Syracuse football revs up for spring game

Syracuse football revs up for spring game

Orange practice has displayed the battle for the second string QB position, a shaky O-Line and developing wide receivers.
Published: April 20, 2023
Syracuse players lift team member Oronde Gadsden II up the air after he score the game winning touchdown with eight seconds left in the 4th quarter during a regular season game against Purdue on Saturday, September 17, 2022, at the JMA Wireless Dome.
Syracuse players lift Oronde Gadsden II up in the air after he scored the game-winning touchdown with eight seconds left in the game against Purdue on Sept. 17, 2022 at the JMA Wireless Dome.

‘Cuse fans — the sun’s out, school ends in a month, and you can actually go outside without a jacket and sweatpants and not feel at risk of catching pneumonia. And to top all that off, your Orange football team will conclude spring ball in the JMA Wireless Dome this Friday at 7 p.m. with the AmeriCU Spring Game.

Between Adam Weitsman, Jesse Edwards and Joseph Girard III, hoops has dominated spring media coverage for SU sports, but football season is inching closer and closer. There are a lot of production spots to replace for this team, but also some exciting and intriguing developments that have happened this spring and will continue into the summer. In the words of Oscar-nominated rapper and Memphis native GloRilla, “Let’s Go!”

Development #1: Battle for the second string QB spot

Michael Ostrowski is a very talented writer. He puts out a lot of quality football content at Nunes Magician that everyone should read. I genuinely like talking shop with him and poking his brain in the media-accessible practices; he’s got a great football mind.

But I’ve got to disagree with his article about Justin Lamson pulling away from the second-string quarterback spot this spring. Perhaps, my disagreement isn’t even with Ostrowski, because Lamson is getting most of the first team reps during practices. Lamson as the second stringer is simply the wrong decision. He had a lot of support before last year’s season-ending injury with his spring ball performance. He has looked quick and decisive at times, manning the first teamers, throwing with anticipation and fitting balls into tight windows.

NC State v Syracuse
Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader (#6) escapes NC State's Tyler Baker-Williams (#13) at the JMA Wireless Dome on Oct. 15, 2022.

There isn’t a massive gap in accuracy and poise between Lamson and Carlos Del Rio-Wilson. Still, there’s an apparent massive gap in the game-breaking ability that Del Rio-Wilson has with his legs along with a clear advantage in arm strength and deep-ball accuracy.

In a scrimmage clip Del Rio-Wilson posted to his Instagram this past weekend, he took a QB option midline read to the house from about 40 yards out, breaking starting safety Justin Barron’s ankles in the hole and forcing multiple broken tackles downfield.

Football is quickly evolving, and with the cream of the crop NFL QBs including dual-threats Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts, it’s becoming more and more essential to have a guy under center that can make plays off-script, which is where Del Rio-Wilson excels at this stage of his career.

Lamson is the better thrower of the football right now. But, between Del Rio-Wilson’s experience last year taking over for Garrett Shrader due to a season-ending injury, Lamson not having played a single snap of college football yet and still rounding into form after a torn ACL and an offensive line that’s in flux and already dealing with injuries, money should be put on the Georgia underclassman as the No. 2 QB.

Development #2 – A shaky offensive line

Speaking of the offensive line, it has been an up-and-down spring for the group. Head coach Dino Babers apparently was snappy with Ostrowski a couple of weeks ago when he inquired about the availability of Chris Bleich, one of the few veterans and returning starters on this O-Line. Bleich, a sixth-year senior who transferred in from Florida, has been in and out (mostly out) of spring ball with an undisclosed injury.

Unfortunately, this isn’t uncharted territory.

Bleich missed last year’s Wake Forest game and came into the program two years ago with a multitude of injury concerns and potential medical malpractice at UF. Beyond Bleich, you have Enriquez Cruz making the jump to full-time starter with Matthew Bergeron’s departure to the NFL Draft. Josh Ilaoa is playing center making a similar jump to center after seeing minimal snaps before this season. Joe More, the FCS transfer from Richmond, has looked solid, but is also facing a significant jump in competition and doesn’t possess the ideal length to match up with elite ACC Edge rushers week in and week out.

This O-Line has been able to create lanes in the run game consistently, with Kalan Ellis being a people mover on the left side and More, whether at tackle or guard, also consistently opening up holes for backs to hit. But pass pro leaves a lot to be desired, and I would tentatively say that there hasn’t been a guy on the line that’s consistently been a plus in protecting the QBs.

The Mob has been doing its part to make the O-Line miserable, presenting problems with their athleticism and bend, with guys like Kevin Jobity Jr., Caleb Okechukwu and Jatius Geer living in the SU backfield this spring. You have an entire summer for this O-Line to jell behind new head man Steve Farmer, known for his stout pass-blocking unit, at his previous schools Tulsa and Texas Tech. Still, there needs to be significant development in the summertime for this unit to protect the QB consistently in the fall.

Matthew Bergeron (60) and members of the Syracuse defense celebrate a fourth-down stop against Louisville.
Matthew Bergeron (#60) and members of the Syracuse defense celebrate a fourth-down stop against Louisville on Sept. 3, 2022 at the JMA Wireless Dome.

Development #3 – WRs outside of OG

Oronde Gadsden II seemingly came out of nowhere last year and took the ACC (and the country) by storm, shattering several SU pass-catching records and garnering 1st team All-ACC honors with his blend of size, speed and soft hands making him a mismatch nightmare.

OG will come into this year as a known commodity, so expect teams to be more physical with him when he’s lined up as an inline tight-end, as well as designing bracket coverages to minimize his impact. That means SU needs another dynamic wide receiver to step up, with defenses zeroing in on the Florida native.

Fellow Floridian D’Marcus Adams or Virginia underclassman Umari Hatcher are the most likely candidates to fill the void. Adams has been a big-play specialist up to this point in his career, with only six catches, but a whopping 180 yards and two touchdowns last year.

Imari Hatcher (17) receives a pass during a match against Wagner university at the JMA Wireless Dome on October 1, 2022.
Umari Hatcher (#17) receives a pass during a game against Wagner at the JMA Wireless Dome on Oct. 1, 2022.

Adams has legitimate track speed and easily pulls away from defensive backs on go-routes and screens. His next step is to be more impactful down-to-down and show that he can consistently produce with 4-6 targets a game. Still, Adams is a smooth route runner and separator in converge, as well as having a surprising ability to reel in contested catches with his 5’9″ frame.

Hatcher is part of the long-limbed SU pass-catching core alongside Gadsden (6’5″) and Isaiah Jones (6’4″), and possesses intriguing ball skills and body control. He’s not a burner like Adams, but he’s a long strider that consistently stacks defensive backs downfield and has the surest set of hands outside of Gadsden, rarely letting balls into his body and having the mindset to turn 50/50 balls into 75/25 scenarios. He’s a bit light at 180 pounds and can be bullied in man coverage as an X-receiver guy, but the tools are there if he can attack the weight room.

The AmeriCU Spring Game is set for Friday at 7 p.m. in the JMA Wireless Dome. Admission is free and tickets can be claimed by following this link: