Syracuse head coach Dino Babers described the 2021 season as a “year of change,” and while the Disney metaphor-spouting eternal optimist is still leading the Orange after a disappointing end to the season, many other pieces to the puzzle are shifting. Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Sterlin Gilbert, defensive line coach Vinson Reynolds and tight ends coach Reno Ferri received pink slips, and there are currently 13 players in the transfer portal. Combine that with the graduation of six super-seniors, and the potential NFL departures on the defensive side of the ball, and SU could have some real weak spots when the 2022 season comes around.
That’s why there are positives and negatives with the transfer portal. Syracuse lost impact players to the portal, mainly wideout Taj Harris, linebacker Geoff Cantin-Arku and defensive tackle Curtis Harper, but there are plenty of names that could potentially fill those voids. Orange fans saw the potential portal players have with Garrett Shrader’s offensive takeover this season. SU’s class of 2022 isn’t looking very strong at the moment, so Dino and company are going to have to pull some portal magic. All due respect to Babers, but he’s never going to snag a Spencer Rattler-type from the portal. SU has to be realistic about what it’s going after, and right now, that is depth.
So we’ll start with the biggest glaring weakness in next year’s roster. Syracuse is losing all three starting defensive lineman (unless Josh Black finds a seventh year of eligibility somewhere) and sack leader Cody Roscoe. Along with Harper, backups Latarie Kinsler (SU’s highest-rated recruit in the class of 2019) and Joe Rondi are also looking for new homes. The Orange only have one D-lineman coming in next year (two have de-committed). This is position of need number one.
There are plenty of options out there for SU in the portal. One name to highlight is Almosse Titti. The 6-foot-1, 310 pounder spent a year at Iowa Western C.C., the same school as current SU tackle Jakob Bradford, before committing to Maryland. The Tampa native played in five games in 2020 for the Terrapins, but didn’t see action this year. He would serve as a massive plug in the middle of the 3-3-5, which the Orange desperately need.
It’s tough to recruit players, regardless of their age/eligibility, when you don’t have a coach. So the first order of business when shoring up the defensive line, is getting a new DL coach to the 315.
Having a freshman come in to start every year is amazing. But Syracuse can’t count on it forever. Garrett Williams, despite his injury issues last season, is a pro prospect, and the backups behind Williams and Duce Chestnut were less than solid last season. Three incoming freshman could make their cases to start, but now that Tony White has fully fleshed out SU’s reputation of turning DBs into pros, there’s a chance SU could make a portal splash. Keep an eye out for names like former Indiana corner Larry Tracy III, who got stuck behind excellent Hoosier upperclassmen after receiving an SU offer out of high school. Or Nasir Clerk, a transfer from East Carolina and native of Irvington, NJ.
Tight End/Wide Receiver
One of the biggest blows to SU’s offensive future was losing Landon Morris. A 6-foot-5, jumbo tight end/receiver combo who would’ve made the Orange passing attack much more dynamic in the coming years. It doesn’t take a genius to guess why he left. Syracuse’s new offensive coordinator needs to utilize the tight end position in the upcoming years. There’s a reason some schools which don’t get “five-star top talent” always have decent passing attacks: they have a number one wide receiver on the outside, and a sure-handed tight end when that wideout is covered. Case in point, Jordan Addison and Gavin Bartholomew last weekend. Nobody really knows where SU goes from here in terms of offensive coordinators (check out the linked article above for some of the Fizz’s suggestions), but for the ‘Cuse to get things going through the air, talent is sorely needed.