Clemson Football: Oppo Research – Syracuse Orange

Clemson Tigers wide receiver Antonio Williams (0) scores a touchdown. The Clemson Tigers lead the Florida State Seminoles 24-14 at the half during an ACC game at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022.Fsu V Clemson First335
Clemson Tigers wide receiver Antonio Williams (0) scores a touchdown. The Clemson Tigers lead the Florida State Seminoles 24-14 at the half during an ACC game at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022.Fsu V Clemson First335 /

It truly feels like I come on here every week and talk about the Clemson football opponent being a huge trap for the Tigers, and yet here they stand at 7 wins and no losses.  Obviously, the Tigers have answered the bell each and every week to start the season.

I will let the rest of the Rubbing the Rock team go into more details about how each games are going down, but it has been an entertaining season thus far, and yet another test this weekend in Death Valley as Dino Babers and the red-hot Syracuse Orange come a-callin’.

Here is your preview of the Syracuse Orange, from Syracuse, New York.

Saturday, October 22. 12 PM ET. 6-0. 7-0. 879. Clemson -13.5 | Over/Under 49.5. 827. ABC

Head Coach Dino Babers is in his 7th season with the Syracuse Orange as the head coach.  He currently touts a record of 72-59 including a perfect 6-0 record on this season midway through the schedule.  He was named American Football Coaches Association Region 1 Coach of the Year in 2017 after finishing the season ranked 15th in the nation.  Babers has nearly 40 years of experience.  Before Syracuse Babers was the head coach at Bowling Green and Eastern Illinois before that.  He’s also had coaching stints as an assistant at:  Baylor, UCLA, Texas A&M, Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Purdue, Northern Arizona, and UNLV.

Syracuse currently sits at 6-0 on the season with victories over: Louisville (31-7), UConn (48-14). Purdue (32-29), Virginia (22-20), Wagner (59-0) and NC State (24-9).


Offensive Coordinator Robert Anae enters his first season in Western New York after leading Virginia previously which ranked third in FBS a season ago in total offense.  Like Babers, Anae has also been in coaching for a long time.  33 years to be exact.  From the Syracuse Orange website,  Anae’s offenses throughout his career “has finished in the top-25 of 10 different NCAA offensive statistical categories a total of 56 times in his 15-year tenure as an OC, including 21 top-10 rankings.”

Here is a look at the projected starters on Offense:

QB: Garrett Shrader – Jr. – 69.7% passing; 1434 yds., 12 TDs, 3 Ints; 384 yds rushing 5 TDs

RB: Sean Tucker – So. – 124 att., 661 yds, 6 TDs; 23 rec. 207 yds, 1 TD

TE: Oronde Gadsden II – So. – 31 catches, 507 yds, 5 TDs

WR: Damien Alford – So. – 5 catches, 116 yds, 1 TD

WR: Courtney Jackson – So. – 12 catches, 168 yds, 1 TD

WR: Devaughn Cooper – Sr. – 16 catches, 207 yds, 1 TD

LT: Matthew Bergeron – Jr.

LG: Kalan Ellis – So.

Center: Carlos Vettorello – Jr.

RG: Chris Bleich – Jr.

RT: Dakota Davis – Sr.

Quarterback Garrett Shrader is probably the biggest surprise in the ACC this season.  He’s led his offense to an unblemished record through six contests and statistically, has been accurate with the football, at nearly 70% passing.  A big, strong signal caller who also has good speed to pull it down and run the ball.  The one knock on the Syracuse QB is that he focuses a lot on one receiver.  He’s a less-athletic Jordan Travis from FSU, but can still cause fits for opponents defenses.

Arguably the best running back Clemson will see on the season is Syracuse’s sophomore sensation Sean TuckerLeQuint Allen will spell Tucker at times, but the rushing attack for the Orange is Tucker and Shrader, and more Tucker than Shrader.  But truly, all you need to know is Sean Tucker.  He’s adept at hitting the holes that are and aren’t there and has an NFL-caliber cut-back to make his own holes.  He’s a dynamic running back that Clemson is going to need to curtail.

Full disclosure: I am no film expert, however I have watched the better parts of 3 of the Syracuse games and it feels like Oronde Gadsden II is the main target for the Orange.  He is a match-up problem at 6’5” 216lbs, as he is listed as a TE, however he will be seen lined up all over the field.  About the only thing he doesn’t do is run the football, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Robert Anae gets his dynamic playmaker involved in some trickery.  Gadsden also has twice as many catches and three-times as many targets as the next receiver on the roster.

Clemson needs to watch Tucker out of the backfield on screens, and wheel-routes, as Anae really utilizes his three top players in his play calls (Shrader, Tucker and Gadsden).  Devaughn Cooper and Damien Alford are also threats for the deep WR room, albeit lesser touches than the previously mentioned trio.

