Syracuse, NY When Syracuse football returns to practice this spring, it will roll out a deep roster that will bring back at least one player with starting experience in most positions on the field.
The return of running backs Abdul Adams and Jarveon Howard colors in one of the last remaining stretches to an off-season rebuild aimed at avoiding another losing season. It also helps create arguably the most competitive spring in Dino Babers’ tenure.
The most impactful changes go to the heart of what Babers believes leads to football winning: a strong center.
SU beefed up its options along the offensive and defensive lines, at quarterback and running back, and managed to get four senior starting linemen back for a final season, creating the bridge he wanted to build between the older and younger linemen in the program. was reinforced. .
It’s a drastic turnaround for a team on the line as it has enough players to even play a team for much of the past seasons 1-10. And it solves one of the main problems the program faces every year and mentions when something goes wrong: insufficient depth.
The roster size of SUs can exceed the NCAAs scholarship limit of 85 men in effect since the early 1990s and will include approximately 50 freshmen. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA essentially froze everyone’s eligibility for a year and decided that returning seniors would not count towards the 85-man cap for the 2021 season.
The roster management that goes with a 50-person freshman course is a story for another day (and depends on whether the NCAA addresses this issue before an impending grades crisis sets in).
For now, SU should have no problem rolling out a competitive two-deep this spring, even without players who may be recovering injuries from the previous year and then in the preseason camp with the full freshman class and other transfers.
There are six quarterbacks on the roster, including the SEC transfer that is a threat. Now that Adams and Howard are back in the mix, there are four recurring files that have seen action for the Orange squad. An abundance of receivers has prompted some to defend themselves.
Most importantly, the fullback does not have to play the left guard. SU could house as many as 18 offensive linemen this fall, 14 of which are eligible for three or more years, including another SEC transfer down the inner-line.
The defense is usually young at the back, which makes last season’s experience, ugly as it got at times, all the more important for a group that should close that physical gap. Perhaps the best collection of young talent is at linebacker, where sophomores and freshmen flood the room.
SU couldn’t afford to wait this out of season, while the rest of the conference has shown it isn’t slowing down.
Babers focused on the offensive line and used the numbers to reduce the likelihood of another break-glass-in-case-of-emergency.
He judged what he had in the quarterback room and decided that another option was needed.
He recruited the line of defense to hang on for another year and avoid total rebuilding at a critical unit.
And with another two ACC-quality running backs suddenly back in the fold after sitting last season, he got another reminder: this isn’t 2020.
Contact Nate Mink anytime: E-mail | Twitter 315-430-8253
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