Calling Syracuse’s spring game for WAER was certainly interesting. The format was bizarre, with tackling at some points and two-hand-touch at others. It wasn’t really a football game, more of a practice with an extended 11-on-11 session.
That means it’s hard to really gauge the team’s strengths and weaknesses. Obviously, we’ll find out for sure when we get to real games in the fall. That being said, there were some glaring takeaways that were clear to see from the broadcast booth, and, really, for anyone who watched the game.
Justin Lamson is QB2
Lamson outplayed Carlos Del Rio-Wilson, and it wasn’t particularly close. Lamson, who was set to be the backup last year before tearing his ACL at the end of spring ball, certainly looks healthy. He missed some throws, especially down the field and outside the numbers so he was far from perfect, but he ran the offense effectively.
If there was a receiver open sitting in a hole in zone coverage, he delivered the ball without much drama. He played an effective “point guard” role that got the ball in the hands of his skill position players. To make another basketball analogy, he made his layups.
Del Rio-Wilson did not. He constantly missed receivers in the short and intermediate range, both overthrowing them and throwing the ball behind them. He didn’t look comfortable in the pocket, with his feet either moving all over the place.
The Offensive Line is a Concern
While there wasn’t much tackling of running backs, receivers and, obviously, quarterbacks, the offensive and defensive lines went at it seemingly at full speed. The defensive side won the day handily, especially on the interior.
Kevon Darton and Elijah Fuentes-Cundiff were in the back field constantly from the interior, which, on the offensive side, was the biggest area of struggle. Josh Iloa at center, and Kalan Ellis and Jakob Bradford at guard were all beaten consistently. The Orange have J’Onre Reed and Lysander Moeolo coming in as the 5th and 6th best interior offensive line prospects from the JUCO ranks this summer. The hope is they can help sure up the offensive line, because it needs help.
What may make that performance even worse is Marlowe Wax, Derek McDonald and Stefon Tompson, the trio that figures to start at linebacker in the fall, did not play.
Improved Receiver Depth
Last year, it was Oronde Gadsden and everybody else. The all-ACC “tight end” was the only weapon SU had in the passing game. Eventually, teams figured out how to stop the Orange. Double 19, and leave everyone else on an island because the likes of Courtney Jackson, Devaughn Cooper and Damien Alford could not beat single coverage against good teams.
Alford is still a focal point, however, based on the spring game, his route tree has expanded. In the past, he has been a vertical receiver who won’t run by many corners, but can out jump them with his athleticism and 6’6 frame. On Friday, he ran some short and intermediate routes, both in and out breaking, that led to some success.
The third starting receiver, along with Alford and Gadsden in the slot, was isaiah Jones, who was a starter at the beginning of last year before being sidelines with a shoulder injury he suffered in week three against Purdue. He had a long touchdown catch where he got himself wide open down the sideline on Friday.
The trio of Gadsden, Alford and Jones is intriguing. All are at least 6’4, which certainly provide friendly targets for Garrett Shrader when he returns from injury in the fall. Those three, plus D’Marcus Adams who didn’t play in the spring game, but garnered plenty of attention for his speed in practice sessions that were open to the media throughout the Spring, form an interesting, and potentially even good receiver group.