Syracuse’s loss to 25th-ranked Pitt last Saturday was an exact copy of their clunker of a performance against UNC. And just like last week, the Fizz is bullish on a couple of players, and has a couple others whose stock dropped in the 21-10 defeat.
Mikel Jones (again): Jones is playing at an All-ACC level through the first two weeks of competition. He recorded five tackles, two quarterback hurries, snagged an interception and scooped up a fumble while at Heinz Field. Jones always seems to be around the football (along with his fellow starters Geoff Cantin-Arku and Stefon Thompson, the former of whom had seven tackles and the latter five and a sack). These young ‘backers are the huge positive in what most people thought would be a weak point of the SU defense.
Ja’Had Carter: Another week, another young defensive back stepping up for Syracuse. Garrett Williams led the team with nine tackles against UNC , and in Pittsburgh Carter led the Orange, wrapping up nine ball carriers. He flew around the field, tackling in both the run game and in nickel/dime packages. It’s great to know that behind the experience of starting corners Trill Williams and Iffy Melifonwu, there are guys that want to step up and plug gaps.
Sean Tucker: Although he only got four carries, Sean Tucker easily looked like the best in the Syracuse backfield. Tucker gained 23 yards on those four tries, and had the longest SU rush of the game, a 12-yard run in the third quarter. Tucker runs aggressively, has track speed and at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, might be the best suited back to work in protections as well. Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s first smart decision of the year could be working Tucker in as much as possible, because neither Jawhar Jordan nor Markenzy Pierre has shown promise.
Rex Culpepper: The odds of starting QB Tommy DeVito getting pulled from games are extremely high at this point, seeing that it happened through all of ACC competition last year and continues through the first two games of 2020. It’s nice to know that Syracuse has a backup that can throw a sweet deep ball.
However, the word backup is key. DeVito needs to play like a starter, because Culpepper has zero chemistry with the receivers. Expect to see Culpepper more going forward. Babers recently said during his press conference that there are packages for him and both will see time.
Tommy Freaking DeVito: It’s getting extremely difficult to be confident in DeVito’s ability. He freezes when he has an open receiver, and is a scared rabbit in the pocket. Going 9-for-15 for 32 yards (with a QBR of 7.8) isn’t going to get it done against anyone, no matter whether their defense is top 20 in the country or not. It doesn’t appear that DeVito improved much over the offseason, and his wideouts don’t inspire any confidence as well. Could he lose his starting job? If he does, it’s a terrible reflection on him, Gilbert and head coach Dino Babers. SU can’t afford three years of terrible quarterback play.
Jawhar Jordan: Syracuse’s starting back looked overmatched for the second week in a row. He rushed for 40 yards on 13 carries while struggling to find holes, and was a non-factor in the passing game. Jordan also amounted to nothing more than a tackling dummy in pass protection, which is to be expected when you weigh 175 pounds. He’s going to get injured if he has to run between the tackles for 10 games. The Orange have to use him in creative ways. That falls on Gilbert and Babers.
Servais was injured in the UNC game, but boy did he look terrible last Saturday. He wasn’t responsible for all of Pitt’s sacks, but there were several snaps where Pitt’s D-Line was past him in what felt like an instant. He can not be a weakness for this Syracuse offense. They have enough of them already.
Drew Tuazama: Every time Drew Tuazama’s name is mentioned, it seems like there’s a penalty attached to it. He was ejected in 2019 against Holy Cross for targeting. The flag that nullified Nykiem Johnson’s punt return TD. Last week it was an illegal block on another return. There’s no reason to play Tuazama if he can’t be disciplined.
The offense needs to figure it out next week against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets gave up 650-plus yards of total offense to UCF, and while Syracuse doesn’t have Dillon Gabriel under center, the pressure on Dino Babers and company better be enough to cause some change during the week. Otherwise, SU’s stock is tumbling towards disaster.
Check out last week’s Stock Up, Stock Down