Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Syracuse Orange
Dino Babers did not rock the doors off of the Carrier Dome in his first season at Syracuse, but the team was not terrible all of the time, and when you look closely at what the roster breaks down as this fall, Syracuse may have enough in the tank to go bowling this fall.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Syracuse is absolutely loaded with returning starters on offense in 2017, with nine coming back this fall, led by QB Eric Dungey. Dungey passed for 297.7 yards per game last fall, finishing with 15 TDs to seven picks in nine games. The goal in 2017 will be in keeping him healthy, and on the field. If that can be accomplished, he may very well be the most underrated passer in the league, and is in line for a massive breakout season.
He will certainly have solid targets to get the football to in starting WRs Ervin Phillips and Steve Ishmael. Phillips finished eighth in FBS football in receptions per game with 7.5 last fall. He caught 90 passes on the season, and scored six times. Ishmael finished with six games of five catches or more, and finished with 48 receptions on the season. He is ready to break out as a more high profile target.
The line will return intact in 2017, which is a huge foundation for improved play this fall. LT Cody Conway finished with 20 pancake blocks, RT Jamar McGloster played 824 snaps last fall, LG Aaron Roberts finished with 968 snaps and 39 knockdowns, RG Evan Adams logged 738 snaps as a freshman, and C Colin Byrne finished with a team high 8 knockdowns against USF last fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The run game needs a serious talent infusion in 2017. Dontae Strickland does return at RB, but finished with just 47.17 yards rushing per game, and averaged just 3.69 yards per carry. That will not get it done in balancing out this offense. Moe Neal, who carried just 68 times last fall, may be a better long term answer.
There is talent in who is coming back at receiver for Syracuse, but the bigger story here is who is not returning. Amba Etta-Tuwo, who finished with over 1400 yards receiving and 14 TDs is gone, and he was the biggest deep play threat on the team last season. The returning starting receivers combined for just eight scores last fall. Brisly Estime, who caught 48 passes last fall, is also gone, so finding depth and a big play threat will be paramount in fall camp.
Cole Murphy is back as a senior at PK, but missed eight of his 18 FG attempts last season. Someone needs to push him this fall.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Ten starters return for Syracuse on defense, giving the Orange one of the most experienced returning defenses in the nation.
The front seven returns completely intact in 2017. DE Josh Black finished with 21 tackles and four TFLs, DE Kendall Coleman finished first among all Syracuse freshman with 29 tackles. Steven Clark returns to start at NT, while DT Chris Slayton is the star on the line, as he finished with 10.5 TFLs last fall.
Parris Bennett is a solid star at WLB, as he finished with 9.2 tackles per game last fall, including 17 against Notre Dame. Team co-captain Zaire Franklin is back at MLB after finishing last season with 101 tackles, and was named third team All-ACC. Jonathon Thomas is back at SLB after finishing with 52 tackles, including an eight tackle game against U Conn.
Three starters return in the secondary this fall. CB Christopher Frederick forced two fumbles and ppicked off a pass against Florida State last season, and started six games. FS Rodney Williams is back after finishing with 60 tackles, and SS Daivon Ellison is back after finishing with 90 tackles, including five games in which he finished with 10 tackles or more.
Sterling Hofrichter is back at Punter as a sophomore after averaging over 42 yards per punt on 77 attempts last fall as a freshman.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
This unit was extremely young in places last fall, and as a result allowed 38.6 points per game. Syracuse has enough talent returning to make that number dip drastically in 2017, but the guys have to show that improvement on the field. If they allow that kind of scoring again, improving on a 4-8 record will be laughable.
Where the improvement will come into play is with the young players who played a ton of games as freshmen last fall getting better. That should be expected. Dino Babers is an offensive minded head coach who loves uptempo schemes, but he has to keep the offense on the field more in 2017 to give this defense an opportunity to grow, and that could be easier said than done.
2017 Schedule: 9/1 Central Connecticut, 9/9 Middle Tennessee, 9/16 Central Michigan, 9/23 at LSU, 9/30 at NC State, 10/7 Pittsburgh, 10/13 Clemson, 10/21 at Miami, 11/4 Florida State, 11/11 Wake Forest, 11/18 at Louisville, 11/25 Boston College
It's hard not to expect better things out of Syracuse in 2017 based on the number of starters returning on both sides of the football. One would expect there to be lessons learned and what have you, but this team still has some work to do, and better yet, they have to prove themselves. The schedule sets up for seven wins, but one would think that the room for error could be at a -2. If they make that error margin happen, a bowl is out of the question. If they pass the error margin, they are bowling, and it could all come down to the season finale against Boston College as to whether or not that happens.