This isn’t a requiem for the 2020 Syracuse football season. It’s supposed to be the weekly installment of Stock Up, Stock Down, but SU’s assets are currently tanking. It’s extremely difficult to point out the bright spots from a 38-24 loss to a previously winless Duke team. Offensively, Syracuse looked good for a couple of drives, but eventually fell back into its old pattern of three-and-outs and quarterback scrambles. You could’ve driven a Mack Truck through the defense. The Orange have found themselves at the bottom of every ACC power ranking, and for good reason. Syracuse is without its two best players, and has lost 10 potential contributors to injury (and one to the geniuses at the NCAA).
QB Tommy DeVito’s left leg injury is “not good,” head coach Dino Babers said. The junior could be out for the rest of the season, according to 247 Sports. On the defensive side, Preseason All-American Andre Cisco is likely out for the year with an ACL injury, and could be leaving the Hill for good, assuming his draft stock doesn’t take a massive hit.
The question now arises. Where in the world does Syracuse football go from here? How can SU build its stock back up to where it’s worth buying, and not leave Orange faithful disappointed after another lackluster season?
The answer is improvement. Strides from the young guys on both the offense and defense, even including Tony White, who is in his first full season as a defensive coordinator in his coaching career. Play-calling should’ve improved already because of the early bye. It didn’t. It’s time for both White and OC Sterlin Gilbert to look inward before looking outward. No matter the talent deficiencies, the players can still be put in a position to succeed.
Sean Tucker now needs to see as much of the ball as possible. Although wearing Tucker down with a heavy workload isn’t a great way to begin his college career, the freshman doesn’t seem like the type of back that shies away from extra carries. No matter who plays at quarterback, their primary job should be giving the ball to number 34.
The young receivers need to start getting involved as well. Courtney Jackson looks lost, and Anthony Queeley isn’t getting nearly enough targets. While it’s great that Taj Harris exploded last weekend, Syracuse’s passing game will be non-existent when teams throw an elite cover corner on SU’s top receiver. Tight ends Luke Benson and Aaron Hackett have made some catches in the past couple weeks, with Benson even scoring one of SU’s touchdowns against the Blue Devils, but production needs to come from the guys on the outside.
Tackling should be the number one priority for the SU defense. Both Duke and Georgia Tech have victimized SU’s front six, partially due to scheme and partially due to terrible efforts from the defensive line and linebackers. It doesn’t matter how Cisco’s loss impacts the defense, or how well the freshmen replacing him and fellow safety Eric Coley perform. If the defense can’t stop the run, teams won’t need to throw.
It’s time for Babers and company to get it figured out, not for this season, but for 2021. While nobody expected greatness from Syracuse this year, losing to the one team the Orange thrashed in 2019 is not okay. If you hammer Liberty -3.5 this weekend, I can’t blame you.