Blum: Syracuse’s use of freshmen against URI lacked long-term vision

first_img Published on September 10, 2015 at 10:45 pm Tyrone Perkins ran to his left after quarterback Austin Wilson took the snap, collected the hand off and sprinted 5 yards through the middle of Rhode Island’s paltry defense.It was the first play for Perkins in his SU career. A meaningless, fourth-quarter rush that’s main purpose was to kill clock at the tail end of a 47-0 win.Syracuse played 15 freshmen — 56 percent of the total class — in its season-opening win, tied for the third most of any Division I team. In head coach Scott Shafer’s first two years as head coach, the Orange has used just 10 percent and 32 percent of its redshirts in the season’s first game, respectively.If even some goes to plan for Syracuse, Perkins might not see the field again in 2015, and almost certainly never for a meaningful snap. Neither will Kenterius Womack — a QB-turned-wide receiver — who didn’t touch the ball, but played on Friday. And neither will safety Daivon Ellison or defensive tackle Anthony Giudice.The focus in personnel usage comes with a difference in Syracuse’s priority. It’s a win-now mentality for a young Orange team that has its potential offensive and defensive stars nearly all coming up at the same time.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIt’s a mindset based in long-term reasoning, but lacks long-term logic.“Here’s the bottom line. If that guy ends up being a starter next year, I don’t want his very first snap to be when he’s a starter,” offensive coordinator Tim Lester said, speaking generally. “You’re just trying to get guys ready to go as quickly as possible.”Lester and the coaching staff want their players to be ready when the bell rings for meaningful snaps. But it’s a catch-22. Using the athletes they see as part of their future, also, in a way, limits their future.Shafer acknowledged on Thursday that he couldn’t really see any of the true freshmen that weren’t on the two-deep depth chart playing a sizable role for Syracuse this season. So why, then, use a full year of eligibility on them now, when they won’t play an impactful role?Though it potentially limits the depth of the roster in the short-term, redshirting will give athletes the chance to have more important snaps in their fifth year on the team.“A lot of people take it as ‘Man, I’m not good enough,’ said true freshman Jacob Hill, who played on Friday. “You’re young and you’re inexperienced. But mental reps is just as good as physical reps.”Of course it makes sense to put Eric Dungey in the game. He’s the new starting quarterback. Jordan Fredericks appears ready to contribute as a running back. Even Matt Keller is on scholarship to be the long snapper from day 1.When Shafer justifies his use of freshmen with a win-now mindset, it should be in the context of those that can contribute. Lester said that the coaching staff would have no regrets with their process, even if a player like Womack doesn’t step on the field the rest of 2015.Syracuse is a team invested in its young talent. Eighteen players on the two-deep depth chart are in their first or second year. With youth, of course, comes uncertainty. And the promotion of a meritocracy, one where unproven talent continues to push each other, is sensible.But at the risk of potentially erasing a player’s best year — SU has four redshirt seniors slated to start on Saturday — limits what the player can bring to the table in a long-term sense. Of SU’s two-deep, 54 percent of them have redshirted a season. The benefit of patience is sprinkled throughout the roster.“Well we’re just trying to win right here and right now,” Shafer said. “And that’s our focus. And regardless of what year a young man’s in, we’ll play the best players that have been the right to be on the field.“It’s really just as simple as that.”Sam Blum is the sports editor at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @SamBlum3. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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