After a 5-7 finish to the 2021 season, the Syracuse Orange will be looking to build on the ups of a year that was mostly downs. SU got mostly adequate quarterback play, but a changing of the guard at the position dragged on for too long at the start of the year and undercut the effect of both starters.
Tommy Devito was never really the answer at the position, and it took the coaching staff a bit too long to realize it. When you consider that SU needed just one win in their final three games to reach bowl eligibility- and lost them all- you then look back at the start of the year and wonder had Shrader been given the shot to start from the beginning, maybe some of those early losses could have been flipped around.
The Orange dropped a very winnable game against Rutgers in week 2 still trying to make Devito work, and by the time Syracuse had a huge ACC matchup against Florida State in week 5, Shrader had thrown a grand total of 37 passes. Shrader ended up being a revelation with his legs in that game but it ultimately wasn’t enough, and you have to wonder how comfortably the Orange could have won had he been able to eclipse more than 150 yards passing.
Now with nine games under his belt as a starter, Shrader is the unquestioned QB1 going into 2022 and there doesn’t seem to be much competition for his spot. As it stands here in May, the current Orange quarterback room looks like this:
- Garrett Shrader- 6’4” 228 pounds
- Justin Lamson- 6’3” 215 pounds
- JaCobian Morgan- 6’4” 223 pounds
- Dan Villari- 6’4” 237 pounds
- Luke MacPhail- 6’4” 217 pounds (PWO)
The first thing you may notice is Dino Babers and his offensive coordinator Robert Anae have a definite body type they’re looking for at the QB position, as all 5 players are at least 6’3” and 215 pounds. Syracuse counts on their signal caller to make plays with their legs whether it be scrambling or designed QB runs, and those guys need big bodies to handle taking hits. The similar make up of all five guys signals to me there may be an increased focus on the designed QB run game this year.
Secondly, I’ve listed the guys in order of how I expect the depth chart to turn out. Shrader is the no-brainer starter, and Justin Lamson seems to be his back-up after he got the nod to take the field first in the recent Spring Game. Lamson played well, going 7-of-10 passing for 151 yards and two touchdowns, notably a 75-yard score to Damien Alford. That kind of performance should lock the number two spot up.
Dan Villari, the transfer from Michigan, actually got the next series for the offense in the spring game, but I gave JaCobian Morgan the edge after Villari finished with two bad interceptions, and Morgan has some valuable game experience in 2020, appearing in four games and starting two of them. Luke MacPhail has a nice arm and threw a couple good deep balls in the second half of the spring game, but as of now doesn’t seem to be heading for anywhere but the bottom of the depth chart as a PWO.
Overall, I expect an offseason with Shrader as the clear starter to benefit his development greatly. He etched his name into the Syracuse record books after rushing for 781 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2021 as both of those are the second most by an Orange quarterback in a single season, but he also had a grand total of two games with over 200 yards passing- and you’re just not going to beat the good teams like that consistently.
If Shrader has to miss any time the team is probably in trouble, but at least Babers and his staff have found players that can step up to the starting role without having to make any drastic changes to the offense.