Babers hopes to right the ship at Syracuse

Babers hopes to right the ship at Syracuse

Football

Babers hopes to right the ship at Syracuse

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For Syracuse football things have devolved rapidly over the past two seasons.

In 2018, the Orange went 10-3 and won 10 games for the first time since 2001 and it looked as if head coach Dino Babers had resurrected a dormant program. But the next season Syracuse missed a bowl game and in 2020 the team dropped to 1-10 its worst mark since Greg Robinson’s first season in 2005.

Clemson travels to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. for another Friday night bout on Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. and here is what to expect from the Orange.

Last meeting: In 2020 Clemson rolled Syracuse 47-21 at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 24 to win its third straight contest with the Orange and seven of the last eight in the series since they joined the ACC in 2013.

Last season: Syracuse went 1-10 and finished the year on an eight-game skid that included a loss to Liberty and a 30-0 shutout at Louisville.

Coaching staff: Babers returns for his sixth season at the helm as head coach of the Orange. Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert is in his second season as offensive coordinator and hopes to have his offense back to the fast-paced style he hoped to see last season. Defensive coordinator Tony White also enters his second season and wants to see more mastery of his playbook that includes a lot of moving pieces.

Returners: On offense Syracuse returns two-year starter Tommy DeVito at quarterback who has shown a lot of promise but lacked support on the offensive line and struggled in limited action last season. DeVito’s season ended early in his fourth game after a leg injury sidelined him for the bulk of 2020. Syracuse returns most of its offense from last season including sophomore tackle Matthew Bergeron who should help an offensive line that was inconsistent at best last year. Sean Tucker, Cooper Lutz, Abdul Adams and Jarveon Howard are also back in the running back room. Watch for Taj Harris to have a breakout season at wide receiver if DeVito can get the ball out of his hand.

On defense the Orange are expected to show significant improvement in year two of the current system with a lot of returners thanks to the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility. Sophomore linebacker Mikel Jones had a breakout season last year and led the FBS with eight turnovers. Redshirt freshman corner Garrett Williams shows promise at corner and will be salty in pass protection. They also return three seniors on the defensive line and a seasoned linebacker group.

Additions: The biggest addition of the offseason was a graduate transfer from Mississippi State in quarterback Garrett Shrader. The former four star will add some competition for DeVito and has a legitimate shot at taking the starting job.

Other big pickups include offensive guard Chris Bleich from Florida and junior college standout Jakob Bradford both of which should help up front. In the running back room Adams and Howard sat out last season because of the pandemic and add extra firepower for the Orange.

On defense, Syracuse added another defensive back in Jason Simmons Jr. from New Mexico State.

Subtractions: The biggest loss for Babers and company is the depletion of their secondary group. Andre Cisco, Trill Williams and Ifeatu all left after the 2020 season and signed with NFL teams. The defense also lost linebackers Lee Kpogba because he was kicked off the team and Tyrell Richards to transfer.

Key matchup: If last season was any indication the way to beat Syracuse is to get to the quarterback. The key for Clemson to extend its streak is to get to DeVito and force him to make quick decisions in the passing game. The other unique challenge is to not get thrown off by the change in routine playing on a Friday night.

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