As we head into the dog days of summer, recruiting cycles are picking up all across the Syracuse athletics landscape. Dino Babers and company just signed a pair of Floridian recruits in Jeremiah Wilson and Mekhi Mason over the past few days. Both are in the class of ‘22, so they’re a ways away. For the moment, it’s worth thinking about how Syracuse football can pick things up in 2021.
It won’t be easy, but it can be done if a few things happen. After giving it some thought, I’ve narrowed down three key factors for Syracuse football to play competitive, interesting football this year.
Young talents have to develop and up their game
By the end of last season, the only thing about Syracuse football truly worth watching was the strong play out of a few of its newcomers. Specifically, RB Sean Tucker and freshman CB Garrett Williams burst onto the scene to become leaders on their respective sides of the ball. Both come into 2021 penciled in as starters, with Dino Babers saying last week that he “expects big things” out of Tucker. For Syracuse to hold any sort of consistency, they need improvement and more production out of those two guys, among other young pieces. A second-year slump or an inexplicable slide backward (like the entire SU defense in 2019) would absolutely kill this team, and it’s paramount that doesn’t happen.
One quarterback needs to start at least 8 games
There were a lot of reasons Syracuse’s offense played dreadfully in 2020, but the quarterback position was as big a reason as any. We’ve written about the SU offensive line – it’s been awful the past two years, to be sure – but I would challenge you to find a team that starts three different quarterbacks like ‘Cuse did in 2020 that actually finished with a winning record. Injuries forced Babers’ hand last season, so you figure this year he’s due to have a little better luck. If a quarterback starts eight games this year (exactly two-thirds of a non-bowl game season), it’ll mean the offensive line played well enough to keep its starter healthy and go a long way in stabilizing the team.
The ACC Atlantic needs to stay weak
The third and final key point to Syracuse’s competitiveness in 2021 is that the ACC Atlantic division needs to continue to be top-heavy. Clemson is still the undisputed king, but the field beyond the Tigers is pretty soft. Out of all the Atlantic teams, only BC (6-5) and NC State (8-4) finished with winning records in 2020. SU also gets games against struggling FSU and Louisville within the division.
Most predictions don’t expect much out of SU, so finishing above expectations is possible if Syracuse can pull off these three keys. With that and an easy-looking non-con schedule in mind, the time is now for Dino Babers and his squad to come out showing some life.