Syracuse Orange fans: congratulations! You’ve made it through the summer to another year of college football.
As Week 1 officially gets underway, we’re happy to restart our weekly check-ins with Head Coach Dino Babers. He held his first press conference of the new season on Monday - here’s the recap of the current State of the Orange:
The biggest question mark through training camp has been the relative health of Garrett Shrader, and the initial statement from Babers was a good one. Shrader will be playing without any kind of snap count or other limitations during the opener against Colgate.
“All that stuff is done with,” Babers said. “It’s time to play football, and he’ll be ready.”
There was also some less pleasant news in the form of return specialist Trebor Pena being unexpectedly absent from the depth chart. Dino said he’s unsure if Pena will be ready on Saturday, but it’s thankfully not a season-ending issue.
OL Kalan Ellis and LB Stefon Thompson are currently listed as second-stringers, and DL Terry Lockett is completely absent from the two deep, as all three work their way back from their own injuries.
I’d like to be optimistic here and say that there’s no need to rush any of them for an FCS opponent, but I’m also leery since Pena and Ellis seemingly happened right at the end of training camp.
Beck’s New Perch
The biggest change for the Orange offense may not be on the field, but rather a personal choice made by offensive coordinator Jason Beck. Per Babers, Beck will be calling plays from up in the box as opposed to on the sidelines.
It’s a change from his time with Robert Anae - the two tended to stay together with a more hands-on approach.
“He has his way of dealing with individuals,” Babers said. “I think that the young men have gravitated to him and I think they’re excited to play.”
The bird’s eye view could allow Beck to better assess and adapt to defensive formations. We’ll see what the initial results are.
O Captains, Our Captains
Half of SU’s captains were named back in the spring: Shrader, Marlowe Wax, and Justin Barron. At the start of Monday’s presser, Dino unveiled the other three chosen by this year’s team: Damien Alford, Isaiah Johnson, and Brady Denaburg.
We've got a lot of leaders on this team. These six were voted to wear the C this season. pic.twitter.com/syIGTzc3Kx— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) August 28, 2023
Alford has been very hit-or-miss as a deep threat here at ‘Cuse, and he briefly explored the transfer market during the offseason before withdrawing his name from the portal. It seems he had a stellar August, as not only did he earn a starting role on the outside, he’ll also don the “C” during his fourth year at SU.
In 29 games, Alford has 34 catches for 681 yards and four touchdowns. He was third among Orange wideouts with 20 receptions last season.
Johnson is only entering his second (and final) year at SU after arriving as a transfer, but his overall veteran status among a pretty young secondary earned him the badge. Johnson had 53 tackles, a pass breakup, and an interception in 2022.
Finally, Denaburg replaces Andre Szmyt as the team’s kicker. Only a sophomore, Denaburg has some experience on kickoffs.
Welcome to The Loud House
As they did last year, SU opens up the season inside the JMA Dome. This time though, instead of a primetime start against a conference opponent, the Orange face their easiest foe on the calendar in a mid-afternoon game.
The Dome probably won’t be full for this one - aside from the obviously skewed competition, the State Fair is in town - but it’s still an important moment for new members of the team.
“There’s so many new individuals that haven’t been in the Dome. You know, we’re in the Dome for the first time and those guys are taking pictures and stuff. And I’m like, ‘We’re in practice, what are you guys doing?’ I mean, they hadn’t been in there. So, for them to go into the venue and get an opportunity to see it filled up and see what kind of home field advantage we actually have. I think it’s gonna motivate, especially those new guys, that you know, there is no place like Dome.”
Some SU players are available to the media on Tuesdays; a roundup of what they have to say each week will be out soon after.