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Syracuse Football Looks to Start Season Strong; Play Ohio for First Time in 100 years

SU's Rob Hanna (middle) celebrates his first career interception with teammates Neil Nunn (left) and Mikel Jones (right).

Syracuse Football travels to Ohio aiming to get off on the right foot. WAER's Jackson Holzer previews the season opening matchup.

Rejoice Syracuse football fans; the 2021 season is officially upon us. After a forgettable 1-10 finish a year ago, the Orange are attempting to rewrite the ship. First up is Ohio University - a team that SU isn’t all too familiar with. Both teams possess a potent rushing attack making the opener a battle of muscle.

The Syracuse offense will most likely try and beat the Ohio defense by using its quartet of talented running backs. In three games last year, the Bobcats allowed 193.7 yards/game on the ground. That’s perfect for Sean Tucker and Cooper Lutz, who are ready to build upon the flashes of promise they showed in 2020. Projected starters from last season, Jarveon Howard and Abdul Adams, are also in the fold after sitting out last season due to Covid.

Ohio University, under Head Coach Frank Solich, has been a power in the MAC Conference over the last 16 years. The Bobcats have won four MAC East titles and have qualified for 11 bowl games with Solich at the helm. Last season, Ohio didn’t do much of anything. The Bobcats only played in three total games, finishing 2-1, before its season was canceled due to the pandemic.

However, in the matchups Ohio did play, running back De’Montre Tuggle (no relation to Jesse Tuggle) led the charge. In 2020, Tuggle ran for 403 yards averaging an absurd 7.6 yards/carry, leading to a second team All-MAC appearance. Think that was a fluke? In 2019, the redshirt fifth year carried the ball 101 times for 644 yards - 6.4 yards/carry. Which leads to the first key of the opener: Tuggle vs. the Syracuse linebackers.

“They remind me of old Nebraska without the option. Their running back is a North and South downhill runner that puts his foot in the ground and he carries people,” Head Coach Dino Babers said.

The linebackers for the Orange are manned by Mikel Jones (Junior), Geoff Cantin-Akru (Junior) and Stefon Thompson (Sophomore). Jones is easily the star of the trio and he may just be the heart and soul of the defense. Last season the Junior led the FBS in takeaways (8) and led Syracuse in tackles (69).

Linebacker Mikel Jones (13) celebrating an interception against Pittsburgh. Jones was an All-ACC Honorable Mention last season.

Updated Vegas odds are giving Syracuse tied for the lowest odds of winning the ACC. The ‘Cuse is also projected to finish last in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, according to

Arguably the most important position in all of sports is quarterback and it looks as though the DeVito vs. Shredder has come to an end, momentarily. Tommy DeVito will command the SU offense this week. Syracuse fans know about DeVito all too well. In 2019, the Redshirt Junior showed glimpses of brilliance, throwing for 19 touchdowns to five interceptions. But in 2020, he regressed mightily. In the four games he started prior to the injury, the Redshirt Junior threw for only 148.3 passing yards/game with just a 50% completion percentage.

Head Coach Dino Babers stuck with DeVito last season despite the inconsistent play. This time around, it appears as though Babers will have a much shorter leash for his opening day signal caller given the backup is now Garrett Sharader. The transfer left Mississippi State this offseason, looking for a fresh start after losing the starting job to K.J. Costello last year.

“I think that both of them have something that they’re better at than the other guy… we’re out there to win games - it’s not intramurals - the guy that’s playing really well is going to be the guy that plays,” said Head Coach Dino Babers.

Every season is different. Every team starts 0-0. Being completely honest, Syracuse probably can’t be any worse this year as opposed to last. Thus is the beauty of the opener, every team has reason for hope. So what if Vegas has the Orange with the lowest odds to win the ACC. Football games aren’t won on paper. It’s time to prove the pundits wrong, and it starts with a visit to Ohio.

Syracuse football is traveling to Ohio this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in its season opener. Be sure to tune into a special, one-hour long Countdown to Kickoff at 6:00 p.m. on the Original Home of the Orange, WAER.