Syracuse football just had its most successful season since 2001 as Dino Babers led the squad to a ten win season. The head coach also just landed his best recruiting class to date, and SU athletic director John Wildhack locked up Babers long term. Clearly it was a great season for the Orange as they are quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the ACC. So, after the most successful year in recent history, what should Syracuse’s goals be heading into 2019?
Improved Recruiting Classes
After finishing with the second best record in the ACC, the Orange still have to improve on the recruiting trail. While they aren’t expected to compete with Clemson, Miami, and Florida State; Syracuse should challenge the rest of the ACC. Right now SU is ranked 13th out of 14 ACC teams in recruiting rankings, sitting at 59th in the country per 247sports. Only Louisville has a worse class due to the fallout with Bobby Petrino. After back to back 4-8 seasons before this year, Syracuse wasn’t expected to crack the top 50 in the country. A 10 win season changes that. Babers and his staff can use this momentum to finish strong in the 2019 class and build an even better 2020 class.
Andre Cisco First-Team All-American
Andre Cisco stamped his name among the best in college football in his freshman season. The safety tied for the national lead in interceptions and broke up a team-high 11 passes. Thanks to his phenomenal season he was named a second-team All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. In 2019 he should look to become a first-team All-American. While he proved to be a ball-hawk, Cisco can still improve on his angles. Early in the season, he played too close to the line of scrimmage, allowing wide receivers to get past him. He didn’t always take direct angles towards running backs either, allowing big plays. If he cleans up this aspect of his game, he could be the best safety in college football.
3,000 Yard 20 TD Season For Tommy DeVito
With Eric Dungey graduating, the 2019 squad will be DeVito’s teams. Now these goals are gaudy numbers for any QB, much less a first-time starter. However, DeVito has shown the arm talent to put up these stats. He has a cannon of an arm, and is more accurate than Dungey. However, he can’t rely on his legs the same way Dungey can. While DeVito showed flashes of a star quarterback, he also got flustered when pressured. In limited action, he took 11 sacks, to go along with three interceptions. Some of the inaccuracy can be attributed to limited practice time with receivers. Next year that won’t be an issue as he’ll have reps with the first team from now on.
Have a 1,000 Yard Rusher
Since Babers arrived as SU, the offense has been dynamic. However, the running game has struggled at times. Part of this is due to the offensive line, and some is due to poor vision from the running backs. This season, the offensive line was a veteran group who gashed open holes for the ‘backs. As a result, Moe Neal ran for 869 yards. Of course, Babers’ up-tempo system benefits receivers more. However, as Syracuse breaks in a new starting quarterback, expect Babers to run the ball more. While a platoon may still be in place with Neal and Abdul Adams, expect the backs to have more touches on the ground.
Find Replacements for OT’s and LB’s
While the Orange are keeping most of their starters, they do have to replace both offensive tackles and linebackers. On the O-line, JUCO signee Darius Tisdale may slide in and start immediately. At 6-foot-5 295 pounds, he has the size and experience to step in and play right away. While this position may be the biggest question mark heading into the season, Babers has recruited well, so there is depth on the roster.
For the second time in two years, Syracuse also replaces its starting linebackers. Coming into the season, this was a position of uncertainty due to the graduation of Zaire Franklin and Paris Bennett. However, seniors Ryan Guthrie and Kielan Whitner both finished with over 100 tackles. Neither Guthrie nor Whitner had much game time experience. Luckily for SU, back-up Andrew Armstrong has played all linebacker spots for Syracuse, and Shyheim Cullen has experience as well. Besides those two, Syracuse brings in four-star signees Mikel Jones and Lee Kpogba. They may be a factor for playing time as well.
While Syracuse is set up well for the future, there are still questions to be answered. However, it seems like Babers has added the depth to answer any uncertainty. Unlike last season, SU won’t be able to surprise any opponents. This time around, the ACC knows the Orange are for real.