R & B on the march

Rich Fyle column

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

When Syracuse University football practice officially opens Friday, players probably won’t be thinking about the upcoming schedule.

Or will they?

It’s hard not to, because, after the first two games against independent Liberty and Maryland, big, bad and defending national champion enters the Carrier Dome on Sept. 14.

Some are already calling it the ACC game of the season. It could be.

The Tigers’ two toughest games the past two seasons have come against the Orange, which beat then-No. 2 Clemson, 27-24, at the Dome in 2017, before losing a close one, 27-23, on the road last season.

After a steady diet of 4-8 overall seasons in head coach Dino Babers’ early SU tenure, the program broke out in 2018, going 10-3 for its first 10-win season since 2001 after its Camping World Bowl win.

Now with 18 players back with at least two starts from last year, optimism is understandably high. Sophomore quarterback Tommy DeVito has to run the offense after Eric Dungey’s departure. While the former doesn’t have the latter’s smash mouth degree of physicality, DeVito was more than capable in 2018, leading SU to wins over Florida State and North Carolina.

SU is strong at running back, defensive line, defensive back, including All-American safety Andre Cisco, and special teams, notably with Lou Groza Award place-kicker Andre Szmyt and First Team All-ACC punter Sterling Hofrichter.

Areas of concern will be on the offensive line with three new starters, and last season’s first-year linebacker starters will have to improve quickly.

n Prediction: SU averaged more than 40 points and almost 465 total yards per game last season — both top-20 rankings among the FBS’s 130 programs — and there is no reason to expect those figures will drop in 2019 even with a QB change. Expect a 9-3 season with another bowl game, and a 6-2 finish behind Clemson in the Atlantic Division.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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