Spring football game provides exciting glimpse into Syracuse’s new team

Spring football game provides exciting glimpse into Syracuse's new team

Justin Lamson and Carlos Del Rio-Wilson battle for second-string QB position.
Published: April 22, 2023
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Members of the Syracuse football team participate in the AmeriCU Spring Game on Friday, April 21 at the JMA Wireless Dome.

The 2023 spring version of football has come to a close in Syracuse. Friday night in the JMA Wireless Dome culminated the 15-practice stretch that the Orange had this spring. The AmeriCU Spring Game was an exciting glimpse into what this team could be, and also a keen look at different areas and position groups that need to be developed before the coming fall.

While this could be considered cosmetic, seeing the new jersey numbers worn by the guys in game jerseys for the first time was interesting.

We knew about number changes for a while with practices and updated rosters, but seeing Justin Barron flying around in #8, seeing Caleb Okechukwu rushing the passer with his newly minted #4 and most importantly, former walk-on turned starter Kevon Darton in the trenches in #0, was still a shock to the system donning those numbers in the game jerseys for the first time.

One of the biggest storylines coming into the spring game was the battle for second-string QB supremacy between Justin Lamson and Carlos Del Rio-Wilson, and that matchup was decisively won by Lamson. Lamson, who came into the spring as the presumptive second-string quarterback and getting the majority of the reps with the first-string offense, came out firing, completing his first six passes and looking comfortable and confident operating the controls of new OC Jason Beck’s offense.

On the flip side, Del Rio-Wilson’s first drive of the game started off with four straight incompletions, with some of his concerns about accuracy and ball placement really coming to the forefront. He worked with the second-string offense for a majority of the night, and looked much better in the second half with the first teamers, but Lamson came away looking clearly like the better quarterback of the two.

Another point of interest was seeing who stepped up as the Robin to Oronde Gadsden II‘s Batman, and the early returns on that were promising. Gadsden was featured early and often with Lamson and the first team, securing all four of his catches within the first two drives.

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Syracuse's Brayln Oliver (21) signs an excited fan's football.

Umari Hatcher stole the show, catching a TD pass from both Lamson and Del Rio-Wilson, building on a solid round of spring practices for him and further solidifying himself as somebody who can command targets in the fall.

Redshirt freshman Donovan Brown made a couple impressive catches coming from the slot, showing off some of his speed and tenacity that landed him on special teams as a true freshman last season.

Isaiah Jones caught the first touchdown pass of the evening, and it was nice to see the Florida native after suffering a season-ending injury against Purdue last year. He was receiving starter snaps before his injury last year, and he could be a potential X-factor this season if he can stay healthy.

“Last year he (Isaiah Jones) really was one of our best guys,” Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said. “He’s had some injuries he had to overcome. He’s still extremely high on them, but I think some other guys have closed the distance on him.”

Lastly, the offensive line and the run game. Chris Bleich, the often-talked about sixth-year senior and starting guard, was padded up, but nursed a crutch during the game. His health and availability going forward appears to be very much up in the air.

Jakob Bradford, who’s been Bleich’s replacement for most of the spring, started the game and looked serviceable. The first string offensive line group didn’t get any sacks, an encouraging sign, but didn’t create much room for sophomore RB LeQuint Allen to break out any long runs.

There was obviously a reduced level of physicality with it being the spring game, but Allen is a spark plug with already evident big-play ability, so it’ll be interesting to track how him and that O-Line mesh together in the run game.