Vegas isn’t too high on Syracuse football this year and understandably so. The Orange has a new coach and is fresh off a 4-8 season which featured an eight game losing streak. SU hopes the changing of the guard can work wonders for a program that wants to get back to a bowl for the first time since 2013. While Dino Babers can cook up a masterful game plan, he ultimately won’t be scoring any touchdowns or making any tackles. These are the guys Syracuse fans should look out for in 2016:
Ishmael was the Orange’s best receiver last season and it wasn’t even close. He handily paced SU in receptions (39), yards (570) and touchdowns (7). The junior has a huge role in store for him under Babers’ new offense. While the Orange’s new coach was at Baylor, he developed three future NFL wide receivers including Josh Gordon and Kendall Wright. While Babers was at Bowling Green, his top receiver, Roger Lewis, posted back to back 1,000 yard seasons and finished second in the NCAA with 1,544 receiving yards last year. Don’t expect Ishmael to put up these types of numbers out of the gate, but don’t be surprised if his reception and yards totals double.
Amongst returning players, Franklin is the Orange’s leader in both sacks (3) and tackles (81). After being named Syracuse’s fourth ever sophomore captain, the expectations are amping up for the Philadelphia native to improve the worst total defense in the ACC. With Ron Thompson leaving for the NFL and Luke Arciniega forgoing his final year, there are plenty of holes to fill. Franklin is the leader of a unit that won’t have as much pressure to hold opponents down, assuming the offense takes its expected leap.
The entire secondary
One of the biggest losers of the Dino Babers offense is the defense. With such a fast paced air attack, the defense is forced to spend more time on the field. While at Bowling Green, Babers defenses ranked in the bottom half in terms of production, but that was negated because of the offenses ability to light up the scoreboard. This makes it crucial for the Orange to force turnovers. The Falcons always sat in the top two spots of the conference in interceptions. The secondary must produce more than last season’s total of 11 for the defense to live up to Babers’ standards.