Syracuse replaced their defensive minded coach with a coach who is known for being a great offensive mind. Sound familiar? Dino Babers brings in his high-octane spread system that has been influenced by Baylor's power-spread. He also brings in an offense that wants to go as fast as possible and get as much speed on the field as possible. Scott Shafer was a defensive coordinator turned head coach but he wasn't able to recruit a the level he needed to for Syracuse to transition the way that Louisville did a few years back. Babers will be able to do impressive things with the offensive talent he has, but the defense will likely leave a lot to be desired.
The best thing that Babers has going for him is the fact that he has three years of Eric Dungey. Dungey played very well last year outside of the FSU and Louisville games and some have pointed out that as it goes for freshman seasons, Dungey's year rivaled and maybe surpassed Lamar Jackson's. Dungey isn't the talent that Jackson is and didn't have the dynamic plays or games, but his numbers were solid and he gave the Orange a chance to win some games they had no business being in. Now Babers has a guy that can not only run his fast paced offense with accurate throws and touch down the field, but he has a guy that can be a true dual-threat when needed. Dungey looked great in their first game missing only one target and throwing the ball away when the play wasn't there. He didn't run the ball too well, but I think that's mostly due to him running as a scrambler and not a read option guy.
The Orange didn't run the ball very well against Colgate last week but I do think they found a good home run threat in Moe Neal. The freshman had a very nice 49-yard touchdown run where he broke a couple of tackles and outran the defense. Neal isn't listed on the two-deep but he tied for the lead in carries and led the team in yards last week, getting carries with the first team. Dontae Strickland and Jordan Fredricks are the top two backs listed but I think that Louisville will see more of Neal. He's the faster back that could actually make a big play if he gets to the second level.
Cuse's group of receivers got a nice upgrade this year when graduate transfer Amba Etta-Tawo transferred in from Maryland. Etta-Tawo immediately gave Syracuse a deep threat as well as a polished receiver who could be a consistent playmaker for the offense. He finished the game last week with 12 catches for 210 yards and a touchdown on a go route. ow that Ervin Philips has been moved to receiver full-time, Babers has his go to guy for screens and other short routes. He can use Etta-Tawo and Steve Ishmael for intermediate and deep routes. He also has speedster Brisly Estime which is a pretty good four receiver set. Louisville has to fly to the football and gang tackle, but they also have to do better with not falling for fake screens and pump fakes. They were beaten a couple of times by Charlotte but the Orange will turn those mistakes into points.
There's not a lot to go on with Syracuse's offensive line. They are younger and lighter on the left side of the line so I expect them to show obvious tendencies to screen to the left side and run to the right. The hardest transition to spread offenses like Babers' is on the offensive line. Cuse ran some spread last year with wider splits and some read option stuff but nothing with the pace that they do now.
KEY PLAYERS: QB Eric Dungey, WR Amba Etta-Tawo, WR Steve Ishmael, WR Ervin Phillips
While the back end of the defense has some experience, the front four for the Syracuse Orange is very young and the jury is still out on how they will play against better competition. The line made some plays last week, especially in their nickel package with the ends moving to tackle and linebackers manning the end spots. My hope is that Louisville looks to attack the middle of this defense and set the tone early. This line hasn't had a chance to show much so they probably need a test.
The linebackers for Syracuse are a pretty deep group when it comes to experience. Zaire Franklin is a returning captain and leading tackler. I'm a big fan of his game, myself. He can run pretty well, he's a sure tackler, and I like that he's a vocal leader. He's flanked by Parris Garrett and Justin Thomas. Both are undersized guys that can run, but both struggle to handle blockers and neither are as athletic as you'd like at their size. Cuse has depth with Marqez Hodge and Ted Taylor, but both are veteran backups for a reason.
Syracuse's secondary is their strength in my opinion. Antwan Cordy leads a group of guys that are experienced and productive. Cordy can play in the slot as well as both safety spots. He plays at the line of scrimmage a good amount also which is impressive for a 5-9, 175 guy. Cordy ended up with 12 tackles for loss last year and it looks like the new coaches will utilizes his versatility as well. Corey Winfield is the team's top cornerback and I think he's an underrated guy. He has great size and runs well enough to keep up with most guys. He will be needed against guys like Jamari Staples who knows how to run his routes to create separation. Juwan Dowels moved up the depth chart this week to man the opposite cornerback position so we will see how he holds up. Dowels started a few games last year so the big game factor shouldn't matter. These guys can all run well enough to contain Lamar Jackson if they decide to try that strategy. What they don't have the ability to do is to keep up with UofL's receivers if Lamar Jackson has time to sit in the pocket.
KEY PLAYERS: MLB Zaire Franklin, CB Corey Winfield, OLB Parris Bennett, FS Antwan Cordy