This week’s opponent blog post features the return of a Q&A with an opposing beat writer. Stephen Bailey of the Syracuse Post-Standard stops by to answer five questions about Syracuse. For his coverage of the Orange, follow him on Twitter @Stephen_Bailey1.
Now onto the Q&A:
N&A: Liberty coach Hugh Freeze said senior defensive end Alton Robinson, to him, is going to be an early draft pick. What makes Robinson so dynamic coming off the edge?
SB: Robinson is the complete package. He has speed, power, experience and polish. But so does Kendall Coleman, the Orange’s other returning defensive end with 10 sacks. As far as NFL stock, Robinson is slightly taller and heavier than Coleman. I would say that his frame and explosiveness have given him that perceived gap. Don’t sleep on Coleman. I would expect both of those guys to wreak havoc on Saturday.
N&A: The question marks on defense appear to be at linebacker with only one start between Lakeim Williams and Andrew Armstrong. Are those seniors ready to take on more prominent roles in this defense this season?
SB: Linebacker is undoubtedly the question mark on defense. Lakiem and Andrew believe they’re ready. The former said he feels like this year’s duo is farther along than last year’s first-year starters going into the season. Honestly, only time will tell. Both players are extremely athletic and should be able to recover from a missed step this week — an allowance programs like Clemson won’t afford them.
N&A: Most of the talk this offseason has been centered around Tommy DeVito taking over the starting quarterback job following Eric Dungey’s graduation. What are DeVito’s strengths and how does offensive coordinator Mike Lynch plan to utilize him in the offense?
SB: DeVito is a pocket passer who can run. He arrived with pro-level mechanics that allow him to comfortably throw the ball across the field. Dungey leaned on a limited route tree to complement his elite playmaking. I’m interested to see how Dino Babers and Mike Lynch expand the offense. We could see the Orange go under center more, and with versatility at running back and tight end, new formations could be utilized, too. That said, I don’t think the program expects to show anything new against Liberty unless it’s a close game in the second half. Look for lots of pitch and catch on the outside with Trishton Jackson and Taj Harris.
N&A: How potent can Syracuse’s running game be with Moe Neal and Abdul Adams leading the way?
SB: The Orange hopes to have its best traditional run game of the Babers era in 2019. The backs aren’t a problem. Neal and Adams could start at many ACC schools while sophomore Jarveon Howard will likely reprise his role as short-yardage specialist and late-game bowling ball. I’m also intrigued to see speedy freshman Jawhar Jordan. The question here is the offensive line. SU currently has two first-year starters penciled into the front five, including a redshirt freshman tackle in Carlos Vettorello who leads an ongoing competition with grad transfer Ryan Alexander.
N&A: Syracuse is no stranger to opening the season on the road after going to Western Michigan to open last season. How are the Orange approaching this weekend’s game at Liberty?
SB: I don’t think the road venue is a serious concern. Preparing for a team without any film is the hard part. SU knows it will need to pay close attention early in the game and be ready to make adjustments once weaknesses are exposed. Going hand-in-hand with that is the uncertain status of Malik Willis. The Orange is preparing as if the dual-threat quarterback transfer from Auburn will be playing on Saturday.