Transfer portal a key to Syracuse’s season

Four transfers could play vital roles in improving on last season's win total

Syracuse Wake Forest
Oct 31, 2020; Syracuse, New York, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons running back Christian Beal-Smith (26) is tackled by a number of Syracuse Orange defenders in the first quarter at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

That eruption emanating from the world of college athletics is the transfer portal taking football and basketball by storm.

Make no mistake, the transfer portal, combined with the one-time transfer waiver allowed to student athletes, will revolutionize college sports.

Basketball teams can instantly go from very good to Final Four caliber simply by adding one player who’s buried on the bench of a blue blood. Football teams can shore up a position or two, including quarterback, that immediately vaults them into the playoff chase.

The transfer portal can also help teams like Syracuse in football too.

Programs like the Orange typically have to recruit and develop players into all-ACC caliber as opposed to teams like Clemson and Florida State (yes, the Seminoles will be back). Those schools, especially Clemson, can choose from plug-n-play recruits.

Syracuse can use the portal to add players who have been in other programs for multiple years and already physically matured to the point that they can step on the field and handle the ACC’s physicality.

Dino Babers has scored his fair share of productive transfers during his Syracuse tenure.

Amba Etta-Tawo and Trishton Jackson both provided legit deep threats in the passing game. Koda Martin was a key cog on the offensive line during the Orange’s 10-3 season in 2018. Abdul Adams is part of a deep running back room after opting out last season. Babers will once again look to some transfers as the Orange hopes to rebound from an abysmal 1-10 campaign.

Here are three positions that transfers can have a significant impact on the upcoming season.

Offensive Line

Trust me, I’m probably as sick of writing about the offensive line woes as you are of reading about them. But unless Babers gets this unit straightened out it is going to be another long season filled with 3-and-outs, quarterback sacks, and a defense that is totally gassed by the fourth quarter.

But there is reason for optimism as Airon Servais, Matthew Bergeron, Carlos Vettorello, and Darius Tisdale all return. Dakota Davis should be back at full strength. That will provide instant help to the running game.

Joining them will be transfers Chris Bleich and Willie Tyler.

Bleich had his eligibility waiver petition denied last year by the NCAA. It might not have mattered as Bleich was rumored to have not yet recovered from off-season surgery. So he probably wouldn’t have been able to play.

But the former Florida Gator provides an immediate upgrade to the offensive line. He and Davis are a couple of road graders who should have no problem opening holes and re-igniting a stagnant ground attack.

Willie Tyler is a behemoth of a man standing at 6-foot-7 and tipping the scales at 330 pounds. Tyler sat out last year at Texas before committing to Syracuse this Spring.

With his size, he can play either guard or tackle. That versatility gives Babers depth and options along the OL – two traits that were missing last season.

Waiting in the wings to provide depth are freshman Josh Ilaoa and redshirt sophomore Wil Froumy.

If you’re looking for two reasons that Syracuse’s offensive line can improve, look no further than Bleich and Tyler.

Secondary

Syracuse’s secondary last season was deep, talented, and young. Most of that experience is now preparing for OTAs while studying NFL playbooks.

Andre Cisco and Ifeatu Melifonwu were both recently selected in the third round of the NFL Draft. Trill Williams signed as a free agent with New Orleans.

Garrett Williams returns to lead the secondary as a shutdown corner. Joining him are Ja’Had Carter, Rob Hanna, Adrian Cole, Chase Atkinson, Ben LaBrosse, Aman Greenwood, and Neil Nunn. Though, Nunn is coming off season-ending ACL surgery.

True freshman Duce Chestnut, the gem of Syracuse’s 2020 recruiting class, is already enrolled and participated in Spring football.

But some talented help is on the way in the form of Jason Simmons, Jr., a transfer from New Mexico State.

His father played in the NFL so Simmons, Jr. has good blood lines. He recorded 62 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss, three pass breakups, a forced fumble, and recovered a fumble in eight games for the Aggies. His versatility should provide Babers and Nick Monroe yet another talented option in a deep secondary.

Quarterback

Tommy DeVito has to be licking his chops at the thought of an improved offensive line that gives him time to throw. That is, if he holds onto his starting job.

Enter transfer Garrett Shrader.

Shrader was a 4-star recruit who opted for Mississippi State out of high school. Besides being a former starter for an SEC school what Shrader brings most to the Orange is his experience and ability to push DeVito in a legitimate competition for the starting job.

Remember, the last time a Syarcuse quarterback took every significant snap was Ryan Nassib in 2012. The season isn’t completely lost if DeVito goes down again  now that Shrader is in the fold.

Shrader brings an element to the position that DeVito doesn’t posses nearly as much: a set of wheels. Yes, Shrader just might have a touch of Dungey in him.

For Syracuse to resemble something close to the 10-3 team of 2018, chances are one or more of the transfers will make a significant impact.

About Steve Auger 114 Articles
Steve Auger is a freelance writer whose work has covered a variety of topics including sports, pets, parenting, healthy living, local government and human interest stories. His work has been published on Care.com, Tom’s of Maine, Purina’s Petcentric.com and the Westford Patch. Steve’s been a diehard Syracuse sports fan for over 25 years. To this day, the words “Smart takes the shot” still make him cringe. Follow him on Twitter @Corner_Cube.