‘Cuse Countdown 2018 Football Preview: Out with the Old, In with the New

(AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)
Wednesday, Aug 29, 2018 at 3:36 pm by Sports Editor

This article is the third in a four part series previewing the Syracuse football team.

Click here to read the preview of the offense.

Click here to read the preview of the defense.

Next up in ‘Cuse Countdown’s preview of Syracuse football, analysts Mike Adzima and Corey Spector take a look back at 2017 and the players whose departures will have the biggest impact on the 2018 season. Then they look at this years roster, and the new faces who could define the season.

Key Departures

LB Zaire Franklin

In 2017, Syracuse ranked last in the ACC in total points allowed and points allowed per game, giving up an average of 32.2. Now this season, the Orange will be without the heart of its defense, LB Zaire Franklin. Franklin held a role as captain for three seasons with Syracuse, and finished 2017 with 85 total tackles, the second most on the team. A 7th round draft pick by Indianapolis, Franklin averaged over 77 tackles a year. His tenacity and leadership at the middle linebacker position was the driving force of an Orange defense that needs as much help as it can get, but losing Franklin could mean more defensive woes are on the way.

LB Paris Bennett

Another big loss for the Syracuse defense also comes at the linebacker position. Paris Bennett started three seasons with the Orange, and led the team in tackles in both 2016 and 2017. In 2016, Bennett and Franklin both tallied over 100 tackles, so losing this duo could be a major blow to an already shaky defense. As a forceful downhill presence in the front seven, losing Bennett along with Franklin means it could take a while for the Orange defense to find a new identity.

WR Steve Ishmael

All-time team leader in receiving yards, second most all-time catches, and second most 100 yard receiving games. These are just some of the accolades Steve Ishmael racked up during his four year tenure at Syracuse, etching his name into the program record books. Ishmael’s impact was most felt this past year after being a nice secondary option in his early years in Orange. Now, Dino Babers will have to adjust to his first season without the 2017 USA Today second-team All-American. Ishmael’s great senior year came after the groundbreaking season by transfer Amba Etta-Tawo, but SU may not have a single player who can come in and replace their leading receiver like they did in 2017.  Devin Butler and Jamal Custis are two names to look for as big receivers who can try and make up for the production lost by the graduation of Ishmael.

Key Additions

OT Koda Martin

Dino Babers has continuously wavered as to the extent he wants Eric Dungey’s legs to be a primary focus of his offense, especially thanks to the number of injury issues the quarterback has faced throughout his career. Regardless, in order for No. 2 to remain upright, the senior needs protection from the opposition’s defensive ends at all times. Insert Koda Martin: a graduate transfer from Texas A&M, who has the framework of an NFL franchise tackle. The 6-foot-6, 304-pound Manvel, TX native is mobile for his size and his ability to pick up both corner blitzes and stunts between the DE and DT is impressive. Martin’s conditioning and strength are features of his game to watch. Babers and his staff often utilized bubble screens in 2017 to alleviate the exhaustion of his offensive line while going no-huddle. This season, Babers can call more deep shots, even while going up-tempo, should Martin prove to be a stalwart on the edge of the line. Let’s adopt a “wait and see” approach with Martin’s game; the transfer played left tackle at A&M, but will be tasked with switching to right tackle for the Orange. He has impressed so far in the preseason, drawing praise from coaches and teammates alike.  Now we await and see if that production will continue once the games start to count.

S Andre Cisco

The 6-foot, 199-pound newbee arrives to the Carrier Dome a proven winner, a member of the 2017 8-0 IMG Academy (Florida) squad, the No. 2 ranked high school team in the country. Andre Cisco located the bench press on campus quickly, adding about 13 pounds since arriving in Central New York. Cisco chose Syracuse ahead of Big 10 schools like Illinois and Nebraska. Cisco’s track record of success in the past could lead him on a fast track to a major role in the SU defense.  While he is listed behind Antwan Cordy at free safety to begin the season, Cordy spent a good portion of the preseason working on his skills as a nickelback, which would give Cisco a big role in the back of the secondary.

P/K Sterling Hofrichter

This isn’t necessarily an addition but a huge position shift for the Orange.  Hofrichter, one of SU’s most consistent players last season, was instrumental in changing field position before Brian Ward’s defense stepped onto the field. The redshirt junior launched ten punts of over 50 yards last season, showing that he has plenty of leg strength. This is key because now Hofrichter is on double duty, taking over as the place kicker for Cole Murphy, who graduated last year. Hofrichter has big shoes to fill.  Murphy is Cuse’s all-time field goals-made leader and was a member of last season’s all-ACC Third Team. Circle two games on the schedule: at Pittsburgh and vs. Notre Dame. Launching the ball through the uprights at Heinz Field on a windy October day or during a nationally televised game at Yankee Stadium in November are difficult tasks to ask a first-year collegiate kicker to complete. A kick here and there may make the difference between sitting on the couch and tanning on the tropical Florida beaches in late December.