an erratic arm to a competent enough passer who can nail enough short- and medium-yard routes to keep the defense honest (even though the accuracy tends to get worse on throws over 25 yards). The jump from under 53% to nearly 65% in completion on percentage on over 300 total pass attempts is impressive no matter how you put it.

He’ll still make the headache-inducing, potentially devastating turnover every now and then (ala Notre Dame and Minnesota), but he’s also made the iconic throw (Purdue this season and Virginia Tech last season come to mind) with the game on the line.

Keeping Gadsden was critical for the Orange. The improvement in role and offensive scheme allowed him to breakout in his sophomore year as a bigger, athletic playmaker with receiver instincts trapped in a tight end’s frame. With teams pressuring Sean Tucker on the inside and no other consistent options, Syracuse (finally) found a go-to pass-catcher it so desperately needed in the program’s last few seasons.

The 15.9 yards per catch on 61 total catches is a great sign of things to come especially as he approaches his third-straight season with the program. Like Shrader, the biggest concern for Gadsden will be if that production can keep up from one season to the next. Teams will make adjustments defensively, getting either offensive producer out of their comfort zone. Syracuse’s thin receiving core and shaky offensive line means opponents will gameplan around limiting those two players.

Both Shrader and Gadsden have the tools and experience to produce at an elite level yet again, and Syracuse will need to count on that to produce a similar level of successful season like in 2022. Keep in mind, the 2022 Orange finished 70th in points per game in the nation despite facing a tougher schedule this past season (35th in strength in schedule) than in 2021 (50th in strength of schedule), where that team ranked 92nd in points per game.

Especially in today’s college football landscape, a statistically-great defense only goes so far. The Orange’s defense will compete in its usual (typically elite) manner, but this upcoming season’s offense revolves around getting the same quality production from Shrader and Gadsden in 2023 like they did in 2022.