Syracuse put together a poor performance on Saturday against South Florida, no question. That was a winnable game in which they did not play as well as they are capable. But even with that, there are several reasons to be encouraged about the direction of the program this season and beyond.
Part of the reason Syracuse played so befuddlingly inconsistent is due to the youth on the team. The offense starts a true freshman quarterback, a sophomore wide receiver, a sophomore h-back and its best running back is a true freshman. Defensively, there is youth all over the roster with reliance on freshmen and sophomores in important roles.
While that youth may be some of the reason for Saturday's outcome, it is also a reason why there is a positive outlook on the program. The frue freshman quarterback, Eric Dungey looks like the real deal and has played good football for the most part. Running back Jordan Fredericks is already the team's best running back, and could become the primary feature back as early as this season.
There are some talented, albeit inexperienced, offensive linemen waiting in the wings to take over from this year's veteran bunch. Cody Conway has already seen action.
Defensively, Zaire Franklin may be a captain, but he is only a sophomore. Parris Bennett, Kayton Samuels and Chris Slayton have all shown ability as young contributors. Syracuse also has some talented true freshmen defensive ends in Jake Pickard, Qaadir Sheppard and Amir Ealey that will take on more prominent roles next season.
Outside of three quarters on Saturday, they had been playing good football for the most part. They have some things to correct, no question. Does the offense have to open up the passing game a bit more? Should Fredericks get more touches? Is the run defense vulnerable after getting gashed for a second straight game? All fair questions, but not reasons to abandon hope.
Recruiting is picking up significantly from the previous two eras of Syracuse football. You can see that taking shape on the field. One bad performance does not change all of that. They have some talented players coming in for the 2016 class as well. Three-star offensive tackle Cam DeGeorge has a lot of upside. Moe Neal looks to be a dynamic playmaker. Monquavion Brinson is a corner with size who plays physical footblal.
They have hit the talent rich state of Florida once again, landing some quality players. Syracuse recently added three-star quarterback Lindsey Scott, a versatile athlete who could play a variety of positions for the Orange if needed.
The reason for optimism should come down to this. Syracuse has played well in four of their five games. That is something that has not happened since Doug Marrone was at the helm, and it is being done with a lot of youth. Now the loss puts more importance on the next two games, where one would figure a split (at a minimum) is needed to keep bowl hopes alive. But all is not lost.
This season may ultimately be about developing a lot of those young players and continuing to build for the long-term success of the program. That does not mean success cannot happen this season. Through five games, there have been plenty of bright spots. Despite the one blemish, everything Syracuse wants to accomplish is still in front of them.