Fall camp begins today for Syracuse Football with the 2021 season looming on the horizon. This is a pivotal campaign for Dino Babers and Company as it represents a chance to write off the past two years as a pair of anomalies. On the flip side, another disappointing showing could make Babers’ seat much hotter.
Here are some of the biggest questions and unknowns surrounding SU heading into preseason training.
Who Wins the Quarterback Job?
Tommy DeVito is back for his fifth year as an Orange. The former four-star carries a 6-10 record as the starting quarterback but only played in four games last season. Can he return from injury and grab the reins of the starting job? If so, can he stay healthy? The talent and pedigree have always been there, but can he put it all together in 2021?
Garrett Shrader entered the fold back in the winter. The early enrollment is monumental for his position in this race as fall camp begins. While Devito may have the experience edge over the former Mississippi State Bulldog, Shrader brings more mobility to the table.
The Charlotte, NC native started for MSU as a true freshman and threw for 1,170 yards with a 57.5% completion percentage, and eight touchdowns to five interceptions. Obviously those numbers aren’t great and it’s just a sample size as Shrader only played in eight games back in 2019. Here’s the kicker, the former blue chip dual-threat recruit also tacked on 587 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
Don’t put too much stock into his move to wide receiver in 2020. Mike Leach came in with his patented ‘air raid’ attack which simply doesn’t fit Shrader’s skillset prompting his transfer to ‘Cuse.
Don’t forget about JaCobian Morgan who started two games for SU last season. The rising second year player looked good in a 16-13 loss to BC, but really struggled in a 30-0 defeat to Louisville. The Mississippi native certainly has a hand in this competition.
There’s also Dillon Markiewicz who didn’t see any time last season, but many wondered what he could do if thrown into a ballgame. He had a prolific high school career and can sling it. True freshman Justin Lamson got to campus back in the summer and is very reminiscent of Eric Dungey. Year one may just be a chance to get his feet under him but he has the tools to be an asset in the future.
Which Five Make Up the Offensive Line?
The offensive line play has been subpar the past two seasons, there’s no sugar coating that. Of course football is a team game and it isn’t always their fault. On top of that the unit has been ravaged with injuries, transfers, and retirements over the past couple years. Coach Babers has repeatedly said the unit is back to a healthy spot and that should pay dividends now and in the future.
Syracuse is not only healthy but has plenty of bodies to use to protect the quarterback. So which collective five ultimately trots out for the opening drive of the season in Athens, Ohio? Will Airon Servais stay at tackle? Will Matthew Bergeron and Servais switch sides from left to right? Does Chris Bleich seize a starting job at guard? Improvement in the trenches is crucial for the SU offense to improve on some of its statistical marks from 2020.
Could Any Freshmen Carve Out an Early Role?
If any true frosh will make a big impact this season it will probably be one of the early enrollees. This select group of freshmen joined the team back in the winter and have now had at least six months to train, learn, and compete with the team.
That doesn’t mean every early enrollee will make an impact this year because it really depends on the outlook of the position group. With that said, here are some names that could emerge.
The highest rated recruit from SU’s 2021 class came to campus with playmaking ability. Now after the winter, spring, and summer periods the New Jersey native is cultured on the Syracuse defense and has impressed coaches and his teammates. Chestnut could see time early on at nickel, corner, and/or special teams.
A very intriguing member of the ‘21 class. Morris has a unique skill set for a tight end and could be the perfect fit for Babers’ offense. He’s probably the most talented pass catcher at that spot since Ravian Pierce. Morris has certainly had a big impact in the virtual world of Syracuse Football, maybe that comes to fruition in real life. The Indianapolis, IN native could get early time in receiver heavy sets and with his 6’6”, 230 frame, he presents matchup problems for opposing defenders,
This is more a hot take because Gadsden II was a mid-year enrollee, but what he lacks in experience he makes up for with athleticism and potential. The son of a Super Bowl Champion stands 6’5”, 210. That’s a college ready frame and Syracuse hasn’t had that kind of length on the outside since Jamal Custis, ever heard of him? If the Florida product has elite speed to match that size, watch out…
Syracuse begins the season on September 4th on the road against Ohio. Be sure to follow @orangefizz on Twitter for more preseason coverage!