Throughout the first five weeks of Syracuse football, the Orange have been through many highs, and a few lows. The 5-0 record is a great accomplishment, and the high-flying SU passing offense has been the antithesis of last year’s Sterlin Gilbert slog. However, there have been nail-biting moments, head-scratchers and injuries. Not everything has been hunky-dory. Let’s check out the largest rise and fall of the first portion of the ‘Cuse season.
To the Moon
Oronde Gadsden II
The sophomore has 23 receptions for 366 yards and three touchdowns, after just two catches last year. His transition to “flex-wide” (aka big guy playing in the slot) has been a massive success for Robert Anae. Gadsden is too big for safeties to cover over the middle, and too fast for linebackers to chase down the field. With defenses starting to key in on the 6-foot-5 wideout, expect Anae to find new ways to get Gadsden involved.
The Orange need a M*A*S*H unit, stat. Four starters (Elmore, Isaiah Jones, Lockett, Thompson) are out for the year with injuries, and Thompson’s replacement Derek McDonald has missed the past two weeks with an undisclosed injury. An apparent illness swept through the team before the Purdue game, Trebor Pe√±a missed the Purdue contest as well and Ja’Had Carter and Alijah Clark missed parts of the Virginia game. Unfortunately, SU is not a program which can replace starters with skilled, veteran backups. Health will be key down the stretch against bigger, faster teams.
The Rutgers transfer has quietly been one of the best defensive backs on the SU unit. Coming in as a corner, Clark made the switch to safety and was a day one starter. He’s got 17 total tackles through five games, and has shown a tendency to lay the big hit now and then. As long as he can stay healthy, Clark should be a major contributor for the next two years.
Late-Game Decision Making
Last year, the Orange lost multiple games because of an inability to get organized when the clock was against them. This season, Dino Babers and crew have made two game-winning drives after quarters of offensive instability. The sideline has been much more organized this year; there haven’t been penalties because of game clock mismanagement, or indecisiveness on fourth down. Babers’ new coaching hires have certainly fixed this issue.
Over the first two games, Syracuse’s O-Line wasn’t a problem. Then against Purdue and Virginia, the starting five up front were exposed. Garrett Shrader was sacked five times by the Cavaliers. Enrique Cruz, Jr. could be a player to watch going forward – Dakota Davis has been a weak point at right tackle.
After starting for two years, the redshirt junior wideout has fallen off the face of the earth. Queeley played in 23 games over the 2020 and 2021 seasons, but only has one catch for 12 yards this season against lowly Wagner. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Floridian hit the portal, even before the year ends.
Why in the world was Wagner on the SU schedule. It looked like the Fayetteville-Manlius Hornets would’ve had an outside chance against the Seahwaks last weekend. It should be the first and last time any team plays 10-minute quarters in the second half. Even if it’s a buy game, that is a waste of a week for both teams, and all of the Cuse’s starters risked injury in meaningless minutes in the second half.