Coming into the season, we knew the Syracuse football team had an uphill battle facing them. SU had one of the toughest schedules in the country coming into 2017 and one of the most intriguing matchups on that docket comes in the form of the #25 LSU Tigers this Saturday. Despite losing its SEC opener to Mississippi State last weekend, LSU is still a very dangerous football team, so let’s meet 3 players you need to know for this weekend’s matchup.
LSU announced on Wednesday night that star running back Derrius Guice would not be playing on Saturday. Had the junior been in the game, this is the spot where we’d tell you that he’s a Heisman candidate, the Tigers’ best offensive player, led the SEC in rushing in 2016 and averages 100 yards per game. But he’s not playing, so now it’s time to meet his backup who will be getting most of the carries on Saturday night, Darrel Williams. The Louisiana-born senior has spent most of his LSU career as the backup running back, first to Leonard Fournette and then to Guice, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting his licks in. Williams is a bit bigger than Guice, standing at 6-foot-1, 229 pounds. That kind of frame makes him the type of bruising back typically associated with LSU (think Fournette and Jeremy Hill) and could present some challenges for Syracuse. Remember, Fournette ran for over 200 yards against the Orange in 2015 and while Williams certainly isn’t the same player, he’s still incredibly talented in his own right. So far this season, Williams is averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has racked up four touchdowns, which ties Guice for a team-high.
While Williams will be the ground and pound work horse on the offensive side of the ball this weekend, Chark will be the explosive threat. The senior wide receiver currently averages over 104 yards per game (a team high) in his dual role as the Tigers’ top receiver and punt returner. A lot of that success can be attributed to his blazing speed and size. Standing at 6-foot-4, Chark is a tantalizing combination of breakaway speed and length that’s a very rare find in the passing game. Averaging over 17 yards per touch in his first three seasons in Baton Rouge, the Louisiana native is the only player in LSU’s storied history to score on both a run and pass play of 75+ yards. With SU’s secondary already on the depleted side of things, watch out for Chark to break off some big time plays and give the Orange secondary nightmares.
And now for the defensive side of the ball and possibly the most talented player on this LSU team. Arden Key is a 6-foot-6 junior edge rusher who made the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker in the offseason. A highly-touted recruit coming out of high school (#24 overall according to ESPN), Key made an immediate impact in his freshman season, sacking then-Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott on his first career snap. Since then, Key hasn’t looked back. During his sophomore campaign, the Georgia native broke LSU’s single-season sack record, getting to the quarterback 12 times in 2016. On top of those sacks, Key also collected 56 tackles, 14.5 of which were for a loss. After taking some time off from football in the spring for undisclosed personal reasons and in the summer to recover from off-season shoulder surgery, Key made his season debut last week versus Mississippi State. While the NFL already has its eye on Key, he’s still got some business to finish in Baton Rouge and that starts on Saturday vs SU. The Syracuse offensive line showed some improvement last week, but it has yet to see anything like the explosive athleticism Key possesses, making him a must-watch player on Saturday.