Syracuse football: We’ll learn a lot about returning players by Saturday night

Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Right now, the biggest concern around the Syracuse Orange football team is obviously whether or not they can upset the Pittsburgh Panthers and make a bowl game. However, there are some additional looming questions as well.

One of them is around whether or not Dino Babers will return as head coach — something that at least sounds like is already decided. The other is around which players are actually sticking around for the 2022 season.

We’ve seen a parade of transfers leave the Orange program both last offseason and during the 2021 regular season too, and more may yet leave via the portal once the final whistle blows vs. Pitt. Some of those departures could be playing time related. Others could be due to graduating and wanting a new opportunity. And there’s also the question of which players could declare for the draft.

While there’s still a lot more information left to gather and guys could certainly change their minds, we already know two players that have stated they’ll return for 2022: Chris Elmore and Duce Chestnut. While Rhino is using a redshirt this season to come back for year six, Duce still has three more years of eligibility left after this.

Sean Tucker also “expects” to be back next year, but is meeting with his family to finalize — something that potentially sounds terrifying. However, with the way the portal works now, you can’t blame any player for evaluating his options, especially when he’s one of the best running backs in the country and the current Orange offense runs through him.

But what about everyone else? Babers has already asked that juniors intending to leave come forward this past Sunday, so we’ll know soon enough who’s leaving and who’s staying. We separate the conversation into a few different groups below.

Super Seniors

There are seven super seniors on the current roster, and Elmore has already opted to return. So the other six Syracuse will be losing this offseason are Josh Black, McKinley Williams, Kingsley Jonathan, Cody Roscoe, Airon Servais and Abdul Adams. We’ve never gotten full clarity on Devaughn Cooper’s scholarship status, but he also doesn’t have eligibility remaining anyway.

That’s most of the defensive line rotation, plus a starting offensive lineman, and one of the most involved receivers on the roster in Cooper. That definitely leaves some holes to fill.

Seniors

There aren’t many non-super seniors on this team, but we’ll be waiting on decisions from the following guys to see if they’re coming back for another year: Eric Coley, Curtis Harper, Andre Szmyt, Dakota Davis, Darius Tisdale and Sharod Johnson.

A year ago, I’d have bet Szmyt left for the NFL Draft, but now I’m not so sure. It would be ideal for Coley, Harper and Davis to all come back given depth and/or experience concerns at their respective positions. I wouldn’t blame Johnson for using a grad transfer here considering how little this offense has shown in terms of utilizing wide receivers.

Update: Harper will depart for the transfer portal.

2022 Juniors

These are draft-eligible players who still have a year remaining at Syracuse or elsewhere if they choose to stay at the college level. There are quite a few major contributors on this list, and it would seem like they’re the group Dino was most interested in hearing from around their return for 2022:

That’s... a lot of offensive linemen and any of those departures really hurts for 2022 given the handful of other guys on the roster with any experience. Losing an all-conference player like Mikel Jones would be brutal, and it seems he’s weighing his options on the NFL (and rightfully so).

Okechukwu is slated to be a starting defensive lineman next year if he returns, so that seems promising for us. It would be ideal not to lose Lutz, Queeley or Benson given the lack of experienced playmakers on offense.

2023 Juniors

Then there are the 2023 guys who normally would only have two years under their belts, but due to COVID allowances from last year, get some extra time. This isn’t everyone that’s eligible through 2023. Just some of them — like anyone who’s a redshirt freshman but played last year.

You might notice a large portion of Syracuse’s secondary above, plus frequent linebacker contributor Steve Linton and of course, current starting QB Garrett Shrader. With Shrader the incumbent starter right now, there’s little reason for him to look elsewhere. Williams has been banged up a bit this year, but is an NFL prospect if he chooses to make the jump. Simmons just arrived via transfer, so it would be a surprise to see him go elsewhere again. Bradford is slated to be in the mix for a starting O-line role next year, so seems likely he’d stay.

***

Of course, other players beyond this group could still transfer out at any time, and Syracuse could definitely add players as well. But it’s going to be a busy offseason as Babers looks to construct his most important roster to-date at Syracuse. And I’m honestly curious how the staff pulls it off when they’re already down to about 70 scholarship players and have just 10 guys committed for 2022 so far.

Comments

Anyone who is a wr I would be highly concerned about transferring.

And I wouldn’t blame them. I wouldn’t blame anyone actually bc it’s their right, but I’m concerned about Tucker (as a reaction to a possible long list of others transferring), the We group, and pretty much everyone on defense. I say defense bc I would be really upset w having to bail out a crappy offense and still getting blame bc of the scoreboard.
Lots of schools will be using a staff spot for a GM type position, or adding those types of responsibility’s to the recruiting department. Going to be interesting this off-season, bowl or bust.

Elmore starting wide out

Next year. Book it
Seriously is GS is the QB next year why would any WR stay.

