URI, Wake Forest, Central Michigan, Boston College
LSU, USF, Virginia, Pittsburgh, Florida State, Louisville, Clemson, NC State
Syracuse got off to a 3-0 start to the 2015 season with a 30-27 OT victory over Central Michigan. They would then not win a game for the rest of the season until the very last week against Boston College at home. Among those 8 losses is a 34-24 loss against LSU, a 45-21 loss at Florida State, 37-27 loss against Clemson, and a 41-17 beating by the Cards. Had they won one more game and brought their record to 5-7, they quite possibly could have made it to a bowl game with the amount of bowl games there are now. The last time Syracuse made it to a bowl game was back in 2013 against Minnesota in the Texas Bowl.
With the poor records from the previous couple of years, first-year Athletic Director Mark Coyle fired Scott Shafer on November 23rd. In comes Dino Babers, who was previously the head coach at Bowling Green. From reports, the two finalists were Dino Babers and Ohio State's defensive coordinator Chris Ash. However, Ash pulled his name from consideration for the position. Some of the excitement that Babers has brought to the Syracuse fanbase is that he comes from the coaching tree of Art Briles, and will model the Syracuse offense around Baylor's high-scoring offense.
Syracuse brings back 8 starters on offense and another 7 on defense. On the offensive side of the ball, most of the experience will be in the skill positions. The two leading receivers from a year ago (Steve Ishmael and Brisly Estime) will return, along with senior Alvin Cornelius, senior tight end Cam MacPherson, and senior running back George Morris. For the defense, they return Antwan Cordy (who lead the team in tackles for loss with 12). Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett are two returning starting linebackers who both were in the top 3 in tackles last season.
Eric Dungey and Zack Mahoney both got substantial playing time last season. However, it looks like sophomore Eric Dungey will be the team's signal-caller this year. In the spring game, he was on the first-team offense. It seems like Dungey has been picking up the new offense very well during the off-season, as he threw 7 touchdowns in this year's spring game. He is also the more elusive of the quarterback's, rushing for 351 yards and 5 touchdowns last season. This mobility is going to be something that Babers is going to rely on as the offensive line only returns 2 starters who started the majority of last year.
There's a few different ways you could go here. Young quarterback. New head coach. But I think the biggest issue that Syracuse will have to overcome this season is the lack of depth/experience in the trenches. As stated earlier, only 2 offensive linemen who started the majority of last season return. As far as the defensive line goes, the Orange lose 3 starters, and the defensive end position is thin on production/experience.
The offense is going to have quite a bit of experienced weapons at its disposal this year. The receiving corps returns its 3 leading receivers, and among those 3 receivers are 14 touchdowns. This is going to be very important for the Orange as they have to overcome question marks at offensive line. To go along with this, the new offensive scheme is going to be a hurry-up offense, so it will fall on these guys to help support a young quarterback and have everyone on the same page.
4 Players To Remember
Dontae Strickland-Had a limited role last season as a freshman, but started with the first-team offense in the spring game and showed flashes of his potential.
Steve Ishmael-Leading receiver in 2015 with 570 yards and 7 touchdowns. The junior is a big target for Dungey and will be looked to often.
Eric Dungey-Though not officially the starter yet, it seems likely that Dungey will be the opening game starter. He is a mobile quarterback and seems to excel in Babers new system.
Zaire Franklin- Junior linebacker who lead the team in tackles in 2015. He also accounted for 3 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, and an interception.
There is quite a bit of hype around Dino Babers and what he can do with his offense that he brings to the Orange (he's also a pretty good recruiter too), and if any of it is to be believed, Syracuse could make some noise in the ACC in the coming years. But not likely this year, and not likely in a week 2 match up. Do the Cards throttle them like last year? Unlikely to match a blow-out that big, but a comfortable 10 or 14-point victory seems very achievable.