We continue our Summer Notre Dame Fighting Irish football Q&As with a look at another ACC foe: the Syracuse Orange. The Orange won’t have to travel very far since the game has been moved to Yankee Stadium for a Shamrock Series game at 1:30 CT.
1. What’s your overall impression of how Syracuse’s 2017 season went?
Uneven, really. Syracuse lost to Middle Tennessee, but also beat Clemson. The offense is entirely dependent on QB Eric Dungey, and when he’s injured, there’s little going on. Same seemed true of Jordan Martin, who was part of the Orange’s defensive resurgence early until he was injured around the mid-way point. Everything sort of went downhill from there and the defense went back to allowing big plays and giving up 40 or more to every opponent down the stretch. It was another 4-8 season, sure. But you could see things were starting to come together before injuries took hold.
2. Will Syracuse be better or worse in 2018?
I think Syracuse can be better this year, simply by way of Dungey being healthy and everyone having another year in Dino Babers’s up-tempo spread. The offensive line is as experienced as it’s been in decades, which should help make up for losing our top two receivers -- Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips. On defense, SU turns over its entire linebacker corps., but experience elsewhere could help manage that change. If Syracuse really is better, it’ll look different compared to the positive aspects of 2017.
3. What’s going to be the biggest change between last year’s Syracuse team and this one?
Probably the aforementioned situation at receiver. Ishmael and Philips combined for 194 of the team’s 320 receptions last year. And without much experience to replace them, it could end up being a committee approach to see who drives the passing game. My bet’s on tight end Ravian Pierce, who caught 29 passes last year after coming in as a JUCO transfer. Devin Butler and Sean Riley should also factor in.
4. Who are the big name players to watch for Syracuse this year?
I’ve mentioned Dungey a bunch of times, so definitely him. In three years (none of them full), he’s thrown for over 6,000 yards and run for over 1,000, setting a slew of school records along the way.
Defensively, defensive end Alton Robinson is a name worth watching. He was a late JUCO add last year and ended up leading the team in sacks with five. Spending an entire offseason with SU’s Tampa-2 scheme should help him improve upon those numbers and be a more disruptive force along with our best defensive lineman, Chris Slayton, who is an expert run-stuffer at the tackle spot.
5. What’s your prediction for this team’s game against Notre Dame this year?
Notre Dame’s going to be very good this year -- especially on offense -- so a lot will ride on the Orange defense. If we’re as porous there as we were last year, this won’t go well for Syracuse. Should SU be able to make some stops while its own offense gets better at completing drives, then we have a chance to be competitive.
I’m counting this one as a loss for now -- something like 42-32, weather permitting. The difference ends up being turnovers.
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