Head Coach: Dino Babers
2015 Record: 4-8
2015 Bowl: N/A
2016 Returning Starters: 8 Offense, 7 Defense
Odds to win 2017 Championship Game: +250000
Odds to win 2016 ACC Championship: +20000
Regular Season over/under: over 4 (+105), under 4 (-125)
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Syracuse finished 2015 with a 4-8 mark, but new head coach Dino Babers will be making some major changes in the offense. Babers will be installing the same spread offense he used at Bowling Green, which should help things flow and help the Orange start getting down the field. Last season, Syracuse mustered just 319.9 yards per game, ranking No. 118 in the nation.
The Orange return QB Eric Dungey, a capable dual-threat player who started the final seven games last season. The No. 1 RB is Donate Strickland who leaped Jordan Fredericks in the depth chart in spring play. Strickland is a 5’11” 195 pound spark plug who should able to break free and make some plays. At WR, Syracuse will again turn to returning junior Steve Ishmael as its No. 1 option. He has great hands and works hard, and with a healthy Dungey he should be able to have a big season.
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The Orange’s OL is where the big issues start, though: Redshirt senior guard Omari Palmer and C Jason Emerich are the only returning starters and OCs Sean Lewis and Mike Lynch will have a task at putting together a line capable of making the talent on their offense work.
It is a long shot to believe this offense can remake Syracuse overnight. But it will have its effects, long-term. The hurry-up approach worked for Art Briles, Babers and Philip Montgomery at Tulsa, and the Orange have smart enough players that it will work in New York too. Just not yet.
Dino Babers will bring a new defensive scheme with him to Syracuse, too, the “Tampa 2.” It is a defensive system that is predicated upon four-man pressure and having some high-pressure LBers and DBs.
The DEs are experienced and the LB corp should have the athleticism to bring it all together. Kayton Samuels, Chris Slayton and Steven Clark will be strong up front, and redshirt freshman Jake Pickard is the only returning scholarship player on the end.
Gabe Sherrod transferred from Delaware State and could be the best pass rusher on the team after he acquaints himself with Babers’ system. Syracuse returns all three of its starting LBers, but Zaire Franklin was limited in spring due to injuries.
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Parris Bennett will start at OLB on one side, but the other is up for grabs still. Redshirt junior Corey Winfield and redshirt sophomore Cordell Hudson will be the CBs and each has experience. Chauncey Scissum and Rodney Williams will be the safeties, but both struggled in spring play.
Cole Murphy hit 16 of 22 FGA last season. Redshirt freshman Sterling Hofrichter is likely to be the punter. Brisly Estime will return punts, and he was named a third-team All-ACC punt returner last season.
Syracuse opens the season Sept. 2 against Colgate, but Week 2 will start the challenges with Louisville before South Florida in Week 3. Though Louisville is a conference opponent, the start of the rest of Conference play does in fact pick up in Week 4 with UConn.
Syracuse has a lot of work to do in installing all Babers’ schemes. This year will be one of growth and learning, but not necessarily of many wins. Syracuse has gone just 3-17 against Power-5 opponents in the past two seasons, and it was a program in need of the drastic changes that Babers will most certainly bring. While it will be a losing season most likely, it should be better than last year.
Prediction: 5 wins
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