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Syracuse football: Orange players are locked in for season opener against Colgate

Checking in with the ‘Cuse before they host ‘Gate.

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Syracuse vs Minnesota Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse Orange football returns in just a few more days, which means we’re going all-in on our coverage of the 2023 team. Dino Babers held his first press conference of the regular season on Monday, and then on Tuesday, many of his key players also met with members of the media. Here’s a summary of what they discussed:

Garrett Shrader

  • On playing against Colgate to start the year: “The biggest thing is just getting the nerves out and going out and being comfortable.” The plan is to keep things routine and focus on not getting unnecessarily hurt.
  • “For me, it’s more just the first drive. The biggest thing’s the first time you get hit.” Well... none of us are in a rush to see that happen Garrett.
  • Everyone knows how good Gadsden is after last season, but others are getting more consistent and can complement him well. Offense should be “explosive” with lots of playmakers.
  • On the offensive line: “We’ve been rotating a bunch of different guys and trying out different things throughout camp. I got a lot of trust in those guys... once we start moving the ball a bit, that’s when the confidence comes in.”
  • Coach Beck is still very involved with the quarterback room, and Shrader doesn’t believe that him calling plays from up in the Box will have any negative effects on their rhythm.
  • Donovan Brown is a quick learner and could see a lot of targets as soon as this week.
  • LeQuint Allen is a different style of RB than Sean Tucker, but he suits the offense just fine - “We want LeQuint to be LeQuint.”

Enrique Cruz

  • “You never overlook your opponent.” Brought up FSU being upset by Jacksonville State, another FCS team, two years ago.
  • The line rotated around a lot in camp and competitions were only recently wrapped up, with Cruz securing the starting left tackle spot.
  • Excited to see how the revamped five can perform against other defenses, and for crowds to pack the Dome again. Hoping for more sellouts this season.

Oronde Gadsden

  • There are plenty of vocal leaders on the team - “I’m more of a ‘lead-by-example’ person.”
  • Doesn’t really pay attention to the preseason accolades - “You have to go out and do it during the season.”
  • With the NFL on his radar, Oronde has been diving deep into film to see what scouts are looking for the most. He and Shrader both studied with Gadsden Sr. over the summer.
  • By the third or fourth game, he expects other receivers to start drawing enough attention themselves that he’ll be able to find a lot of open space.
  • Calls LeQuint Allen “a ball of energy” at all times.
NCAA Football: Virginia at Syracuse Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Damien Alford

  • On being named an offensive captain: “It felt good. I wasn’t expecting it, but I feel it’s all love from the guys. They wanted me to lead them, and I’ll gladly do it for them.” He called Matt Bergeron as soon as he found out.
  • “This week’s a mental week, just to get ready for the season.”
  • Said his primary goal is to use his size to make as many 50/50 catches as possible. Alford is the tallest receiver on the roster at 6’6”.

Donovan Brown

  • On earning a starting role as the slot WR: “I think this is a great opportunity for me. I think I can finally show what I’ve been wanting to show since I was a kid.”
  • “I had a lot of questions for the older guys, even some of the guys that are in the league. I worked with them, and I definitely tried my hardest on every conditioning.” Those guys include O.G. and Devaughn Cooper, the two leading receivers on the team last year, as well as Mikel Jones and Garrett Williams.

Isaiah Jones

  • It sounds like the WR rotation will be very fluid - Jones didn’t know he had earned a spot with the 1s until we asked him about it. Still, he doesn’t really consider it a “starting” role, at least not yet. “If I’m down, someone else is going in” & vice versa.
  • On recovering from shoulder injury: “Don’t overthink everything.” Can’t be worried about the possibility of another injury, it’s something that could happen to anyone. Just concentrate on catching whatever is thrown at you.
  • Shrader and Beck have both been great communicators.
  • Likes the whole receivers' room but is particularly high on Umari Hatcher - “I think he’s going to do great things this season.”

Isaiah Johnson

  • On being named a defensive captain: “Those guys believing me and trusting me, it means a lot, especially when I’ve only been here a year.”
  • “We were the Mob last year, but every team is a new team. So it’s a new Mob, and being a part of that and helping it really find itself is a big part of my role this year... I’m the oldest in the room now, so it’s my job to help these younger guys come along.”
  • On the underclassmen: “They have come a long, long way since spring ball.”
  • Coach Travis Fisher has pushed Isaiah and others to go beyond their perceived limits. “He likes to have fun when it’s time to have fun, but when it’s time to work, he wants to bring out that dog in you and really help you grow in every aspect of your game.”
  • Jeremiah Wilson’s growth and maturity is what helped him win the other corner spot.
Syracuse v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Marlowe Wax

  • Said there’s nothing like running out of the tunnel before each home game - you know it’s going to be loud, but it doesn’t really hit you until the last second. “It’s like a dream come true” to play in front of that kind of fanbase.
  • Believes SU can have another good year but knows they “can’t get too big” individually. Staying grounded and working as a team will lead to more good results.
  • Stefon Thompson has been “grinding all offseason” in an effort to get healthy again. He’s expected to play a big role once back at 100%.

Clips from a few of these interviews are being posted over on our TikTok, so be sure to check them out if you’re interested! (There was unfortunately really bad echoing on some due to where the interviews were held - I’m hoping to find a solution before next week.)