Preview 2017: Syracuse Orange
Previewing and looking ahead at the Syracuse Orange season – and what you need to know.
– 2017 Syracuse Preview: Babers Gets A Free Pass … For Now
– 2017 Syracuse Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
– Syracuse Previews: 2016 | 2015
What You Need To Know About The Syracuse Offense
That’s how it was supposed to work – sort of. Head coach Dino Babers took the offense that rocked for Bowling Green and cranked it up for the Orange when it came to yards. Points? Those will come later.
The passing game was among the best in the country, and it had to be with all the shootouts the team was in. QB Eric Dungey turned into a statistical superstar before getting knocked out for the last month of the season. Top target Amba Etta-Tawo is gone, but the receiver combination of Ervin Philips and Steve Ishmael should be as good as any in the ACC.
The backs are there, but will they get used more? Dontae Strickland is a reliable back, but he’s going to to need help in the rotation with little established depth to rely on. Fortunately, the ground game might be better with all five starters returning up front. The line has to be stronger in pass protection and far tougher for a rushing attack that ran for just 3.2 yards per game.
Biggest Key To The Syracuse Offense
Score every single time there’s a chance. The defense might be experienced, but it’ll have problems again – the Orange O has to be able to keep up in firefights, and that means never giving away points.
For all the fun and all the big yards, the team had a problem putting the biscuit in the basket, struggling to score until the 61-point explosion in the final game – a loss to PItt.
The Orange misfired on too many empty trips inside the 20, scoring just 29 of the 37 times deep into enemy territory. Granted, many of the whiffs came in blowouts, but there were several momentum-changers that turned bigger problems.
What You Need To Know About The Syracuse Defense
Non-existent, the Syracuse defense was a nightmare far too often, giving up over 500 yards per game and 39 points per game. On the plus side, there’s a whole lot of experience returning.
Ten starters and the top 13 tacklers are back, but will the experience turn into production? There’s bulk in the interior – Chris Slaton is a good one at tackle – but where’s the pass rush? Getting behind the line was a major problem last season, and now it has to start coming from the ends.
The linebacking tandem of Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett should put up huge numbers, but they have to be even more disruptive to help out the woeful run D.
A really, really young secondary should be better with the experience. There was only one upperclassmen in the group, and now the rotation should be just strong enough to hope for more – but the pass rush has to help the cause.
Biggest Key To The Syracuse Defense
Stop … the … run. It’s hard enough to keep up in shootouts when the secondary has issues coming up with big plays, but it’s the run defense that was the big killer.
Only Colgate and Connecticut failed to run wild against a run D that got worse as the season went on, finishing up with Florida State and Pitt combining for 727 yard and ten scores. The Orange have to stop giving up the big runs, and part of that would be helped by …
Syracuse Will Be Far Better If …
The defensive front can get behind the line. The team needs to cut down on penalties, and it needs to be more effective and efficient in the red zone, but forget about any sort of improvement without a better pass rush. The Orange defensive front seven only came up with 16 sacks and 58 tackles for loss, and it turned into a problem for the run D. The front four simply has to be more disruptive to give everyone else some help.
Best Syracuse Offensive Player
QB Eric Dungey, Jr. – Philips might turn into the most dangerous offensive playmaker, but it’s Dungey who should put up massive numbers – if he can stay in one piece.
The 6-3, 221-pounder can move – he ran for 293 yards and six scores, and hit 65% of his passes for close to 2,700 yards and 15 scores with seven picks. However, he got blasted against Clemson and missed the final three games of the season. When he was on, though, he was an offensive juggernaut with with six three-yard games in his eight full games with two touchdowns or more in six them, too.
2. WR Ervin Philips, Sr.
3. WR Steve Ishmael, Sr.
4. RB Dontae Strickland, Jr.
5. OT Cody Conway, Jr.
Best Syracuse Defensive Player
LB Zaire Franklin, Sr. – Parris Bennett might have led the team in tackles, but it was the 6-0, 244-pound Franklin who was the leader and main man for the defense. Granted, that D didn’t do too much, but Franklin did what he could with 101 tackles with two sacks and ten tackles for loss.
Quick, he can drop in pass coverage and get into the backfield equally well when needed – he can play any of the linebacker spots, but he’s a fixture in the middle.
2. LB Parris Bennett. Sr.
3. DT Chris Slayton, Jr.
4. S Daivon Ellison, Jr.
5. P Sterling Hofrichter, Soph.
Key Player To A Successful Season
DT Chris Slayton, Jr. The team’s best pass rusher last season, he came up with four sacks, ten tackles for loss and 33 stops. Now he has to be more of an anchor on the interior of a defense that did absolutely nothing against the run. At 6-4 and 314 pounds, he’s the big, strong, quick defender to work around, but the production has to come after allowing 225 rushing yards per game.
The Syracuse Season Will Be A Success If …
The Orange win six games. They’re going to have a nightmare of a time being two wins better with a schedule with road games at LSU, NC State, Miami, Florida State and Louisville to go along with a fun time against Clemson.
How ridiculous is the schedule? SU starts the season off against Central Connecticut, and then the other 11 games are against teams that went bowling. As long as it wins the games at home against the Wake Forests and Central Michigans of the world, and if it could be two wins better.
Key Game To The Syracuse Season
Oct. 7 vs. Pitt The Orange got bombed by the Panthers in their regular season finale, losing 76-61 in a fun and wild firefight – but it was yet another loss. Now Pitt has to come to the Carrier Dome in the middle of the season.
Syracuse has to open up the ACC season at NC State the week before, making this a possible must-win with – to repeat the point by listing off the slate – Clemson, at Miami and at Florida State up next. SU should be better, but it might be 0-5 in the conference if it can’t pull this off.
2016 Syracuse Fun Stats
– Sacks: Opponents 38 for 220 yards – Syracuse 16 for 112 yards
– Penalties: Syracuse 96 for 729 yards – Opponents 64 for 614 yards
– Onside Kicks: Syracuse 0-for-6 – Opponents 0-for-1