Syracuse football is set to kick off the 2016 season on Friday against Colgate as they start the Dino Babers era. They are transitioning to very different schemes on both sides of the ball. Who will break out this year?
Offensively, Syracuse could have a big year through the air. If Eric Dungey can stay healthy, he has the potential to put up huge numbers in the Babers offense. He is already on the radar of many who cover college football, but he could be a breakout star in terms of the national landscape and casual fans.
With the success of Dungey should come production from his receivers. Most notably, Steve Ishmael and Brisly Estime. Two players who have been playmakers for the Orange in the past are expected to have even more production this season. Ishmael is a sure handed receiver who is an exceptional route runner. He will be the number one receiver this season, which typically puts up big numbers for Dino Babers.
Estime has elite speed and is a home run threat every time he touches the ball. Whether it be on bubbles, slants or deeper routes, Estime can turn anything into a big play. His speed and elusiveness is a perfect fit for this offense. Estime has added muscle during the offseason and is primed for a big year.
Another receiver to watch is graduate transfer Amba Etta-Tawo. Like Estime, Etta-Tawo has big time speed. He has the ability to make one guy miss and turn a short pass into a big gain. Keep an eye on him this year.
Along the offensive line, two players could emerge as major contributors. Left tackle Cody Conway has as much potential as any tackle Syracuse has recruited in the last few years. He has length, athleticism and plays with a mean streak. Just a sophomore, Conway still has a lot of room to develop. This could be the year he emerges.
Also a youngster is guard Aaron Roberts. Roberts is slated to start at left guard, and is in the discussion as the most talented lineman on the roster. Look for a big year from Roberts.
Defensively, Syracuse could have players emerge at all three levels. Up front, Kendall Coleman has already made a name for himself in training camp. He is one of several young defensive ends who will see significant action this season. Coleman is big, physical and athletic. With the Orange needing someone to step up and become a consistent contributor, Coleman could be that guy.
Chris Slayton will play both defensive end and defensive tackle. Steven Clark may as well. Both are names to watch as the Syracuse defensive line looks for players to step up in the new Tampa 2 system.
At linebacker, we already know about Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett. The guy who may break out is Jonathan Thomas. Thomas has all of the physical tools you look for in a linebacker. He is big, long and runs well. If Thomas masters his assignments, he could become a playmaker for the Orange defense.
In the secondary, this is the season that Corey Winfield makes a name for himself. With length, instincts and quickness, Winfield will be relied upon to make plays in the secondary. He is the clear number one cornerback.
Kielan Whitner played a lot as a freshman, but made some rookie mistakes. Now, with experience under his belt and time in the strength and conditioning program, Whitner searched for consistency. Should he find that, a big year could be ahead.
Syracuse will rely on a lot of youth this season, but has their share of talented youngsters who could break out.