It’s hard to argue that bowl games outside of the College Football Playoff haven’t lost a lot of their luster over the past few years. That’s for multiple reasons, one is the enhanced focus on the playoff, another is the trend of NFL draft prospects sitting out.
But, for Syracuse fans, there’s plenty to watch for in the Pinstripe Bowl that could provide a glimpse into what next season will look like.
OC Jason Beck
After a decade attached to the hip of Robert Anae, Beck gets a chance to run his own show. Anae leaving could very well end up being a positive for Syracuse. Keeping the two together for much longer probably wasn’t possible, as Beck would have been offered a coordinator job somewhere else at some point.
Instead, he takes the promotion at Syracuse, giving SU the same offensive system from someone with a longer career horizon than Anae, who’s in his 60s.
What will the offense look like? Don’t expect it to be much different. A lot of throws over the middle of the field, a lot of inside zone handoffs and, hopefully, a continuation of the “special plays” as Dino Babers calls them that were so prevalent towards the end of the season. Who knows, though. Maybe Beck will add his own wrinkle.
RB LeQuint Allen
It’s Allen’s show now. With Sean Tucker skipping the game to focus on the draft, the freshman from New Jersey gets a chance to be the bell cow.
Allen ran for 160 yards on 26 carries (6.9 per) in limited opportunities as Tucker’s backup. He also had a 90 yard run against Wagner, SU’s longest play from scrimmage this year.
Allen will surely be the lead back next season, and we’ll get a sneak peak of what that looks like against Minnesota.
OL Enrique Cruz Jr.
Speaking of NFL prospects skipping the bowl game, Matthew Bergeron won’t play either, so Enrique Cruz Jr. will likely get the nod at left tackle. Before the season, Bergeron praised the redshirt freshman, calling him the left tackle of the future.
Cruz has the pedigree. He was a top 50 tackle in the class of 2021 and had offers from schools like Mississippi State and Oklahoma State. The Chicago native saw some time this year at both tackle spots due to injury late in the season, but never got any consistent playing time.
That will probably change in the Bronx, when Cruz is tasked with protecting Garrett Shrader’s blindside, something Syracuse will need him to do at a high level not just in the Pinstripe Bowl but going forward.
CB Jeremiah Wilson
The man who entered the transfer portal, then pulled his name out of it shortly after and returned to Syracuse. The true freshman lost the top backup job to Isaiah Johnson in fall camp, but Dino Babers raved about his talent.
Wilson got plenty of time on special teams this season, and saw some action on defense in a semi-rotation with Johnson opposite the departed Duce Chestnut after Garrett Williams’ late season injury.
With Chestnut gone, Wilson should start at corner opposite Johnson, his first chance to stamp himself as a long term answer for Syracuse and the next in line of an ever-growing lineage of SU defensive backs.
WR D’Marcus Adams
The speedy receiver got an extended look late in the season. His route tree isn’t exactly expansive. His job is to take the top off a defense, something no other SU wideout can do.
Adams was successful when given the opportunity. He had 171 yards on just 5 catches (34.2 per) and two touchdowns. It’s curious why he wasn’t more involved in the offense early in the season, at least to give the Orange a threat down the field. Watch out for him to show off an expanded role in the bowl game that will hopefully be a harbinger of things to come next year.