Camping World Bowl Football

Syracuse defensive lineman Kendall Coleman, left, celebrates with teammates after sacking West Virginia quarterback Jack Allison during the second half of the Camping World Bowl NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

SYRACUSE ORANGE

COACH: Dino Babers, 18-19, fourth season at Syracuse

2018 RECORD: 10-3, 6-2 ACC

POSTSEASON: beat West Virginia 34-18 in the Camping World Bowl

» A LOOK BACK

The Cuse enjoyed a resurgence in Babers’ third season at the helm with its first 10-win season since 2001 and a final ranking of 15th in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Syracuse nearly knocked off Clemson for the second straight season, falling by four points on the road against the eventual national champion.

The season was highlighted by the superb play of Eric Dungey at quarterback. He was a highlight reel nearly every week with nearly 2,900 yards passing, more than 750 yards rushing, and he accounted for 33 touchdowns (18 passing, 15 rushing). The dynamic offense, which scored 23 or more points in 12 of the 13 games, was formidable in the stacked ACC Atlantic Division.

The season concluded with a rousing Camping World Bowl victory over West Virginia. That game also allowed Oklahoma transfer Abdul Adams to get some reps at running back, and allow the team to see how well he pairs with senior Moe Neal as a two-headed tandem in the backfield.

» LOOKING AHEAD

Babers and his staff knew Dungey’s productivity was going to need to be replaced following his graduation. So they worked on a plan to get Tommy DeVito playing time throughout the season in order to be ready to go in this opener against Liberty. DeVito, now a sophomore, threw for 525 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions as a pocket passer. He doesn’t have the speed or athleticism of Dungey, but the offense is being suited to ensure he has the tools necessary to keep the offense humming.

“Tommy is one of our leaders. He's one of the highest ranked players ever recruited,” Babers said at ACC media days. “Obviously an Elite 11 candidate, finished fourth in that competition. Now he has an opportunity to be the starting quarterback and the leader of our offense. We think very highly of him. We expect big things out of him. This might be a little bit early for him to be here, but if the shoes are too big, too bad. You need to grow up and fill 'em. Hopefully you guys will get an opportunity to see him for two or three more years up here.”

While Neal and Adams provide a solid 1-2 punch at running back, there are other unknowns on offense. The Orange must replace three starting offensive linemen and the production of Jamal Custis at outside receiver.

That means the strength of this season’s team — at least in the opening weeks — will be on defense. Ends Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson each had 10 sacks last season and free safety Andre Cisco corralled seven interceptions.

“A big part of our defense that people have talked about to this point has been our D-line,” Coleman said. “Although we've been really successful, I'd be wrong if I didn't suggest that there's a lot of competition between the best position group on defense between the DBs and the D-line.”

» WHO’S BACK?

• SKILL PLAYERS

QB Tommy DeVito (44-87 passing, 525 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT; 23 carries, minus-17 yards, minus-0.7 average, 1 TD)

RB Moe Neal (155 carries, 869 yards, 5.6 average, 5 TD; 13 catches, 128 yards, 9.85 average)

WR/KR/PR Sean Riley (64 catches, 756 yards, 11.81 average, 3 TD; 16 punt returns, 262 yards, 16.38 average, 1 TD; 18 kickoff returns, 369 yards, 20.5 average)

WR Nykeim Johnson (41 catches, 565 yards, 13.78 average, 4 TD)

• OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

RG Evan Adams

RT Airon Servais

• DEFENSIVE LEADERS

DE Kendall Coleman (32 tackles, 12.0 TFL, 10.0 sacks, 6 QBH)

DE Alton Robinson (39 tackles, 17.0 TFL, 10.0 sacks, 2 PBU, 11 QBH, 2 FR, 3 FF)

FS Andre Cisco (60 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 7 INT, 11 PBU, 1 FF)

CB Chris Fredrick (56 tackles, 1.0 TFL, 3 INT, 4 PBU)

SS Evan Foster (86 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FR)

• SPECIAL TEAMS

K Andre Szmyt (30-34 FG, 54 long, 0 blocked, 61-61 PAT)

P Sterling Hofrichter (67 punts, 42.9 average, 58 long, 4 TB, 21 FC, 26 I20, 17 50+, 0 blocked)

» WHO’S GONE?

• SKILL PLAYERS

QB Eric Dungey (226-371 passing, 2,868 yards, 18 TD, 9 INT; 184 carries, 754 yards, 4.1 average, 15 TD)

RB Dontae Strickland (121 carries, 588 yards, 4.9 average, 6 TD)

WR Jamal Custis (51 catches, 906 yards, 17.76 average, 6 TD)

• OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

LT Cody Conway

LG Aaron Roberts

RT Koda Martin

• DEFENSIVE LEADERS

LB Ryan Guthrie (107 tackles, 16.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 1 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FR)

LB Kielan Whitner (100 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 2 INT, 3 PBU, 4 QBH, 1 FR, 1 FF)

NT Chris Slayton (24 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 6 QBH, 1 FF)

• SPECIAL TEAMS

None

» WHOM TO FOLLOW

Stephen Bailey, Syracuse Post-Standard: @Stephen_Bailey1

Nate Mink, Syracuse Post-Standard: @MinkNate

Mike McAllister, Cuse Nation: @MMcAllister247

Syracuse Football: @CuseFootball

» SCHEDULE

Aug. 31: at Liberty, 6 p.m.

Sept. 7: Maryland, noon

Sept. 14: Clemson, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21: Western Michigan, TBD

Sept. 28: Holy Cross, TBD

Oct. 10: at N.C. State, 8 p.m.

Oct. 18: Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.

Oct. 26: at Florida State, TBD

Nov. 2: Boston College, TBD

Nov. 16: at Duke, TBD

Nov. 23: at Louisville, TBD

Nov. 30: Wake Forest, TBD

» THE SERIES (home team in CAPS)

First meeting

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Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.

Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550. Follow him on Twitter: @DamienSordelett

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