2019 Syracuse Football Season Preview
The Syracuse Orange were the surprise team of 2018–will Dino Babers be able to continue that historic rise in the ACC this season?
2018 Record: 10-3 overall, 6-2 in ACC
Head Coach: Dino Babers, 4th year, 18-19
They were good last year, really good–but they will need to replace five important pieces (starters). Those important pieces helped the offensive unit average 40 points and 465 yards per game last year.
First and foremost replacing QB Eric Dungey will be key–he was the lifeblood of the team but the heir apparent is supposedly really good. This is Tommy DeVito’s team now–the redshirt sophomore played sparingly last year, but was solid in that limited showing. He will need to show a more disciplined approach in his game, barely completing 50 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and three interceptions a season ago.
The good news for DeVito is the fact the Orange feature one of the best and deepest wide receiver corps in the conference. Sean Riley is back after coming up with a team-high 64 catches last year, and Taj Harris is a good-looking 6’2, 175-pound sophomore coming off a 40-catch season. Spreading the ball around won’t be a problem, and Nykeim Johnson should once again be one of the ACC’s most dangerous deep threats.
The running game was dangerous behind a solid offensive line last year–but Dungey was a big part of that. Moe Neal is back after leading the team with 869 yards averaging 5.6 yards per carry, while Jarveon Howard and Abdul Adams will handle the workload from time to time, too.
The defense really got after the quarterback a season ago–placing sixth in the nation in total sacks–and they return their two best pass rushers. Seniors Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman combined for 20 sacks and 29 tackles for loss last year–they return along with others who figure to do a lot of harassing in 2019.
The linebackers did not get as lucky as the line–they lost starters Ryan Guthrie and Kielan Whitner and over 200 tackles. Andre Armstrong is back and he came up with 45 tackles last season, but their is promise from Babers latest recruiting class–Lee Kpogba and Mikel Jones are build like safeties and will be flying all over the field.
Even with the amazing pass rush applying the constant heat, the pass defense allowed 264 yards per game. All four starters return, starting with all-star pickoff artist Andre Cisco at one safety spot and big-tackling Evan Foster at the other. The corners are solid but need to be better in coverage.
Anytime you lose a quarterback of Dungey’s caliber, it’s difficult to replace. But the team shouldn’t lose too much at all with DeVito–the main point will be giving him time to become comfortable playing week-in, week-out.
The Orange were one of the nation’s leaders in ‘lucky wins’ a season ago, but this team is good. Maybe not double-digit win good, but they are a bowl team.
One key player that adds one or two wins a season? Their place kicker Andrew Szymt, who is as close to a guaranteed Lou Groza finalist as there is.