Syracuse Orange football is less than three weeks from returning, which means Dino Babers and his players are hard at work preparing in fall camp. The ACC Network recently visited ‘Cuse practice and spoke with Babers and others about the upcoming season - so we’re reviewing the main points that were discussed:
Continuity is Key
First on the show was an interview with Dino, but if you were only listening to what was said, you might have confused him with Pittsburgh Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin.
Babers pulled out Tomlin’s signature “The Standard is The Standard” phrase when talking about how SU can avoid another late season collapse. Dino acknowledged that his players know “some of it was out of their control” in 2022, but that regardless of injuries, they are now better prepared to step up when their number is called.
The Orange return 73% of their offensive production and 72% of defensive production.
It relates to a saying that new defensive coordinator Rocky Long loves to use: “Be Consistently Good, Not Occasionally Great.” In other words, make the easy plays, and chances are you won’t have to worry about attempting Herculean efforts that often.
Shades of Shrader
Garrett Shrader was the next guest, and while his current recovery wasn’t discussed much, he did provide some insight as to how he’ll operate this season.
Shrader wore double gloves for part of last season while he had stiches in his throwing hand - but he said he’s “not a fan” of doing that regularly, so expect him to go back to one bare hand for senior year.
Shrader’s speed will still be a huge factor in the Orange offense, but maybe toned down a bit from previous years. Garrett admitted that he has to be wary of more injuries and that instead of trying to be superman on every scramble, he can slide earlier and more often when the situation calls for it.
Speaking of the Orange offense: Shrader is on his 5th offensive coordinator in five years, but it’s thankfully not another entirely new system. Jason Beck is preserving Robert Anae’s vision for the attack, which makes sense: Beck was his protégé for a full decade, so it’s not like a drastic change was to be expected.
Oronde Gadsden (Part) II
Onto the unofficial Pride of the Orange. Some of what Oronde said was just reiterations from spring camp. His main goal throughout the year is to be a better blocker, especially down the field. Isaiah Jones is expected to be his main complement, as Dino previously hinted at.
But for everything that was repeated, O.G. unveiled a lot more about the state of the offense.
Some names that I did not expect to hear were Umari Hatcher and Kendall Long, both of whom are standouts so far in camp. Hatcher’s route running has improved and he is being looked at as a deep threat, per Gadsden, and Long has apparently been catching TDs like crazy in full team drills. We would love to see that kind of variety emerge in the air attack.
What’s crazier to hear is how literally Gadsden is taking his ‘Athlete’ designation. During specific plays, he’s been lined up in the backfield, even on the line itself, in addition to his normal spots outside and in the slot.
Don’t believe me? It’s the last question to be asked in this clip, around 1:45
My interpretation of the “left tackle” bit is that the true LT is lined up as the tight end, who will turn inside, and Gadsden would cut behind him as an option behind the line of scrimmage. (Ed. note: To use a tackle-eligible, the tackle has to be at the end of the line and “uncovered”. Perhaps you get a formation look like this)
Regardless, it will be interesting to see how that kind of trickery is executed.
The final offensive topic is LeQuint Allen, who recently returned to practice. While the ACCN hosts agreed that he won’t be a true ‘bell cow’ as Sean Tucker was, he may actually be a better fit for the newer offensive philosophy.
Allen has stated that pass-catching is a major focus for him, and the current system will give him plenty of chances to do that. He will still be relied upon to grind out yards late in tight games, but don’t expect the same volume that Tucker got as the primary back these past two seasons.
As expected, the overall goal for 2023 is very straightforward: make a bowl game for the second year in a row. Anything else is not a successful season.
Former Clemson OL Eric Mac Lain made this declaration - “The Orange should be 4-0, then it gets real in a hurry.”
That’s one way to put it. And we’ll be here to cover it all.
NOTE: There was barely any talk about the defense in this episode. Marlowe Wax and Caleb Okechukwu did a basic demonstration of pressuring the offensive line and creating a hole. It’s cool for those unfamiliar with football concepts, but it didn’t actually tell us anything about Syracuse specifically.