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Syracuse football: what to watch for vs Colgate

Opening week offers plenty to focus on

NC State v Syracuse Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

The 2023 Syracuse Orange season kicks off this Saturday when the Orange welcome the Colgate Raiders into the JMA Wireless Dome. With an intriguing team almost ready to make their season debut, what are we looking for the most in the opener? Let’s find out....

Kevin: Line domination

Look, we expect that the Orange will be vanilla on both sides of the ball to keep upcoming opponents from seeing all the new wrinkles. Against the FCS Colgate squad, can Syracuse line up and control the ball while using simple play calls? Last year the Orange ran for 388 yards against Wagner while averaging 9.9 yards per carry. With a lot of new players blocking and in the backfield, it would be great to see Syracuse be able to move the ball on the ground on Saturday.

Dom: Shrader’s return

All eyes on the first snap will be on quarterback Garrett Shrader, finally seeing him in action coming off a busy offseason which included recovering from a surgical right arm procedure. His improvement with down field accuracy coupled with his ability to scramble out of the pocket encompassed a strong reason for Syracuse’s strong season in 2022. The experience and versatility he brings to the offense can’t be undervalued, and the Orange will need all he has to offer to realistically clinch a bowl game for a second-straight year.

Max: Special Teams newcomers

The Orange have a new placekicker and punter in Brady Denaburg and Jack Stonehouse. They might look good in practice, but performing under the Dome spotlight is a whole different beast. Denaburg has big shoes to fill following the departure of Andre Szmyt, SU’s all-time leading points scorer. Stonehouse, a Missouri transfer, leapfrogged over Max von Marburg in the depth chart to open the 2023 campaign. The Australian will be waiting in the wings if Stonehouse’s boots go awry.

Mike: Defensive depth

Most Orange fans are familiar with the starters in the 3-3-5, but the backups went through a significant shuffle thanks to the transfer portal. DBs Jayden Bellamy and Jaeden Gould are the notables listed in the two-deep, with DL Braden Ingraham also potentially in the mix. All three have great potential, and though there isn’t an immediate need for them, even a small sample size will help gauge how much of help they can be if suddenly elevated.

Christian: Voice in the sky

Let’s be honest: we aren’t going to get great evaluations on player skill levels over these first two games of the season. What we can judge is play calling. If tradition is to be followed, Dino Babers is going to have new offensive coordinator Jason Beck run the simplest version of the playbook that he can. At the very least, we can start to judge how Beck wants to run the offense. Does he stick with what his mentor Robert Anae started last year and set up Garrett Shrader for success with short-to-medium routes in between the numbers? Or are there other wrinkles that will remain a mainstay throughout Syracuse games this season?

That’s what we’re watching for; what will you be focused on this Saturday?