The countdown to kickoff between Syracuse and Louisville continues. The Fizz’s list also rolls on today as we highlight SU’s 5th most important player: Damien Alford. If the Orange want to improve on a 5-7 season and make it to the postseason, this offense must be better this fall. For the offensive unit to improve, Syracuse will need more production from its passing game and Alford figures to command a big role in that.
The Canadien has shown flashes in his two years on Hill of being a big, downfield playmaker. However, the glimpses are all we have seen to this point, not consistency. The rising junior is the leading returning receiver in terms of yards per reception in 2022 and really elevated his game last year. The Quebec native increased numbers from one catch for three yards in 2020 to a baker’s dozen catches for 249 yards and a pair of scores.
Alford really had his high points last fall. There was the game-winning touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter against Virginia Tech. Then there was the UAlbany contest when the Florida high school product took one catch to the crib for 73 yards. But here’s the thing, Alford didn’t have a single game where he caught more than two passes. The former three-star recruit reeled in at least one pass in each of SU’s final ten outings but his impact was rather minimal.
Does a new offensive scheme allow for Garrett Shrader to find his big 6’5, 210 pound target? Can Alford take the next step from downfield threat to WR1 or even WR2 and develop consistency? Those are the big questions surrounding SU’s towering wideout heading into 2022.
Why Syracuse Needs Him
Alford has size and athleticism in this wide receiver room that nobody else really possesses. The third-year wideout can fly down the sideline and can box out most defensive backs for jump balls. Every offense needs a pass catcher that can take the top off of a defense and stretch the field vertically to open things up underneath and between the hashes.
If the Canadien can become a legitimate threat gliding up and down the boundaries and even over the top, this SU passing game will flourish and so will the run. Opponents will have to respect Syracuse’s deep aerial attack which will open up the middle of the field for the Orange’s slot guys like Courtney Jackson and DeVaughn Cooper to roam between the numbers. Additionally, with the safeties pushed back, there’s more room for Sean Tucker to operate and beat downfield defenders who will struggle to make the right angles and tackle in open space.
Best Case Scenario
In a very fun world, Alford emerges as that legitimate deep threat who can strike at any time and moss some corners and safeties. A perfect world sees the Canadien posting 22 receptions for 500 yards for an average of about 22 yards per snare. This output should be very attainable if Syracuse implements its “air raid system” effectively. If Alford can hit these numbers, this Syracuse offense could emerge as a very dangerous unit. In a perfect world, the other receivers complement SU’s supposed deep threat with some big gashes in the middle of the field and Tucker does his thing too.
Worst Case Scenario
As has been the case recently, the Syracuse wideouts have really let us down. Guys like Anthony Queeley essentially disappear off the face of the Earth, never to be seen or heard from again. That would be the worst case scenario for Alford, he just doesn’t up his game and doesn’t display that consistency that we’re all hoping for.
A worst case scenario sees a guy like CJ Hayes take his spot and run with it. There are yards to be gained and passes to be received this year, Syracuse needs a downfield threat to replace what it lost when Taj Harris jumped ship to Piscataway. Alford has to be the guy this year on the outside. It’s as simple as this, if Alford is successful this season, then the SU offense will be successful this season, period.
Stay tuned for the rest of this list highlighting SU football‚Äôs top ten most important players prior to the season‚Äôs opener on September 3rd.
Sunday, August 21st ‚Äì #10 Courtney Jackson
Monday, August 22nd ‚Äì #9 Marlowe Wax
Tuesday, August 23rd ‚Äì #8 Chris Elmore
Wednesday, August 24th ‚Äì #7 Duce Chestnut
Thursday, August 25th ‚Äì #6 Matthew Bergeron
Friday, August 26th ‚Äì #5 Damien Alford
Saturday, August 27th ‚Äì #4?
Sunday, August 28th ‚Äì #3?
Monday, August 29th ‚Äì #2?
Tuesday, August 30th ‚Äì #1?