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2021 Syracuse Football Preview

2021 Syracuse Football Preview with 247Sports’ Stephen Bailey

ML: How good can it get in 2021 for Syracuse football? And how bad?

SB: Best-case scenario requires durability at the offensive line and quarterback positions. Sean Tucker and Taj Harris lead a group of capable playmakers. With time and space to operate, Dino Babers’ veer-and-shoot scheme could get back on track. I expect Tony White’s 3-3-5 scheme to take a step forward in the front six with some lumps taken by a young secondary. Altogether, eight or nine wins in the regular season seems like the realistic ceiling. Another year of injuries in the trenches and under center, though, could leave the Orange trending toward double-digit losses for a second straight campaign.

ML: Player who didn’t play last year who they need the most this?

SB: Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader will provide valuable depth at quarterback as well as athleticism that could lend itself to separate packages. Another transfer, safety Jason Simmons Jr. (New Mexico State), is a candidate to make an immediate impact. As far as a potential breakout returner, keep an eye on wide receiver Damian Alford. He’s at the front of a deep competition to grab the third starting spot alongside Harris and Anthony Queeley.

ML: Biggest hole on the team?

SB: It has to be the offensive line until that group performs better. This year’s group is older and healthier going into fall camp, thanks to the return of Airon Servais and eligibility of Florida transfer Chris Bleich. But SU’s expected 2021 transfer addition, Willie Tyler, decommitted just before he was about to enroll this summer. And, frankly, most of the guys coming back have been overmatched in their careers thus far.

ML: Do you believe in QB Tommy Devito?

SB: I believe that Syracuse can win with DeVito. He’s been put through the wringer these last two seasons, and it’s undoubtedly affected the former Elite 11 finalist and composite four-star recruit. If SU’s front five can improve, DeVito has the arm to provide the Orange with the explosive plays that Babers envisioned when he arrived in Central New York six years ago. Without protection, though, the Orange may be forced to turn to Shrader, at least situationally. Look for SU to try to establish its ground game early this year in an effort to provide DeVito with time in the pocket.

ML: Is Dino Babers on the hot seat if this season is a disaster?

SB: A disaster? 2-10? It’s hard to say, ‘No.’ 3-20 over two years, despite some brutal circumstances, is a hole that no coach may be able to dig out of at Syracuse going up against the ACC. If that were to happen, I’d think Babers would have pressure to provide immediate results in 2022. Even a 5-7 year this fall, though, shows growth and gives the staff a chance to get the train back on the tracks.

ML: Projected record?

SB: 4-8

I was stuck between four and five wins. The early season schedule is favorable, but nine games before a bye is a recipe for disaster considering the Orange’s lack of depth and history of injuries at key positions. I truly believe the season will go as the offensive line does. So if those guys stay healthy and show growth, a return to bowl eligibility is realistic. But it’s hard to expect that given recent history.

ML: Thanks Stephen, keep up the good work.

SB: Thanks, Mike.

Mike Lindsley
Follow Mike Lindsley on Twitter @MikeLSports and download his podcast the “ML Sports Platter” on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Spotify.