SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The bad feelings of the 2020 football season are long-lasting with the fans of Orange Nation. 1-10 is hard to ignore. Especially after the 10-3 run of 2018.
But that does not mean the players are harping on the frustrations from a season ago.
They have already turned the page.
“We can’t forget about what happened last year. We have to take that into account, but learn from our mistakes and get better,” said sophomore running back Sean Tucker.
Tucker impressed in his first season on the hill. Now he is one of the leaders stepping up. And he is not the only one.
After a season where almost the entire secondary moved on, either to graduation or the NFL Draft, Garrett Williams, a sophomore, is back to lead this group. While that might weigh on other players, Williams revels in the opportunity.
“I don’t think there is any pressure. Obviously, we [lost] a lot of great players but I think we have guys who will step in and fill those roles accordingly. And it’s going to be my job to lead them,” Williams said.
The secondary is just one group under the microscope this spring. The offensive line has been a huge topic of discussion the past few seasons and last fall might have been their worst as a unit in recent memory. The line surrendered 38 sacks (third-worst in the country) and only managed 92 yards rushing per game.
But in steps Mike Schmidt from San Diego State. Head Coach Dino Babers has tabbed Schmidt as the man to lead this line into better times. During his time with the Aztecs, Schmidt coached an offensive line that produced three NFL draft selections and helped two SDSU running backs rack up two 2,000-yard rushing seasons.
“Coach Schmidt came in and we watched film. I like his new approach. It’s a different perspective,” said Matthew Bergeron, junior offensive lineman. “Everyone is following him and we trust him. He’s made us a better unit in, like, 14 practices.”
“Those guys are a unit and they’ve been working well with each other,” said Luke Benson, junior tight end.
Those are just two of the many groups whose production will determine SU’s success in 2021. The biggest is under center. Gone is Rex Culpepper but Tommy DeVito and JaCobian Morgan remain to battle for the starting position against Garrett Shrader, a transfer from Mississippi State. None of the QBs were made available to the media Tuesday, but Babers will take the podium Wednesday.
Regardless of who takes the snaps when Syracuse takes the field September 4 at Ohio University, the goal remains the same for this roster… avoid the embarrassment of 2020.
As Josh Black, a senior defensive lineman points out, “We can’t have what happened to us last year happen to us again. I feel like we are feeding off that for sure.”