With the Syracuse football offseason officially underway, here’s a quick look at the 2023 Syracuse football team:
- OFFENSE: First and foremost, the Orange lose running back Sean Tucker, who will forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the 2023 NFL Draft. Tucker finished his career with 3,182 career rushing yards, which ranks third in program history, trailing only Walter Reyes and Joe Morris.
- Three players who blocked for Tucker will also be leaving the team. All-ACC offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron will forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft, where he is expected to be drafted in the second round. Guard Dakota Davis has exhausted his eligibility and takes 52 games of experience with him, while fullback/tight end Chris Elmore will also move on.
- Seventh year player Devaughn Cooper also declared for the NFL Draft after a collegiate career that spanned three teams (Arizona, UTEP and Syracuse).
- Other players who entered the portal include wide receivers Dom Foster, Anthony Queeley and Courtney Jackson, and offensive linemen Chad Schuster and Tyler Magnuson.
- Center Carlos Vettorello has one year of eligibility remaining, and it’s unclear what he’ll do with the 45 games of experience he’s had with the Orange.
- DEFENSE: Syracuse loses three key pieces of its secondary, starting with All-ACC cornerback Garrett Williams. He tore his ACL in October, but opted to enter the NFL Draft. Two other playmakers in SU’s vaunted secondary, Duce Chestnut and Ja’Had Carter are in the portal after standout seasons. Syracuse nearly lost a fourth, promising freshman Jeremiah Wilson, before he was ultimately persuaded to return to SU.
- The Orange also lost a key piece of its defensive line, with Steve Linton entering the portal. He had 22 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
- Finally, Syracuse loses linebacker Mikel Jones to the NFL draft. He finished 47 tackles and four sacks in 2022.
WHO’S IN: Syracuse added 20 players during the early signing period, and also has a pair of former four-star transfers that are now eligible. Among the key additions will be…
- Defensive backs Jayden Bellamy and Jaeden Gould. Though Syracuse lost Williams, Carter and Chestnut, the additions of the two former Bergen (NJ) Catholic teammates does make up for it. Gould was a four-star recruit who is coming over from Nebraska, while Bellamy is a three-star recruit who entered the portal from Notre Dame.
- Defensive lineman Braylen Ingraham. A four-star defensive lineman in the class of 2019, Ingraham barely saw the field as a member of Alabama, and was medically disqualified. He’ll have a chance to show what he can do with the Orange.
- Offensive linemen Joe More and J’Onre Reed. With the losses of Davis and Bergeron, and the potential loss of Vettorello, the Orange reloaded with More, a grad transfer from Richmond, and Reed, a JUCO interior lineman from Hutchinson (KS) CC.
- If Jones decides not to return (or even if he does), keep an eye out for JUCO linebacker Lonnie Rice from Lackawanna CC. He is the second highest rated JUCO linebacker, according to 247 Sports.
- Defensive lineman Rashard Perry, linebacker Zyian Moultrie-Goddard and tight end David Clement. New York was a big emphasis in this most recent class, and Moultrie-Goddard and Clement are New York’s 12th and ninth rated recruits. Perry, New York’s No. 6 recruit, may have the most immediate impact.
- Punter Jack Stonehouse. It’s no secret that Syracuse struggled in its punting game, and Stonehouse, who transferred in from Missouri may be able to help steady the group. He averaged 42.4 yards per punt in 2022.
WHO MAY BE IN:
- There are still a few positions of need in the 2023 cycle. With LaNorris Sellers flipping his commitment to South Carolina, the Orange could be in the hunt for a late-cycle quarterback with only four scholarship QBs on its 2023 roster. Syracuse could also use another wide receiver to compete for the No. 1 receiver role to complement tight end Oronde Gadsden II, as well as another defensive back given the departures in that group. And, as always, you can never have enough players in the trenches on both sides.
Even with some key losses on both sides of the ball, the Orange should still be competitive for a bowl berth with these key returnees.
