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After just two wins in ACC play and a 4-8 overall record, Syracuse decided to move on to the next coach. Dino Babers comes in from Bowling Green, and he'll implement a new up-tempo, no-huddle offense in the mold of Baylor's Art Briles. Babers bring in a lot of new things along with the hope of reaching a bowl game once again for the Orange.
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Starting quarterback isn't decided, but all signs point to Eric Dungey winning the job after he led the way for most of the 2015 season. He was decent passing the ball (59.7%, 11 TDs, 5 INTs), but his athleticism is what shined the most (351 yards, 5 TDs), yet that also turned into injuries. Under the new offense, Dungey should be in for much bigger numbers. He finished with 297 yards and seven TDs in the spring game, and looked like the guy above Zack Mahoney and Austin Wilson. But will the QB have the pieces around him to be successful?
The Orange return most of their guys from a defunct running game a year ago. Jordan Fredericks (607 yards, 4 TDs), George Morris II (326 yards) and Dontae Strickland will all fight for carries. The same can be said about the receivers, with most guys returning, although none of them did much last season. Steve Ishmael (570 yards, 7 TDs) is the top returnee with Ervin Philips (286 yards, 5 TDs) and Brisly Estime (293 yards, 2 TDs) expected to be top options.
As with the other positions, the offensive line has a long way to go in this new high-paced offense. With a few guys returning in Omari Palmer and center Jason Emerich, will they be able to keep up? This group wasn't great a year ago, as seen in the poor rushing numbers, and have an even harder task this year in a high-paced scheme.
While the offense is getting a boost from Babers, the defense still needs to improve after allowing 40-plus points to five different opponents last year, including USF and Virginia, a couple mediocre offenses.
Starting up front, Syracuse might have the least experienced line to work with in the ACC and that includes little depth. Chris Slayton is the leader of the group with Kayton Samuels, but there will probably be multiple freshmen getting time there throughout the year. At the least, linebacker won't be the same kind of problem with Zaire Franklin running the unit. The secondary returns everyone, but they were constantly gashed a year ago. In addition, the defense will run a new Tampa 2 scheme, which means more learning.
Syracuse won't be winning the Atlantic any time soon, but Babers will want to at least compete with the conference's best. The Orange start the ACC campaign early with a home game against Louisville. An upset there is unlikely, but you never know. There are a few more winnable ACC games throughout the year, but nothing is a given. Road tests at Wake Forest and Boston College need to result in wins if the Orange want to reach a bowl game.
It'd be nice if the 'Cuse could reach three non-conference wins, then they'd only need three ACC wins to reach six total. But even once quarterback is decided, the defense still has a long way to go.
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2016 Syracuse Orange Football Schedule
Sept. 2 vs. Colgate
Sept. 9 vs. Louisville
Sept. 17 vs. South Florida
Sept. 24 at Connecticut
Oct. 1 vs. Notre Dame (MetLife Stadium)
Oct. 8 at Wake Forest
Oct. 15 vs. Virginia Tech
Oct. 22 at Boston College
Nov. 5 at Clemson
Nov. 12 vs. NC State
Nov. 19 vs. Florida State
Nov. 26 at Pittsburgh
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