Coming off its first 10-win season since 2001, Syracuse held its annual spring scrimmage in front of 3,727 fans on Saturday. Though no score was kept, fans and media were treated to approximately 80 plays, 566 total yards and nine touchdowns.
Here are some of our takeaways from Saturday’s scrimmage:
QUARTERBACK HIERARCHY SET
As expected, Tommy DeVito took all of the first-team snaps, and for the most part looked in complete control of the offense. He was pinpoint accurate on most of his throws, completing 13-of-16 passes for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
His one blemish (albeit a big one) was an interception to Trill Williams, who scampered 75 yards the other way during the game’s opening series for the first score of the afternoon.
Behind DeVito were backups Clayton Welch and Rex Culpepper. Both quarterbacks took snaps with the second team, and each made a strong case to be DeVito’s backup.
Welch threw the game’s longest score, hooking up with receiver Nykeim Johnson for a 71-yard strike for the first offensive touchdown of the afternoon. Still, Welsh completed just 2 of his 9 attempts for 75 yards.
Culpepper also threw a score, completing 13 of his 14 passes for 149 yards.
MORE INJURIES FOR THE OL
Syracuse has already been dealing with injuries to its relatively thin offensive line in the spring, with projected starting center Sam Heckel undergoing surgery for an undisclosed injury.
While Heckel is expected to be back in the fall, it’s caused a cascade of shifting. That was made even more complicated by the loss of starting left guard Dakota Davis, who stayed on the sidelines with a brace on his leg.
As a result, Airon Servais and Evan Adams were the only two projected starting offensive linemen to play on Saturday. Servais started all of 2018 at center but is expected to shift to guard, while Adams is locked in as the team’s starting right guard.
Ryan Alexander, a graduate transfer from South Alabama, is expected to round out the starters on the offensive line at the other tackle, but he won’t arrive until summer.
In their places, Syracuse played a cadre of inexperienced linemen, which included true freshman Anthony Red and redshirt freshman Carlos Vettorello at tackles and redshirt sophomore walk-on Austin Chandler playing left guard.
THE AWARD FOR BEST PLAY GOES TO…
Well, you have your pick among three primary contenders.
Michigan State transfer Trishton Jackson flashed his hands, hauling down a ridiculous one-handed catch while dragging his feet on the right sideline for a touchdown.
Shortly after, redshirt freshman Anthony Queeley made his case, leaping over walk-on defensive back John Sweetwood to snare a pass over his back-shoulder for a touchdown as the Carrier Dome crowd went crazy.
If pure ground game speed is more your cup of tea, true freshman Jawhar Jordan flashed his offensive potential, burning the defense for a pair of touchdown runs (though the second run was called back for a hold). He finished with five carries for 56 yards, 47 of them coming on that one play where he shook one defender and then turned on the jets to beat the rest of the defense in a footrace to the endzone.
THERE WAS DEFENSE, TOO
While much of the attention has been focused on the offense, there were plenty of defensive plays, as well. Alton Robinson looked every bit the player that became an All-ACC Second Team selection, collecting a sack and also forcing a fumble that was returned for a 57-yard touchdown from safety Andre Cisco.
As mentioned, Williams recorded a pick-six on the opening drive. Williams will be particularly important to the Orange’s defense this season, since SU for the second straight season lacks depth at the linebacker position.
Syracuse played in several 4-2-5 sets last season with Kielan Whitner and Ryan Guthrie as its primary linebackers. While both were question marks heading into the 2018 season, both Whitner and Guthrie were key cogs of the defense by the end of the year, and Guthrie ended up being an All-ACC Second Team selection.
If Syracuse stays in 4-2-5, which makes sense given the depth in the secondary, Williams will be counted on to help stop the run in early nickel downs.
On Saturday, we saw Andrew Armstrong and Lakiem Williams starting, but this is the one position where the starting positions are truly up for grabs. Among other names to keep an eye on include Tyrell Richards and Juan Wallace, along with true freshmen and four-star recruits Mikel Jones and Lee Kpogba.
LEGENDS RETURN TO SYRACUSE
It was a star-studded Saturday, with the legendary 1966 backfield of Larry Csonka, Tom Coughlin and Floyd Little on hand. The trio met with the team prior to the scrimmage, and also signed autographs and took pictures with fans.
Csonka and Little went on to have Hall of Fame careers in the NFL, while Coughlin should warrant strong consideration for the Hall of Fame.
Coughlin coached the New York Giants to wins in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.