SU football preps for bowl while Orange’s future signs up

SU football preps for bowl game, secures new recruits

The Orange gears up for the Boca Raton Bowl while nearly 20 high school players announce their intent to join Fran Brown’s program.

Dan Villari talking about the weeks preparing for the Boca Raton Bowl game and he is ready for his big role in this bowl game.
Syracuse tight end and part-time quarterback Dan Villari (89) talks with members of the media Wednesday the Palm Beach County Convention Center about this week’s Boca Raton Bowl.

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida – While much of the talk about the Syracuse football program recently has been about the coaching transition, there is still on-field business for the Orange to attend to. 

Syracuse coaches and players have been in Florida since Sunday, preparing to face South Florida in the Boca Raton Bowl on Thursday night.

Syracuse needed to win two of its last three games to clinch a second consecutive bowl appearance, which still wasn’t enough to save former head coach Dino Babers from losing his job.

Even though one coaching staff is outgoing and another is incoming, the team is excited about the chance to play its 13th game of the 2023 season.

“I feel extremely confident,” redshirt sophomore tight end Dan Villari said. “This team feels extremely confident. We had 2-3 weeks to prepare and I think the confidence is at an all-time high.” 

“When he gets behind center, you give him more opportunity, he does a great job of embracing those opportunities and getting fired up to do it,” says interim head coach and tight ends coach Nunzio Campanile, who worked extensively with Villari. “I think his energy raises everyone around him.”

There are a lot of questions about whether Villari will be taking the majority of the snaps on Thursday. The only two Quarterbacks on the depth chart are freshman Braden Davis and sophomore Luke MacPhail, both only attempting one pass this entire season.

First-string signal caller Garrett Shrader will not be suited up, after undergoing surgery to repair a tear in his throwing shoulder. 

One person who will be featured is sophomore running back LeQuint Allen. Allen, eclipsed the 1,000 rushing yards mark this season and punched in nine rushing touchdowns, while also leading the team with 36 receptions. 

Interim head coach Nunzio Campanile discussing how the importance of creating the relationships with the players both in practice and moments like the Boca Bowl.
Interim head coach Nunzio Campanile discusses the importance of creating relationships with the players during post-season pay at Wednesday’s Boca Raton Bowl media interviews.

There will be a different play-caller on Thursday, with Mike Lynch taking over offensive coordinator duties after Jason Beck accepted a position at the University of New Mexico.

Syracuse defensively has given up just under 24 points a game, and looks to finish the season on a high note. Several of the upperclassmen decided to play in the Boca Raton Bowl with their futures pending, which shows their dedication to this football program.

“When the people see us leaders, they see our legacy,” said redshirt senior and leader on the defensive line Caleb Okechukwu. “Whether we stay or we don’t come back next year, it’s important for people to know how much we put into this program.”

Okechukwu, alongside safety Justin Barron and linebacker Marlowe Wax Jr, have all played at Syracuse since at least 2020, and have helped to create a defensive identity for this group. 

“I think leadership is very much about taking care of the people you’re in charge of leading, so for me, to let these seniors leave with a win would be a great thing,” Campanile said.

The Orange and Bulls square off at 8 p.m. on Thursday. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Brown impresses with haul of recruits

As Early National Signing Day came to a close Wednesday, Syracuse football has a slate of new faces joining the program. Incoming head coach Fran Brown spoke on the new recruits joining the Orange for the following season.

Eighteen high school seniors signed their national letters of intent to join the Orange on Wednesday, including 11 from either New York or New Jersey.

247 Sports ranks Syracuse’s incoming class as the 34th best in the country with transfers taken into account.

The incoming class of transfers is highlighted by quarterback Kyle McCord, who transferred from Ohio State. McCord finished the past season with an 11-1 record.

So far, Syracuse has 24 incoming players for next season.

During the Zoom press conference, Brown teased that he’s “not done yet.”

In a show of true Syracuse Orange spirit, an excited SU fan gleefully jumps in on the band's performance, demonstrating the infectious energy and camaraderie that binds the Syracuse community together, Wednesday, December 20.
In a show of Orange spirit, an excited SU fan gleefully jumps in on the SU Marching Band’s performance at the Boca Raton Bowl pep rally Wednesday night.

Orange rally South Florida fans

BOCA RATON, Florida – The Syracuse Band and Cheerleading Squad gathered together at Mizner Park in downtown Boca Raton, putting on a spectacle at the Boca Raton Bowl Pep Rally. 

Syracuse and South Florida both matched songs that are iconic to each band, lifting the spirits of those who attended Syracuse. 

A large part of that is the baton twirler, Abby Veccia, a sophomore who is originally from Delray Beach, and said “It’s kind of surreal, the whole band’s here, so much of my family and friends are here, my old coaches are here. So it’s kind of surreal to be a college twirler back in my hometown.”

Veccia is one of many Syracuse Orange who has connections to South Florida. 

That includes Bea Ebinger, who is the President of the Alumni Club of South Florida for Syracuse, as well as graduating from the College of Nursing in 1987. 

“There are 5,000 alumni just in the south Florida counties alone,” Ebinger said. “People are just really interested in getting involved and cheering on the Orange. What more can we ask for?”

With harmonious melodies and spirited beats, the SU Marching Band breathes life into the pep rally on Wednesday, December 20.
Members of the SU Marching Band play for the crowds at Mizner Park in Boca Raton on Wednesday.
Otto the Orange, joined by a lively group of SU cheerleaders, embodies the spirited energy and excitement of 'Cuse Nation.
Otto the Orange joins the SU cheerleaders at the Boca Raton Bowl pep rally on Wednesday.