Syracuse's depth will be tested on Saturday, as Pittsburgh enters the Carrier Dome with bowl eligibility on the line. When Thursday's injury report was released, it showed what many had feared. The Orange are banged up all over the field.
Prince-Tyson Gulley is out this week with a lower body injury, stemming from the ankle that was hurt in Syracuse's 59-3 loss at Florida State. The good news is that there is depth at running back. George Morris and DeVante McFarlane showed they are more than capable of taking over Gulley's role and replicating his production.
Look for Morris to get the bulk of the touches in Gulley's absence, with McFarlane sprinkled in. It will prove to be valuable experience as both are likely to see an increased work load next season. Make no mistake about it, both are ready right now to contribute. Syracuse should not see any loss of productivity and may see a bit more explosion.
Julian Whigham suffered a scary injury last weekend which was later diagnosed as a lung contusion and possible tearing of scar tissue. While he is back in Syracuse and appears to be resuming normal activities outside of football, he is out this weekend. That is safe, proper way to handle this situation, looking at Whigham's best long-term interests.
On the field, it leaves Syracuse extremely thin at cornerback. Whigham had become the third corner after Keon Lyn was lost for the season. Now, Wayne Morgan will be forced into action. That in and of itself is not a terrible development, as Morgan has shown flashes of ability. The question mark is behind Morgan.
Who becomes the dime corner? Scott Shafer said during his weekly press conference that Joe Nassib is ready to fulfill that role if needed. Behind him, Jaston George is there, but that would pose a big problem for the Orange. Neither has seen meaningful snaps. Jeremi Wilkes could move from safety to corner in certain situations if the staff does not feel comfortable with their other options. Behind those three options are several walk-ons, who are not likely to see action.
Maybe the surprise of the injury report was the loss of Isaiah Johnson for Saturday's game. The freshman defensive end had started to become a real force for the Orange along the defensive line, improving his speed and quickness off the line as the season progressed. Johnson is out with an upper body injury, one that he either suffered last week against Florida State or during practice this week. His injury was not previously known, though he did not play in the second half against the Seminoles.
The loss leaves Syracuse with three defensive ends that have played significant roles this season. Starters Micah Robinson and Robert Welsh, along with top reserve Ron Thompson, will split the snaps Johnson would normally play. Trevon Trejo would be the next guy up off of the bench, with Josh Manley and Donnie Simmons waiting in the wings if needed.
The group that has been the most maligned all season has been the wide receivers. Jarrod West, arguably the number one receiver, is out with an upper body injury. Emerging freshman Brisly Estime is also out, despite tweeting he was 50/50 earlier in the week.
Ashton Broyld will fulfill Estime's role in the slot. Chris Clark and Jeremiah Kobena could see more action with West out, and Alvin Cornelius has been working into the rotation as well. In fact, Cornelius started last week and could do so again.
Against a Pitt secondary that plays primarily zone, Syracuse should have opportunities to find openings regardless of which personnel is on the field. But the Orange will be thin at receiver with Ben Lewis also out.
Head coach Scott Shafer will have a lot of moving parts with the injury issues this week. It is not unlike most other programs across the country as injuries are part of the game. This gives young players a chance to make an impact as Syracuse fights for bowl eligibility.