Syracuse football grades, evaluations and superlatives following a 4-8 campaign in Year 2 for Dino Babers

first_img Published on November 29, 2017 at 12:23 am Facebook Twitter Google+ In head coach Dino Babers’ second year at Syracuse, the Orange once again finished with a 4-8 mark. Starting quarterback Eric Dungey sustained a foot injury and missed the final three games of the season, same as a year ago. A once stout defense fell from 38th in the country to finish at 105th, and Syracuse dropped its final five games.A season that once held so much promise — the Orange upset then-No. 2 Clemson on Oct. 13 — quickly faded back to defensive struggles and offense that often looked lost without Dungey at the helm. Beat writers Joe Bloss, Matthew Gutierrez and Tomer Langer grade the Orange’s season, pick superlatives and evaluate position groups and the coaching staff.GradesJoe BlossQuarterbacks: B+Running backs: C-Wide Receivers: A-AdvertisementThis is placeholder textOffensive Line: CDefensive Line: BLinebackers: B+Secondary: B-Special Teams: CCoaching Staff: C-Matthew GutierrezQuarterbacks: A-Running backs: C+Wide Receivers: A-Offensive Line: BDefensive Line: BLinebackers: BSecondary: C+Special Teams: CCoaching Staff: CTomer LangerQuarterbacks: B+Running backs: C+Wide Receivers: A-Offensive Line: C+Defensive Line: C+Linebackers: BSecondary: BSpecial Teams: BCoaching Staff: C+Wasim Ahmad | Staff PhotographerSuperlativesOffensive MVP: Eric DungeyWithout question, Dungey is the fuel on which the offensive engine depends. The Orange is now 1-9 when he doesn’t start. When he’s in the game, Syracuse is on a whole other level. He showed his maturation and ability to adapt at Miami, where he threw four first-half interceptions but bounced back and nearly lead SU to a comeback. He had the most interceptions (nine) of his career, but take away the Miami game and he would have had only five. Dungey provided another reminder this season that when he’s healthy, Syracuse can be potent. Maybe he’ll play a full season in 2018, his last at SU. — Matthew GutierrezDefensive MVP: Parris BennettEach level of the defense had its own standout performer. Chris Slayton flashed dominance on the interior of the line, and Chris Fredrick showed he has the most promise of SU’s secondary pieces going forward. But the most value the Orange had on defense came from its leading tackler for the second straight year, senior linebacker Parris Bennett. Bennett recorded 115 tackles to bring his total over the last two years to 225. The ability to plug holes and make one-on-one tackles is imperative in SU’s defensive scheme, and Bennett did more often than anyone. — Joe BlossBiggest surprise: OffenseIn a weird way, it might be Steve Ishmael. Ishmael was the Orange’s top receiver his first two years under Scott Shafer. His numbers last year, relative to the overall numbers in Dino Babers offense weren’t great, as he had to take a back seat to Amba Etta-Tawo. There were questions about how Etta-Tawo would be replaced in the preseason, but Ishmael answered them immediately. He ended the year with a SU record in receptions for a season (105) and ended his career as SU’s all-time leader in receiving yards. Head coach Dino Babers said that Ishmael really started buying to the system this offseason. That paid off for SU and for Ishmael. — Tomer LangerBiggest Surprise: DefenseThe first few games of 2017. By many accounts, the defense was the identity of Syracuse through the first nine games. The defense fueled the Orange’s best record through seven games since 2011. Syracuse ranked 38th — 38th! — in the country on Oct. 18. “The determination they all have has been ridiculous,” senior offensive lineman Jamar McGloster said. What an improvement from 2016, when the SU defense ranked 122 out of 128 teams. — Matthew GutierrezWasim Ahmad | Staff PhotographerEvaluationsEvaluating the offenseThe offense’s struggles were masked by a strong defense early on in the year, but after the season-ending slide, it was clear this side of the ball underperformed. Despite the offensive line staying healthy, the running game never took off. Although Steve Ishmael had a monster year, the rest of the receivers struggled to keep up. And besides the loss to Wake Forest, SU failed to score more than 30 points every game after Week 3. Most of the line will be back, as will Eric Dungey, but the loss of Ishmael and Ervin Philips has to make you wonder if SU will need to add new elements to improve its pass-heavy offense. — Joe BlossEvaluating the defenseThe Orange fielded two defensive units in 2017. It was both the biggest surprise of the season and the biggest disappointment. What’s to take away? Maybe that the Orange can slow down offenses that don’t have elite quarterbacks. Over the last three games, the Orange was shredded to 64, 56 and 42 points, respectively. Now, the Orange ranks No. 105 in the country in total defense. Woof. — Matthew GutierrezEvaluating special teamsWhile the special teams unit wasn’t consistent all season, it did play well in spurts. Sterling Hofrichter was a really solid punter the entire season, with 28 of his punts being called for fair catches, the third-best mark in the ACC. Kicker Cole Murphy also set a career-high with 20 field goals made. Sean Riley proved to be a menace on kickoffs, racking up the fourth-best kick return average (24.5). There were points when teams would kick the ball high and short so Riley wouldn’t get it. But, Hofrichter did have a weird stretch of three games when his average punts weren’t traveling more than 40 yards, Murphy went three-of-nine to end the season and Riley didn’t do much on punt returns. That prevents the grade from being higher. — Tomer LangerEvaluating the coaching staffAs someone who can’t judge the X’s and O’s of what the coaches dictate, the best way to evaluate Dino Babers and his staff is via improvement and preparedness. SU didn’t improve its record, but a big win and fewer blowouts show it moved forward at least a few inches. Preparation-wise, the coaches certainly failed, as Babers admitted, to get the team in the right frame of mind for Middle Tennessee in Week 2. And losing five games to end the season doesn’t show well either. They’ll want to do better next year. — Joe BlossNext seasonThis one is tricky. As opposed to the end of the 2016 season, this year’s team is losing nearly all of its best players, who were seniors. Wide receivers Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips accounted for 55 percent of the team’s receptions and 58.2 percent of the team’s total receiving yards. Senior linebackers Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett accounted for 25 percent of the defense’s tackles. Past the numbers, the four were leaders of their respective units. A healthy Dungey will help the offense, but a whole new batch of receivers are going to need to step up. It’ll either be some of the freshman who redshirted this year, or Devin Butler and Jamal Custis, although neither one showed all that much this season. Defensively, there are a lot of returners on the line and the secondary, but the entire linebacker unit needs to be replaced. If SU can find receivers, then returners at the other positions should help the Orange take a step forward. If they can’t, and if Dungey can’t stay healthy, it might be another long season (unless of course, Tommy DeVito comes in and saves the day). — Tomer Langer Commentslast_img

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