It was the first day of practice for the 2021 Syracuse football team, which ranks fairly high on milestone days in Orange head coach Dino Babers’ calendar.
“It’s not exactly Christmas morning,” Babers said. “But it is an exciting morning.”
After the first spring practice in which all players were in shorts, Babers addressed the media.
“Practice today in shorts was cute and all, but that’s not football,” Babers said. “Football starts Friday.”
Here are the key takeaways from Babers’ first media session of the spring.
The importance of spring practice
Syracuse has a lot of work to do in order to move past an embarrassing 1-10 season. That starts with spring practice, which was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While that affected every team in college football, it had an even greater impact on Syracuse, as the team was installing new coordinators on both sides of the ball. The Orange was also dealing with several key players opting out, including running backs Abdul Adams and Jarveon Howard.
Said Babers: “Some of our guys were thrown out there out of necessity.”
The depth chart is wide open
There are many new faces on campus for the spring, and many more familiar ones.
Among the most notable were quarterbacks Tommy DeVito and Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader. While DeVito started last year, Babers stressed numerous times how everyone this spring has a chance to compete, which includes under center.
“Everyone is going to get a chance to compete this spring,” Babers said. “Everybody has to earn their job. This includes Tommy; even me if I don’t do my job. Don’t rest on your morals, get better every day.”
While college teams have had fifth year seniors with the redshirt rule, the teams will also have players who are now on their sixth collegiate season with the 2020 season not counting toward eligibility.
“It’s unique,” Babers said. “They are totally different, they’ve gone through it, nothing really phases them”.
It all starts at the O-line
It was an ominous sign at the start of the 2020 season when fullback Chris Elmore was listed as the team’s starting left guard.
That proved to be the case, as the Orange led the ACC in sacks allowed and one of the most anemic offenses in the country.
But not only does every starter from the 2020 team return, additional help is on the way.
Florida transfer Chris Bleich is finally eligible after sitting out his mandatory year, and he joins returning starters Matthew Bergeron (LT), Dakota Davis (LG), Carlos Vettorello (C) and Airon Servais (RT).
There appears to be depth as well, with Iowa Central Community College transfer tackle Jakob Bradford arriving on campus along with five true freshmen.
“It’s good to see that group back up and it’s good to see them working with (offensive line) coach (Mike) Schmidt,” Babers said. “It’s going to be the key to our season, one of the keys to our season. There’s no doubt about it.”