This morning, Dino Babers addressed the media and noted that the first depth chart of the 2016 season should be released soon. As in, it could drop momentarily, before I even finish writing this sentence. I really hope that doesn’t happen, because it’ll completely negate today’s exercise: predicting the starting lineup!
There are obviously some givens with this year’s starters. We know Steve Ishmael will start at one outside receiver spot, and we know that Zaire Franklin will be the team’s starting middle linebacker. But what about the rest of the defense? How will the offensive line shake out?
Obviously, things can change at a moment’s notice. Injuries happen regularly, and how you play in practice doesn’t always reflect how you play on the field (see: Sales, Marcus). But without further hesitation, because lord knows that depth chart is chugging straight toward us and I desperately want to get this published before it hits, here we go!
This one is pretty obvious, though not by as wide a margin as you’d think. Eric Dungey will be QB1, but the gap between he and Zack Mahoney is narrower than most realize.
This morning, Dino Babers said that Dontae Strickland is one of his top two runningbacks. He said the other top spot is up for grabs, though. This would indicate pretty strongly that Strickland, who emerged in the spring atop the depth chart, has solidified his position there, and the RB2 spot is a battle between Jordan Fredericks and Moe Neal.
Steve Ishmael is about the biggest “no-brainer” prediction on this entire team. It’s the other outside receiver spot that’s up for grabs. Amba Etta-Tawo, Alvin Cornelius, Devin Butler, Kenterius Womack, and Jamal Custis are all battling for the second starting spot. Right now, though, I’m going to predict it’ll be Etta-Tawo, the grad transfer from Maryland. He’s got a ton of speed, and can really stretch the field.
Okay, so these are pretty obvious as well. Ervin Philips and Brisly Estime will be the offense’s two starters at slot receiver. The real fun will be figuring out who gets the reps behind them. Sean Riley has reportedly looked very good, but at 5-foot-8 and about 150 pounds, is he physically ready to play this season?
I’m not sure how much of an impact the tight end position will have this year, so predicting the starter here proves a pretty difficult job. Things will no doubt change from situation to situation, as certain tight ends on the roster are better at catching, while others excel at blocking. That said, Josh Parris is probably the best all-around TE on the roster, and is also the most experienced. He’s my pick there.
On paper, things would appear to be pretty straightforward on the offensive line. Obviously, Jason Emerich is going to be the starter at center. Omari Palmer will start at one of the guard spots. But after that, things get a little bit murkier. Aaron Roberts will likely join Palmer as a starting guard, though we were saying the same last season. However, the word I’ve gotten is that the coaching staff has been very high on the athleticism and natural ability of Roberts since they got to campus. To paraphrase a part of a conversation I had, the coaches were pretty stunned that he was buried on the bench last season when they got a look at him in person.
At the tackle spots, things could go a couple different ways. I think that, eventually, Cody Conway will emerge as the left tackle of the future for SU. But how quickly will that happen? Will the sophomore supplant Michael Lasker this season? I’m going to predict that, at least to start the year, Lasker will get the nod. Over on the right side of the line, Evan Adams is another guy who I know the coaches are high on, but right now I’m going to predict we’ll see Jamar McGloster’s name atop the depth chart.
Yes, I know that’s 12 guys. Now, let’s switch over to defense…
This is where we may see some surprises. It’s pretty clear that there are three true standouts on the defensive line in Chris Slayton, Kayton Samuels, and Steven Clark. I’m predicting all three will start, with Slayton playing defensive end this season. After all, Slayton was a DE coming out of high school. Samuels and Clark are pretty much no-brainers at DT with Slayton on the edge, so now, all we need to do is fill out that final starting DE spot.
I think it’s going to be Kendall Coleman. Yes, Jake Pickard has been in the system longer, but he’s also been hampered by what appears to be knee issues, and remember, he’s got just as much game experience as Coleman. De’Jon Wilson could emerge after transferring in from Colorado, but all indications right now are that when the 2-deep is released, one of the starters at DE will be Kendall Coleman.
Zaire Franklin is the obvious starter at the MIKE position. The rest of the starters would appear to be pretty cut and dry as well (for now), with Jonathan Thomas the favorite to start at the SAM position, and Parris Bennett in line to start at WILL. Obviously, there have been injury issues for all of these guys in the past. The second string will be just as essential as the starters here, so that’s where the really intriguing battles are at these positions. Keep an eye on Troy Henderson and Shy Cullen.
This one really isn’t too hard to figure out, either. In fact, if you go back and look at the post-spring depth chart, you’ll see the first string secondary with Antwan Cordy and Kielan Whitner at the safety positions, and Corey Winfield and Cordell Hudson as the corners. Frankly, I fully expect that to remain the starting secondary as we head into the Colgate game.
In other words, folks, with the exception of the defensive line, I don’t really think you’ll see much of a change from the post-spring depth chart anywhere on the team. Geez. In retrospect, this was pretty easy. Now let’s just wait and see if Dino drops any big surprises when the actual week one depth chart is released.