No. 22 Syracuse is beginning to slide after a very impressive start to the 2022 season. SU has now dropped two consecutive games and is in a very interesting situation. On the one hand, you’ve got an Orange team that has already exceeded the preseasons expectations. On the other, there’s a squad that hasn’t looked like itself the past two weeks and is leaving fans disappointed.
There are a lot of reasons as to why Syracuse holds a 6-2 standing heading into a road matchup with Pittsburgh. The biggest is the injuries the defense has experienced over the culmination of September and October. SU’s defensive coordinator, Tony White, is at the point where he’s rolling out reserves and role players in some positions.
Along the front, Elijah Fuentes-Cundiff and Kevin Jobity are getting a ton of playing time. Fuentes-Cundiff is a player that was probably slotted 4th team coming into the year. Jobity is a true freshman and someone who the coaches probably planned on redshirting. Instead, these two along with several other inexperienced defenders have had to carry a big load.
On top of that, Kevon Darton has become the starting defensive tackle in the 3-3-5. This is a guy that’s a former walk-on and lost a lot of weight over the offseason to become more athletic. Darton probably did that to improve in rushing the passer. Instead of being a situational blitzer, he’s now having to be an every down player.
There have been other injuries including Stefon Thompson, Derek McDonald, and most recently All-American cornerback Garrett Williams. However, the revolving door in the trenches is the most glaring inhibitor for this defense right now.
The problem is only going to get more and more amplified over the next few weeks. Pittsburgh is a run-heavy offense and has one of the best offensive lines and tailbacks in the country in Izzy Abanikanda. The Brooklyn native has scampered for over 1,000 yards this season.
Additionally, Florida State has created a balanced offense this year with Jordan Travis at the controls as a dual-threat quarterback. The season ends with a road trip against a very dangerous Wake Forest offensive grouping.
Boston College could realistically be the lone remaining win on the schedule for Syracuse.
In summation, the injuries are really starting to hinder this team and especially in the trenches. It’s very difficult to fault the coaches for how this has played out. A fully healthy Syracuse team is a very difficult out and could definitely be 8-0 at this juncture.
There are things to point too like SU’s struggles to recruit college ready players in the defensive line group. There’s also situations where the Orange have struck out in the transfer portal. However, injuries happen and all you can do is try to combat the repercussions. The Orange can do that but they haven’t in their last two games.