Orange Fizz


Damien Alford is Primed for a Breakout Year

A year ago, conventional wisdom said that if Syracuse was going to have a breakout receiver that would differentiate himself as the number one option in the passing game, it would be Damien Alford. He was coming off a 2021 season where he flashed. He caught a 70 yard touchdown early in the year against UAlbany, and then of course his game winning touchdown against Virginia Tech.

The 6’6 210 pounder from Montreal has tremendous size and showed a strong ability to go get the football. To make it a cliche, with Alford, 50-50 balls are 80-20 in his favor. But, it was instead Oronde Gadsden who developed into Garrett Shrader’s favorite target. Gadsden was an all-ACC performer who racked up nearly 1,000 yards, while Alford had less than half that amount.

Still, though, Alford’s 20 catches for 429 yards were both career highs. He averaged about 21 yards per reception, which shows you his explosiveness, but also his one dimensional nature as a receiver.

He continued to do his damage in the vertical passing game. Not necessarily with his speed, there aren’t many corners Alford will run past, but with his size. That’s a tremendous skill and one that not many receivers around the country are gifted with, but it’s one element.

At that size, it’s difficult to be a great route runner. Look at the history of football at any level, the receivers considered the best route runners are usually 6’1 and under. The ones that need to be great route runners to get open.

However, for Alford to take that next step, he doesn’t need to be a great route runner, he needs to be a serviceable one. Simple stuff-slants, quick hitches, five yard outs-combined with his athleticism and size make him so much more valuable. It will also make him even more effective down the field because it will keep corners honest.

The advantage he, and the rest of Syracuse’s receiving corps have, is that he will almost always face single coverage. Once Gadsden emerged last year, he was doubled on the vast majority of Shrader’s drop backs. That’s a trend that, as Dino Babers has admitted, is certain to continue.

Syracuse needs someone to emerge as a second option who can get open consistently, and all reports are that Alford has been that guy in fall camp. We saw glimpses of it in the spring, both in practices and the spring game. New offensive coordinator Jason Beck seemed to give Alford an expanded route tree and he was succeeding.

Expanding that route tree is something Alford has said was his biggest focus this offseason. The early results are promising. Practice performance should obviously be taken with some caution, but, last year, all reports circled around how dominant Gadsden was and that certainly translated to games. Babers himself has singled out Alford as being the leader in that race for the second receiver spot.

Syracuse needs someone to take that role, and all signs point to it being Alford.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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