Monday Musings: Syracuse Must Use Clemson Performance as Stepping Stone

Michael McAllister

1. One more look at Syracuse's defense against Clemson. We know they had a much stronger performance against the run, but it is important to note their efforts against Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence had his lowest completion percentage of the season, threw for the second fewest yards, had just his second interception this year and his first career pick six. Lawrence is a special talent, as evidenced by the fact that 62% completion with 289. yards and two touchdowns is a "down" performance for him. Still, Syracuse did as good of a job as anyone against the Tigers so far. Syracuse held Clemson below their season average in just about every category. They will need that kind of effort each week for the rest of the season.

2. Yes Syracuse gave a valiant effort at Clemson. Yes they were the first team to be within single digits of Clemson in the second half this season. Yes the performance should give them confidence moving forward. However, they cannot allow it to be a flash in the pan. Doing so would render the strong performance meaningless. Syracuse is still without a lot of key contributors, but the effort against Clemson shows they can be competitive despite that. That makes this game against Wake Forest important. A lackluster performance where Syracuse loses by three or four scores will undo any positivity from the Clemson game. A win against the Demon Deacons would go a long way towards making the Clemson performance a stepping stone towards turning things around rather than an exception to the rule. 

3. One of the ways Syracuse can continue to be competitive is keeping some of its best remaining players healthy. One went down against Clemson, and we do not know his status for this week. That would be running back Sean Tucker. When he was in the game, Syracuse's offense had balance. It kept the Clemson defense guessing. It allowed them to use the run to set up the pass. When he left the game, the offense became much more predictable with an ineffective rushing attack. Tucker is as important a player as there is for Syracuse, and the Orange needs to have him against Wake Forest. There are still things they can do offensively to continue to improve with or without Tucker. Such as looking towards the tight ends more, being creative with reverses, screens, combination routes, etc., and taking shots downfield when situations warrant. But there is no question it is much easier with Tucker in the backfield.

4. One of Syracuse's top remaining 2021 targets is cornerback Will Wells. Syracuse has been one of his top contenders for quite a while. However, it sounds like he will not be deciding anytime soon. Wells is looking like he will wait until after his senior season to make a decision. It will be interesting to see if Syracuse continues to pursue given that likelihood. Syracuse has two defensive backs committed this cycle already, so it is possible they stand pat with those two. 

5. A basketball recruiting note. Class of 2022 wing Justin Taylor has emerged as one of the Orange's top targets in the class. Syracuse loves his size, versatile offensive game and potential in the 2-3 zone. Their top competition for his services appear to be Indiana and Virginia Tech. We will have more on him this week.