Another wakeup, another day closer to Syracuse Football! The Fizz had you covered all offseason and of course the coverage runs up all the way to and throughout the 2021 season. As we continue the countdown to kickoff, let’s evaluate SU’s position groups on both sides of the ball and rank them. How high each group is slotted will depend on depth, talent, and production.
- 1. Running Back + Chris Elmore
This is a very easy pick. Syracuse has four running backs that Dino Babers believes could lead the team. Of course there’s Doak Walker Award watch list member Sean Tucker back from a phenomenal freshman season. The Maryland native took 137 carries for 626 yards and four scores. Keep in mind that was in eight FULL games of extended action.
The Orange also got Abdul Adams and Jarveon Howard back after opt-out seasons. Adams has racked up 1,426 yards from scrimmage between his time at Syracuse and Oklahoma. Between 2018 and 2019, Howard ran 144 times for 652 yards and ten touchdowns.
Don’t forget about Cooper Lutz as well! He may be an afterthought to you but the last you saw of #24, he was running for 100 yards against Notre Dame…
Lutz has playmaking ability as a runner and a receiver. Last season the Pennsylvania native totaled 246 yards on 43 carries with a touchdown, as well as eight catches for 56 yards.
Oh don’t forget about Chris Elmore too! He’s the big fella blocking for these guys and maybe even getting a few handoffs himself.
This group is deep, talented, and productive which makes it an easy choice for number one.
- 2. Receivers
The wideouts definitely have a lot of potential but it’s unproven outside of the top dogs. Of course those top dogs are Taj Harris and Anthony Queeley. Harris set new single season career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns last year. The New Jersey native is one of the premiere wideouts returning in the ACC and will be a favorite target of whoever wins the quarterback job.
Queeley was SU’s #2 option in 2020 and figures to hold that same position in the fall. Despite the qb carousel throughout the year, the Florida native racked up 37 receptions for 378 yards and a pair of scores. Keep in mind that was Queeley’s first season of game action.
Outside of Harris and Queeley there’s question marks but a whole lot of potential. Courtney Jackson has the inside track to earn the slot wide receiver job. Thus far he’s only reeled in 10 catches for 69 yards but those numbers will multiply if he wins at “Y.”
There’s also Sharod Johnson who’s an experienced player but only owns twelve receptions for 138 yards in three seasons of work. Plenty of wildcards sit in the WR room like Damien Alford and Ja’Vontae Williams who both have a year under their belts. Add in talented true freshman like Umari Hatcher, Oronde Gadsden II, and Kendall Long and you have some promise for the future.
Receivers also include tight ends. SU has Luke Benson, Steven Mahar Jr., and Landon Morris in the room. The Orange barely utilize the TE in the aerial attack and more for blocking purposes. Don’t sleep on Mahar and Morris though, their skill sets are tailor-made to catch passes
- 3. Quarterback
If any of you out there were to make a power ranking like this, you better have quarterback and o-line at 3 and 4 in one way or another. This room has a lot of bodies so depth isn’t really a problem in that respect. Talent also isn’t a concern because there’s pedigree in former four stars Tommy DeVito and Garrett Shrader. What this group doesn’t have is proof.
DeVito has yet to have that solid season where he starts and finishes as the guy and is productive and consistent. He’s looked good at times against the Western Michigan’s and Holy Cross’s of the world. When the New Jersey native is forced to beat a good defense though, he usually flounders. If you can believe it, he’s onto his fifth year at Syracuse and we still know how good he is.
To say Shrader is unproven is a little flawed because his sample size from the 2019 season at Mississippi State was respectable. In case you forgot the North Carolina native passed for 1,170 yards on a 57.5% completion percentage with eight touchdowns and five interceptions. He also ran for 587 yards which makes him a dual-threat talent. Those numbers aren’t an accumulation of a full season either. Can he carry the same level of play to Syracuse?
Behind the presumed one and two options, there’s JaCobian Morgan who started a few games for SU in 2020 and was a mixed bag. Dillon Markiewicz was QB3 at one point last season with all the injuries in the room and has a year of experience in the system. Justin Lamson enrolled as a true freshman in the summer. He was a prized recruiting win from the west coast and could be the future of the position.
As you can see there are a lot of capable players with some talent but none have proven themselves as a high level power five starter.
- 4. Offensive Line
Last and certainly least (pun intended) is the offensive line. This group should be a lot better in 2021 (kinda cuz they can’t get any worse). All five starters from last season return in LT Matthew Bergeron, LG Dakota Davis, C Carlos Vettorello, RG Darius Tisdale, and RT Airon Servais. Babers made a great hire this offseason bringing in Mike Schmidt from San Diego State to improve the front five.
The returns early on from his tenure have been good and should only improve this unit. With all five starters returning that’s a whole lot of experience but who’s to say that will once again be the starting group?
Florida transfer Chris Bleich is now eligible after sitting out a year. He has played on an SEC line before and can play at a high level. There’s also JUCO transfer Jakob Bradford that could slot in at a tackle position if need be or be featured as a swing lineman.
There are options for Schmidt to work with when formulating his best group of five up front; now what he needs to do is improve this position group’s reputation. SU has had one of the worst o-lines in college football the past two years and bounce back from this group could lead to a bounce back for the entire team in 2021.