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Syracuse football players prep for Primetime trip to Purdue

They’re ready to derail the Boilermakers for a second time.

Western Michigan v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange have been one of the most explosive teams in all of college football to start the season. SU has the third-most offensive yards generated and the fewest points allowed in Division 1 through their first pair of games, and they’ll look to expand on that domination with a trip outside the Dome and under the lights.

Prior to round two with Purdue, I spoke with several Orange starters and picked up these key points:

Garrett Shrader

  • Shrader was asked about how the offense was preparing without Oronde Gadsden in the mix. He preached the “next man up” mentality but also admitted that he doesn’t know when Gadsden will be back. With two separate ankle issues, it seems that he will at least miss this next game.
  • Center J’Onre Reed changed his snapping motion as he transitioned to working with Shrader. The Orange QB feels they’re now properly in synch.
  • On going into a hostile stadium in primetime: “That’s what you play for, environments like that... but the game is so simple at that point. You’ve got to treat it like that. You can’t let them get to you.
  • Opposing QB Hudson Card plays a style very similar to Shrader, who thinks this game will be high scoring like last year’s Purdue game. Added how he’d “like to have a shootout every week.”
  • On his sideline throw to Damien Alford after a dropped TD: “I was not hesitant at all to go back to him.”
  • Preparing for different scheme typical of BIG TEN teams: bigger, more physical defenders as opposed to SU’s faster, mobile guys.

Damien Alford

  • Happy to see the progression of teammate Isaiah Jones, who seems to have filled the deep threat spot early on. With that in mind, Alford is more focused on being a versatile receiving option instead.
  • On his missed TD catch against Western Michigan: “A drop is a drop. If it happens in a game, I’ve gotta earn how to let it go. Brush it off and make the next play.”
  • Differences in the offense: the slots are getting open and tight ends are more involved in general. (Max Mang and Dan Villari both had catches in the 2nd half vs WMU.)

Jason Simmons Jr.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 09 Western Michigan at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • Leading up to Simmon’s pick-six, the Orange were playing Man Free. He was dropped back in deep zone and in the perfect spot to catch the overthrown pass. It’s interesting that he mentioned that formation, which is typically a 4-2-5 look. Obviously Rocky Long primarily runs his patented 3-3-5 but he also taught aspects of the 4-2-5 in the spring - this is the first confirmation that it’s being mixed in during the regular season.
  • On his first-career defensive touchdown: “It felt surreal. I was very tired (at the end of the run).”
  • Calls the ‘Cuse defensive backs “lights out”
  • Simmons is the second SU defender with a pick-six, along with Jeremiah Wilson. “I’ve never really been a part of that, but when you put points up as a defense, I mean, that always gives your team the ultimate advantage. So hopefully we can keep that going.”

Leon Lowery

  • Described how winning a starting linebacker spot is proof that hard work pays off.
  • An offseason focus was bulking up and putting on muscle to help with breaking out of blocks more consistently.
  • There’s some precedent to not be too aggressive in coverage - “We would like to go win with a shutout... but the main thing is to come out with a win. We do that, and we accomplish our job.

Isaiah Johnson

  • An off-the-field topic: Isaiah has a huge interest in drawing art, especially portraits. His personal favorites are one of his father, and another of his best friend. After his playing days are over, Johnson would like to create his own comics. Chris Carlson from posed a ton of intriguing questions about this interest and I imagine a full piece is coming very soon.
  • On facing Purdue after two easier games: “It’s going to be our coming out party. It’s going to be a signal to the rest of the nation, what Syracuse has to bring.”
  • “We can really carry some momentum, especially on the defense. You saw that first big play, it kind of shook us a little bit and then we came out and we got to work.”
  • “You want to avoid basing your preparation off your opponent. Every week, it’s about us and it’s about getting better.