The Syracuse Orange will lose five starters from 2016, not including Warren Hill. More importantly, SU loses its leaders on defense and offense in Brandon Mullins and Dylan Donahue. Going back one year, ‘Cuse also had some big question marks, and yet was able to fill the gap. Let's take a quick peak at what the Orange are losing and how they could replenish the starting lineup.
Dylan Donahue Tim Barber
The Syracuse offense must find a way to replace the 104 points it graduates at attack. Of the 55 assists that came from the starting attack line, 47 were off the crosses of Tim Barber and Dylan Donahue. Once again, SU is in the unenviable position of not having a true ball distributer.
I think we can pencil in Nate Solomon on the starting attack line. He took more than a few runs, especially towards the end of the 2016 season. When he played midfield, the SU offense would invert in order to get him into the more familiar attack positions on the field. His only two multi-goal games came against UNC and Maryland. He has excellent off-ball movement and his dodges from X can be dangerous.
Whether you are pro or anti Jordan Evans, he will be a starter next year, the question is whether he will be kept at the attack position or be moved to midfield. With Sergio Salcido and Nick Mariano returning, I would love to keep them on the first midfield line together and force opponents to have to chose who to pole. If I was an opposing coach, I would pole both Salcido and Mariano and put a shorty on Evans at attack. If that becomes the case, then I would think Syracuse would move Evans to the midfield and Mariano to attack in order to keep Mariano on the field as long as possible. Remember, Mariano was an attackman at UMass, so he can proficiently play attack.
Devin Shewell should be the third attackman. We saw him get some minutes at attack this year and he pulled in seven goals. Here's the issue: not Shewell, Solomon, or Evans are ball distributors. Quite frankly, while he's gotten much better protecting the ball, I wouldn't trust Evans to run the offense. I think there is the possibility that Solomon can be turned into more of a ball handler and distributor, running the offense from behind cage in the stick of Solomon might be the only option.
Another potential option is J.T. Forkin. If he makes a return to Syracuse in 2017, Forkin could join Evans and Solomon on the first attack line. But we will have to wait and see what happens with his situation. Thanks to TNIAAM's Andrew Carey's detective work, while it looks like Forkin may have been mis-listed on the Nassau Community College roster, he had 34 goals and 28 assists through 12 games.
Derek DeJoe exploded in his senior season with 17 goals and 23 points. More importantly, the starting midfield loses its long range sniping threat.
If Mariano and Salcido start on the first midfield line, the question is who to place between them. If I had to choose right now, I think Matt Lane is the answer. He is similar to DeJoe in that he can shoot the long ball, but I need to see better shot selection and heads up play from him.
Check out the below vine to see his three deep ball shots (all on the man-up) from the Maryland-Syracuse NCAA Tournament game:
He's not going to go off for five goals in a game but that's not really the point. The importance of having him on the field is just simply the threat of the long ball. Opponents are going to have to decide whether to prevent a rocket from Lane or give up that long shot and focus on making available quick slides to Mariano and Salcido on the dodge.
Brandon Mullins Jay McDermott
Even more so than last season, SU is left with a crater on defense. Both Jay McDermott and Brandon Mullins were big bodied defensive assets and it's hard to imagine any offensive player being worried about crossing through the middle without the threat of a big Mullins' hit.
Nick Mellen is a very athletic player and has incredibly quick feet. He's not a physical player and, like Mullins, is not a vocal leader. Easily one of the best freshman in the country this year, Mellen will still have to take a huge step forward if he can be the leader of this defense. When Mellen sat out against Cornell late in the year, it was Marcus Cunningham who took over so I would expect him to be the second starter on defense. The third starter is completely up in the air. We shall see if there is a freshman capable of starting, but if not, look to Laz Chavez. Tyson Bomberry is also available. Bomberry played on the 2012 U-19 Iroquois team and was a 2015 Under Armour All-American. The sophomore can play long-stick middie or defense, so it will be interesting to see how the coaching staff will utilize him as his career unfolds.
We had such high hopes for Warren Hill, especially after his performance in the FIL World Championships last summer. His inability to vocally communicate and lead the defense did not match up well with a vocally quiet Syracuse defense. Even more problematic, however, Hill's stick movement was slow and at times nonexistent. His .437 save percentage would place him dead last amongst division I goalies who played at least 60% of their team's minutes, although his 9.7 goals against average would leave him 26th. Of course he is not ranked in any category because he only played approximately 49% of SU's total minutes.
After his play in the second half of the season, there seems to be no question right now regarding the 2017 starting goaltender. The defense will need Evan Molloy's communication in order to be successful in 2017. The NCAA only ranks goalies that who played at least 60% of his team's minutes, which Molloy did not, but if he had his 7.74 goals against average would be sixth in the nation while his .537 save percentage would leave him tied for 20th. His 2016 GAA ranks sixth all-time in Syracuse history for best GAA in a season. Backing him up should by Tyler Avallone who has made big strides since arriving on campus in 2012. Avallone will be a redshirt senior this year.