Syracuse released its depth chart ahead of the opener against Ohio yesterday and there are some interesting names atop the two deep. Let’s dissect the penciled in starters and attempt to translate what the decisions might mean.
Quarterback – Tommy DeVito
So the incumbent signal caller gets the nod as starter for the game in Athens, Ohio. This doesn’t mean that Garrett Shrader won’t play against the Bobcats. Dino Babers has said previously that both quarterbacks will play. Historically, two qb systems haven’t been very successful but the thought here is probably to see which of the two performs the best in the series’ allotted and go from there. This is eerily similar to how things played out virtually.
Running Back – Cooper Lutz and Where’s Abdul Adams?
The entire offseason Babers and members of the team told the media not to sleep on Cooper Lutz. He’s often an afterthought in questions and dialogue but clearly the redshirt-sophomore can ball. We’ve seen it before too, let’s not forget the Pennsylvania native eclipsed the century mark against Notre Dame in 2020.
So Lutz is rising up the depth chart but where is Abdul Adams? He and Jarveon Howard opted out of last season and both decided to come back for the 2021 campaign. Coach Babers said early in the spring that both Adams and Howard were at the bottom of the depth chart as a result and had to work their way up the list.
Howard has recovered and risen as he’s 2b on the depth chart, if you will. It appears the Oklahoma transfer is outside the two-deep to begin the season. Remember this is the same tailback that opened the 2019 slate as Cuse’s featured back.
Wide Receiver – Sharod Johnson to start? Taj Harris in the slot?
Syracuse fans should know who its top two pass catchers are in Taj Harris and Anthony Queeley. Both lined up on the outside last year with Nykeim Johnson primarily running the show in the slot. Well Johnson transferred to Kent State early in the offseason which means the Orange needed a new threat inside. Many thought Courtney Jackson would take that role but Babers and offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert seem to have other plans.
Instead, Taj Harris will start in the slot and Sharod Johnson takes his place on the perimeter. Johnson is a question on the outside because he has yet to have a sizable impact on the Hill. The Florida native owns just 12 career receptions for 138 yards in three seasons of action. If there’s any time for a breakout, it’s now for the fourth year player.
Taj Harris is more of a sure thing and could have a huge season for SU. Harris enters his junior season 9th in school history with 1,857 receiving yards. If the Beverly, NJ native goes for 1,035 yards he’ll surpass Steve Ishmael for the top spot. That’s very doable for the prolific pass catcher and he’ll be even more dangerous in the slot with his elusiveness and ability to break tackles.
Offensive Line – Darius Tisdale to start at Right Guard
This shouldn’t come as a major surprise as Tisdale saw a lot of time at guard last year. Additionally, Dakota Davis, who Tisdale was dueling with, underwent an injury during fall camp which kept him out of some practices. Tisdale played in all eleven games a season ago making ten starts and should take another step forward alongside the same starting five as last season.
Linebacker – Marlowe Wax Starting Over Geoff Cantin-Arku
We expected Wax to see significant time this season at linebacker after playing in all eleven games last season as a freshman. He’ll see even more time now as the starter over incumbent Geoff Cantin-Arku. Expect the Canadien to see substantial time in the second level still and get rotated in and out. Can we just take a second to appreciate the depth at the linebacker spot for a minute though…
Secondary – Eric Coley backing up Jahad Carter // Ben Labrosse Starting at Free Safety // Duce Chestnut at CB2
Lots of mixing up in the secondary. So veteran safety Eric Coley will back up rising sophomore Jahad Carter in the back end. The CNY native has played in eighteen games over four seasons and made one start and missed a lot of action in 2020 with an injury. His absence allowed Carter to see significant time and get better as the weeks progressed.
Ben Labrosse, another Canadien, gets featured in defensive coordinator Tony White’s starting defense. The rising second year player appeared in nine games last season and at 6-2, 200 could be a force to reckoned with at free safety. New Mexico State transfer Jason Simmons Jr. will back up Labrosse and certainly see some time.
Last but certainly not least, true freshman Duce Chestnut gets the nod at the cornerback spot opposite Garrett Williams. The sentiment surrounding his playing time was that he’d see a lot and was even referred to as a “baller” by Taj Harris.
Those are some special stripes earned from a guy that’s just in his first season of college ball. Adrian Cole will back up Chestnut after playing some safety last year and Aman Greenwood is the backup to Williams on the other side.
Syracuse begins its 2021 season this Saturday, September 4th, at 12 p.m. in Athens, Ohio.