- QB Garrett Shrader: Sharder saw significant improvements across the board under newly appointed offensive coordinator Jason Beck. He appears to have finally cashed in on the talent that rated him a four-star quarterback coming out of high school.
- RB LeQuint Allen: Allen was Tucker’s primary backup in 2022, and when Tucker entered the portal, Allen became Syracuse’s starting running back in the Pinstripe Bowl. He has three years of eligibility remaining, and has all the makings of the next special SU running back, showcasing that with 94 yards in the Pinstripe Bowl.
- TE Oronde Gadsden II: Gadsden broke out in 2022, and was named a First-Team All-ACC tight end after 969 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He quickly established himself as Shrader’s most reliable target, and ended up catching the game-winning score in a dramatic win over Purdue.
- LB Marlowe Wax: The hard hitting linebacker established himself as one of the key members of SU’s defense, and should assume Jones’ role as the heart of the defense in 2023.
- FS Alijah Clark: In his first season since coming over from Rutgers, Clark established himself as a fixture of the secondary, finishing with 48 tackles and two passes defended.
- DE Caleb Okechukwu: The Orange defensive line was one of the biggest question marks in 2022, and Okechukwu helped assuage some of those worries. He finished with 30 tackles, two forced fumbles and seven sacks.
- BS Jason Simmons Jr.: The boundary safety established himself as a reliable defender in his second season since transferring from New Mexico State. He had 35 tackles and seven passes defended.
- DL Terry Lockett: He was a key piece of the Orange defensive line with eight tackles before a season ending injury in a win over Virginia.
- Can Jason Beck deliver? We all know what Jason Beck can do with quarterbacks. Just ask Shrader, Brennan Armstrong and Bryce Perkins. But now, the entire offense falls under his command with Robert Anae now at NC State. There’s plenty of optimism around Beck and for good reason. Now, he just has to execute. Having Shrader back for another season should help that.
- Can Rocky Long deliver? It’s an ideal situation for Long. His protege, Tony White, installed his 3-3-5 defense at Syracuse, and Long essentially steps into a turn-key situation with White now at Nebraska. It’s hard to imagine the defense not responding well to Long.
- Who will emerge among the wide receiver group? At various times, Syracuse’s wide receiver group has shown flashes of talent. D’Marcus Adams, Umari Hatcher, Isaiah Jones, Trebor Pena, and Damien Alford all had their moments, but none was able to put things together for long stretches. Perhaps Beck can coax one of them into having a breakout year.
- Will Syracuse’s defensive line improve? Syracuse made its defensive line out of duct tape and glue this season. For the most part, it held up with Jatius Geer, Kevon Darton and Okechukwu having solid seasons, and all three should be back next year. The arrival of Ingraham should also help.
- How will Syracuse’s offensive line hold up? Syracuse’s offensive line was shaky in 2022, leading to the coaching staff adding five new offensive linemen, and two that are able to contribute right away in More and Reed. Combine that with the maturation of Enrique Cruz Jr., and the return of Chris Bleich and Kalan Ellis, and the Orange should have some solid options in 2023.
- How will the punting situation play out? It’s rare for an FBS team to carry three punters, but that’s what Syracuse has on its roster right now. True freshman Max Von Marburg beat out James Williams for the starting role, but the punt unit struggled as a whole, averaging 35.02 yards per attempt this year (120th in the country). That led the coaching staff to bring in Stonehouse, who comes from a long-line of punters. There may be an odd man out here at the conclusion of spring practice.
- Can Syracuse make it back-to-back bowl years? Syracuse’s non-conference schedule is a bit more forgiving in 2023 with Purdue now as its most difficult matchup. Syracuse needs to come out of non-conference play at 3-1 with Colgate, Western Michigan and Army as its other matchups. In ACC play, the Orange play at UNC, Georgia Tech, FSU and Virginia Tech, and host Boston College, Clemson, Pitt and Wake Forest. There is the potential for at least three conference wins, making a bowl game a distinct possibility for the second straight year.