About a quarter of the way into the season, it’s time to take stock on some individual players. Whose stock is up the most and down the most from the start of the season to now?
Jackson has established himself as the number one guy. After his second two touchdown, 140+ yards performance of the season against Western Michigan Saturday, he was named ACC receiver of the week. The Michigan State transfer has been as advertised. Jackson is currently fourth in the ACC in receiving yards.
On one hand maybe its not the best that a punter is your second highest stock up of the season four games in. On the other hand, though, punters are underratedly valuable. Hofrichter is top five in the country in average yards for punt right now. All the dude does is back opponents up inside the 20-yard line.
Hackett had caught eight passes in his Syracuse career and one career touchdown before Western Michigan. On Saturday, the junior reeled in six passes and two touchdowns. He entered the season as the second string tight end to Chris Elmore and now it appears, based on the way the other receivers are contributing, Syracuse could really use his pass-catching skills going forward, especially in the red zone.
Frankly, it’s hard to pick much from the defense after three straight games of 30+ points allowed (first time that has happened since 2011 for Syracuse). We should give some credit to Williams though. He leads the team in tackles (32) and sacks (2.5) through four games. Not too shabby for a guy who never really played outside of special teams coming into the year.
This is the biggest mystery. Johnson is averaging 1.3 yards per catch this season and has compiled a measly 13 receiving yards in four games. The same guy who caught at least one pass in every game last year and was known for being a “deep threat.” Three of his four touchdowns last year were 40+ yards. He has gone from a key consistent part of each Syracuse game to a complete non-factor. Hard to say for sure but you’d assume the offseason injury is part of the reason and maybe he just isn’t fully healthy yet?
Harris hasn’t fallen off production wise to the degree Johnson has. But, he hasn’t necessarily progressed like many thought. After one of the best freshman seasons in Syracuse receiving history (statistically speaking), Harris has yet to catch a touchdown and make a real imprint in his sophomore year. That Clemson drop on the first series leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouth too.
There was hope Alexander would come in and be a reliable starter on the outside of the line like Koda Martin, another grad transfer, last year. Given his pedigree at South Alabama (All-Conference Hon. Mention), many expected him to start the season. He didn’t and while he has been playing a lot due to the Sam Heckel injury, Alexander like the rest of the line hasn’t looked great. Not putting the offensive line blame on him, but he hasn’t been the starter we expected.
Howard has nine carries in the last three games combined. Four of those came in complete garbage time last week against Western Michigan. Part of it is the fact Syracuse has really had many chances to use a “goal-line back.” Regardless, it’s clear the running back position is Neal and Adams at this point. Howard’s role, which we knew would be limited this season, has really been marginalized.