It doesn't seem like Tucker would leave if Babers returns to the sidelines

It seems the only thing that would even make him really consider transferring is if Babers got fired. I think he knows that in Babers’ system, he’s going to be the featured playmaker, and it only gives him more opportunity to have a shot at getting drafted into the NFL.

I’d be worried about skill position players transferring — guys like Benson, Queeley and Lutz — considering how the offense has morphed into what it is this season and their all respective lack of touches. A new offensive coordinator and offseason competition at QB could be a big factor into whether guys like these stay in Syracuse.

The only defensive guys I’d worry about leaving are Mikel Jones and Garrett Williams for the NFL. Williams, in particular, has solid size and has been on the NFL Draft radar. He has been banged up at times this year but he has enough impressive tape and the physical tools to test really well in front of scouts. NFL teams can never have too many corners, and I think he’d have a good shot to hear his name called. Jones is a bit more of a wild card in terms of whether he’d get selected, but he also is physically gifted and has shown valuable traits to have his name called on Day 3. He fits a new mold of linebacker and has enough size and speed to be able to make an impact in the run and pass game. It’d be a tough blow for this defense to lose both guys, but if they have a good shot at getting drafted, they absolutely should take it.

Has Williams been out of HS for three years?

Thought it was only his second year?

Second year playing.

He redshirted as a freshman.

Okay.

Didn’t realize he redshirted, thought he was a true freshman last year.

I'm not sure Dino's return has been decided

I mean what else would he say? "Yeah, I met with the AD and he told me win on Saturday or I’m fired?"

I would like to think that any coach would have the confidence in his team and staff to pull out a win and continue coaching. I’m sure he expects that will happen. If not, we are in a lot more trouble.

Anyone else find...

…it odd that Dino asked juniors to come forward if leaving?

Everyone should be solely focused on beating Pitt. All the players in that room are available for Pitt, regardless of their plan for next year. Whether or not someone is leaving after this season is really irrelevant to the task at hand, which is beating Pitt.

It’s already a difficult week with classes, practice, a tough game, plus Thanksgiving away from family, etc. But now Dino’s added this "who’s staying / who’s going" drama – totally unnecessary.

He's likely referring to

the group that are really seniors (Szymt’s group) because he wants them to get the Senior Day experience if they won’t be returning. This isn’t unusual or distracting and if the HC just assumed they are using their 5th year and didn’t include them in the ceremonies that would be an awful look for the program

Fair point

Mr. Wall

Shrader's transfer

Shrader is of course the incumbent, so he would not be inclined to transfer. But since he already transferred once, doesn’t a second transfer require him to sit out a season? It was my understanding that you get one ‘freebie’.

This

Is accurate

Can they still transfer without sitting out a year

Or has that expired? If Tucker wouldn’t have to sit out why are people so sure he is coming back? Seems like a higher tier team would be tempting giving him more exposure and a more realistic Heisman chance?

Yes, players can still transfer and play immediately

JaCobian Morgan

Just sayin’ don’t be surprised.

I don’t think anyone is going to be surprised by any particular transfer. The number might surprise people, but not who in particular. I’d put a lot of money on Luke Benson taking off though.

This post is about

Players that have at least three years at the college level, so Morgan wouldn’t qualify there.

However, yeah, I’m sure the other two QBs on this roster (Morgan and Lamson) are wondering what they have to do to enter a game given how Shrader’s looked of late and how one-sided games have looked these past two weeks.

A Tucker transfer is quite possible...

if he says he is meeting with family. I said last week that he looks disappointed on the sideline. I believe Sean Tucker feels that the records are not as important as winning. He has advisors that will tell him he can get on a winning team, earn big NIL dollars, get the 1,000+ yards, maybe win an award and get drafted higher being on a team with more prominence. I would hate to see him go but he will be welcomed anywhere.

If that is what happens, so be it. I will welcome Cooper Lutz and a slimmed-down Josh Hough down to 235 lbs running behind Rhino and the Berlin Bear while a new QB can both run and pass effectively in a new OC’s offense.

Sean Tucker

Sean Tucker was not listed among the top three finalists for the Doak Walker award. Typically, only players on successful teams win individual awards. I’m sure Tucker knows this and will be a factor in his decision.

If winning is the main draw,

Then sure, there’s a chance. But if getting drafted is the main concern, then scouts are already well aware of him and going somewhere else won’t improve his stock. Look at the number of small school players that have gone in the top 10, even, in recent years. If you’re good, you’re good and scouts aren’t necessarily concerned with where you played.

whatever happens, should be an interesting couple of weeks.

John, your prediction of a 5-7 record, including a road win at VT, is looking quite prescient. Good call.

Sounds like he is staying IF Dino is.

Fair enough, Dino must stay.

One hell of an insurance policy

Dino has there.

I play;

coach stays. He goes, I go.

Seen this movie before…

View All Comments
Back to top ↑