ACC Spring ’18: Syracuse Orange

Eric Dungey is the type of player that I want to be leading my team.

When I see plays like this, it’s no surprise that he has dealt with far too many head and back injuries. He plays the game with a reckless abandon that I greatly admire. However, it does present some issues for CFF. Dungey has been a three-year-starter but he has yet to make it past November 7th in any of his three seasons before succumbing to season-ending injuries. Dungey’s most recent injury was to his foot and he has been limited this spring. Syracuse HC, Dino Babers, had this to say to, “It’s hard to hold him back, but he needs to stay out because we need him 100 percent healthy… We want to get him back to where he can high jump over people and leap tall buildings in a single bound.” As a result, Tommy Devito has gotten tons of reps with the 1st team this spring. That is great news, both due to Dungey’s injury history and the fact that Devito is the future of this program at QB. I really like him as a player and I’m excited to see what he can do in this scrimmage and ultimately when it’s his offense to lead. Devito is a “must stash” in dynasty formats, if he is available. Behind him, Rex Culpepper was recently diagnosed with a treatable form of testicular cancer and is courageously whipping it as I type this. All the best to Rex as he continues down recovery road!

The running back position has been valuable in Dino Babers’ system in years past. That hasn’t necessarily been the case at Syracuse but it was at Bowling Green. Donate Strickland is the Orange’s leading returning rusher from last season. He is listed as a co-starter on a recent depth chart with Moe Neal. I’m unsure exactly how things will shake out but the one thing that I’m confident about is that Neal is going to be much more explosive on a per-touch-basis. He has spent time at slot WR but I believe his move back to RB is for the best. He is one of the most exciting and electric players in the conference. Markenzy Pierre is the player that I believe would be a better compliment to Neal’s skill set, although Strickland seems to be playing well this spring. The ground game has been a point of emphasis and if they can get better blocking up front and more productivity from their runners then this offense could really ascend to high levels in 2018. There are a lot of experienced players returning so I am optimistic they will be improved.

The pass catchers are the most important riddle that needs solving. There is no shortage of talented options but discerning which two or three players are going to be the most targeted is the challenge. Based on my interaction with Syracuse Writer, Stephen Bailey, he believed that WR Devin C Butler, WR Nykeim Johnson, and TE Ravian Pierce were the most likely candidates to lead the team in receiving. That conversation took place very early in spring camp so there is still plenty of time for this to shake out. A recent development was that 6’5” WR Jamal Custis has been playing some inside receiver. That is a terrifying thought for defenders as they would have to find ways to defend the supremely athletic, former hoops star from Philly. Full disclosure, I assumed Custis would break out last season and that didn’t happen. Up to this point, he has been a bundle of potential but very little productivity to show for it. Sharod Johnson is another player that has been getting some work as an outside WR. For CFF players, it’s well known that WRs in Babers’ offense are extremely high-value commodities. I have Butler, Pierce, and Custis all rostered in one of my dynasty leagues so I am hopeful that at least two of the three are amongst the top producers this season. Another player that I wanted to mention as a CFF dynasty stash is Michigan State WR transfer, Trishton Jackson. Jackson was the star of last year’s Green and White game in East Lansing and drew comparisons to Plaxico Burress. His potential went untapped in 2017 but he will hope the change of scenery leads to a productive 2019 and beyond. Sean Riley had a 98-yard-TD last weekend but I believe the bulk of the production will come from the aforementioned names of Butler, Johnson, and Pierce. I previously mentioned TE Ravian Pierce but he’s a player that I think could be productive this season for CFF purposes and has the skill to be an NFL TE.

The defense has been the issue at Syracuse. I’ve seen several hypotheses that indicate the more a defense returns in the secondary, the higher the likelihood of success in that season. If that proves true, perhaps we see the improvement from the Orange that their fans are longing for. FS Antwan Cordy is a personal favorite of mine but the diminutive bundle of energy hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He has been getting reps both at FS and slot WR this fall but I really don’t think he will get much work on offense. Ifeatu Melifonwu, Obi’s brother, has similar length and athleticism to his big brother and I’ll be curious to see how he factors into the defense this year as an underclassman. Trill Williams was one of their top recruits from this most recent cycle and he will be a name to jot down (and consider borrowing that first name for future children). The DL was largely disappointing last season and a key to improvement for them will be shoring up the run defense. Chris Slayton has been praised for his performance this spring. Overall, I think this defense could improve this season but the pace at which the offense plays makes the possibility of having a very good defense very challenging. I like the look of the offense this season and I think they can make the leap that many of Babers’ offenses have in year three.


Senior Director of College Fantasy Football. College football, all year.

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