Syracuse football’s news stories have been coming down the chute at breakneck speed over the past two weeks. SU’s two coordinators from this past season are out, but a veteran and scheme expert has replaced one of them. ‘Cuse’s defensive backfield is suddenly scrambled, and there are intriguing pieces coming through the transfer portal. It’s enough to make your head spin or whet the appetite of an optimist, but there’s still a simmering issue developing beneath the surface the Orange may have to reckon with sooner rather than later.
When wideout Courtney Jackson announced his decision to hit the transfer portal on November 29th, the news didn’t move the needle. Fellow pass-catcher Anthony Queeley’s move to Georgia Southern didn’t either, following a one-catch campaign in 2022. But once star running back Sean Tucker announced his intent via Instagram to test NFL Draft waters, the waters for SU’s offense got a whole lot choppier. Jackson and Queeley didn’t contribute a ton in 2022, but their departures alongside Tucker’s worsen a potential depth shortage at Syracuse’s skill positions.
The 2023 Orange are bound to look a lot different than the ‘22 bunch, but there are now priorities in place for Dino Babers and company to avoid a sudden cliff-dive from the perch of a rock-solid offensive unit.
‘Cuse’s main priority should now be to make sure the portal works to its advantage rather than to its detriment. Tight end Oronde Gadsden II just finished with an ACC First-Team Selection and is the team’s best receiving target entering next year. At all costs, Babers and company must make sure he stays. There aren’t rumors suggesting Gadsden may transfer, but you figure he proved quite a bit last year with Garrett Shrader throwing him the ball. Dino and his staff should be working hard to make sure Gadsden doesn’t start wondering what life would be like in another Air Raid offense that wants him and promises heavier volume.
Elsewhere in the portal, SU has already had recent success grabbing underutilized talent from solid programs. Former Rutgers defensive back Aljiah Clark was a home run at safety this year, and the Orange hope defensive end Braylen Ingraham (Alabama) and cornerback Jaeden Gould (Nebraska) are similar successes. However, Syracuse has yet to net a single skill-position player through the portal. Finding experience to replace a redshirt-sophomore in Jackson and a redshirt-junior in Queeley is essential.
Finally, it’s non-negotiable that Syracuse nails its offensive coordinator replacement for Robert Anae. Anae’s new three-year deal with NC State stings, especially because he revitalized an SU offense that had just spent the last three years stagnant. Babers’ ill-fated experiment with Sterlin Gilbert between 2020-21 showed us just how important competent assistants are – not just for a team’s success, but for the perception of a team’s leadership. If SU wants to attract better skill-position talent, it’ll have to spend some coin to attract another proven offensive mind and utilize the talent Syracuse does grab. If those elements fall into place, the Orange may not miss many beats to start 2023.