The offensive line is extremely physical and may be the best line that Clemson will face this season.  The entire unit was named to the Joe Moore Award Mid-Season Honor roll this week.  Like Clemson, there has been continuity along the line for the Orange.  Led by Redshirt Senior Dakota Davis at Right Tackle, but also have extremely talented linemen across the board.  Junior RG Chris Bleich, Redshirt Junior Center Carlos Vettorello, Junior Left Tackle Matthew Bergeron and Sophomore Left Guard Kalan Ellis round out the very physical offensive line.

The offense has scored 216 over 6 games for an average of 36 points per game.  Syracuse has gained 2,597 total offensive yards on the season with 1,131 coming on the ground and 1,466 through the air; for averages of 188.5 rushing and 244.3 passing for a total of 432.8 yards of total offense


Onto the defensive side of the ball: Defensive Coordinator Tony White is in his 3rd year in charge of the Syracuse defense.  Working his way through the coaching ranks, he’s been at UCLA, New Mexico, San Diego State and Arizona State before trading warm weather for the bitter cold of upstate New York.  White employs a 3-3-5 defense, much like NC State and Iowa State do, for reference from previous Clemson opponents.

Here is a look at the projected starters for the defense:

DE: Steve Linton – So. – 12 tackles; 4.5 TFLs; 2.5 Sacks

DT: Kevon Darton – So. – 22 tackles

DE: Caleb Okechukwu – Jr. – 12 tackles; 4.5 TFLs; 3.5 Sacks

LB: Derek McDonald – Fr. – 19 tackles; 1 Int

LB: Mikel Jones – Jr. – 42 tackles; 5 TFLs; 3 Sacks

LB: Marlowe Wax – So. – 38 tackles; 5.5 TFLs; 2.5 Sacks

CB: Garrett Williams – So. – 32 tackles; 1.5 TFLs; 1 Sack; 2 Ints

BS: Ja’Had Carter – So. – 12 tackles; .5 TFLs

ROV: Justin Barron – So. – 20 tackles; 1 TFL

FS: Alijah Card – So. – 20 tackles

CB: Duce Chestnut – So. – 18 tackles; 1 TFL; 1 Int

The one thing that completely jumps off the page when just looking at the statistics for this Syracuse defense is 40 tackles for loss for 172 yards through 6 games, or an average of 6.6 TFLs a game.  Their front 3 do a great job at eating up the opponents offensive lines to allow their linebackers and safeties to make plays.  This is a very active defensive unit, as they are known to mix coverages to lure quarterbacks into making mistakes.

The defense line may look a little undersized, but they are a load.  Undersized, meaning in weight, not height as they’re 6’5” at each of the end positions.  Defensive tackle Kevon Darton is a svelt 265 lbs. playing in the middle. Caleb Okechukwu is a name (if the announcers can pronounce it) that you will hear a bunch this Saturday.

Mikel Jones is the best player on the defense.  The Junior middle-linebacker leads the team in tackles and may be the best pure linebacker that Clemson sees.  He’s a tough player, and one to watch Saturday afternoon.

On the back end, Duce Chestnut was outspoken in the media during the week and is a very good cover corner.  Rover Justin Barron is the leader on the back end and is in on a lot of plays.  DJ Uiagalelei is going to have to know where #23 is on the field at all times.

Syracuse has 9 takeaways on the season with 5 interceptions and 4 fumble recoveries.  Opponents have 3 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries against the Orange.  Syracuse is a +4 in the turnover margin on the season.

Syracuse defensively has yielded 79 points per game for an average of 13.7 points per game.  They’ve allowed 736 yards on the ground for an average of 95 yards per game and 1,043 yards through the air for an average of 173.8.  Total defense average yards given up is 268.8.

Here are the projected starters on Special Teams:

Punter: Max von Marburg – Fr. – 41.9 yard avg.

Place Kicker: Andre Szmyt – Sr. – 11-12; long of 50 yds.

Punt Returner: Trebor Pena – So. – 7 yd avg.

Kick Returner: Trebor Pena – So. – 27.6 yd avg.

Clemson football takes on the surprise team of the ACC, the undefeated Syracuse Orange

Syracuse has been the surprise team of the ACC.  They opened with a surprising blow-out victory against Louisville and has taken that momentum forward to their next five games.  The knock on ‘Cuse is that they’ve only played one road game so far (UConn), but this is a very good football team.

I’ve been heard saying about Syracuse that: “they are a better Florida State with lesser athletes that are better coached that play really well together and as a unit,” and I believe that.  This is a very good team that should definitely not be taken lightly in Death Valley.  They have given the Tigers fits in the past, and have the pieces to do so again.  However…

879. Prediction. 17. 827. 35

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