Top 10 returning players at Syracuse feature RB Sean “Track Speed” Tucker

The Syracuse Orange are led by their RB Sean Tucker as he headlines the group of top 10 returning players ahead of the 2022 season.

In what should be considered a make-or-break year for head coach Dino Babers, the top 10 returning players at Syracuse are loaded with talent. On both sides of the ball, the Orange feature players who should vie for All-ACC mentions and maybe even All-American honors when the season is finished. Headlined by their running back Sean Tucker, Syracuse could make some noise in the ACC and college football this season.

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Top 10 returning players at Syracuse

We’re counting down all the top 10 players returning to action on every team — we’ll deal with transfers later — from Air Force to Wyoming, from Miami to Hawaii, and all in between. Here are the top returning players to Syracuse.

10) Dakota Davis, G

The long-standing right guard for the Orange, Dakota Davis enters his fourth year as the starter on the inside. He’s a big man who has been on campus since the 2017 season. It’s safe to say he understands the offense and gives Syracuse clean pockets and wide-open rushing lanes when he’s on his game. Davis was the first-ever Syracuse player to earn ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week when he did so back in 2019.

9) Jason Simmons, CB

The Orange weren’t quite known for their takeaways last season, and the only other defensive back to record an interception was Jason Simmons. Taking to Syracuse’s scheme quickly, Simmons picked things up in his first year with the program after transferring from New Mexico State. He’s got sound coverage ability from the box as he can cover any number of pass-catching options. He’ll once again be counted on to make waves as he’ll likely be heavily targeted given their strength at outside cornerback in 2022.

8) Matthew Bergeron, OT

Matthew Bergeron brings with him a 28-game starting streak into the 2022 season. Bergeron is a big man with fantastic reach in both pass protection and run blocking. He excels at right tackle when he’s allowed to move across the formation on run plays but also showcased an ability to find defenders to block at the second and third level on screens as well. He’s a talented blocker in both facets and clearly the best on the offensive line.

7) Garrett Shrader, QB

Though Garrett Shrader wasn’t quite considered the downfield passer that Tommy DeVito was early on in his Syracuse career, it could be said that Shrader gives this Syracuse offense a much better chance to find their top playmaker (Sean Tucker) with Shrader’s ability to run the ball. Shrader essentially acts as a second ball carrier who can make all the throws and opens up rushing lanes for Tucker. Yet, Shrader displayed an ability to throw the ball downfield last year and should be considered one of the top dual-threats in the conference.

6) Marlowe Wax, LB

Bringing down ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage is an art. Marlowe Wax was a master artist in such a feat, ripping his way through for nine tackles for loss in 2021 and 5.5 back in 2020. Wax plays off the edge brilliantly, rushing the passer with terrific skill and pushing ball carriers back inside all the same. He’s a sure tackler like the rest of the linebackers on the roster and should be a name to watch when he does rush the passer due to his experience bringing down the opposing quarterback.

5) Stefon Thompson, LB

A common theme among Syracuse linebackers is just how talented they are at the point of contact. Stefon Thompson, like his teammates, excels at bringing down ball carriers. Whether it was in coverage or on the ground, no one got by Thompson. He was a stalwart in run defense, stymying rushing lanes on the outside with ease. Thompson was also sound in coverage when he was asked to drop back. But his best attribute certainly was when he rushed the passer as he got home with six sacks and two more tackles for loss.

4) Darian Chestnut, CB

Leading the team with three interceptions last year, Darian Chestnut stepped up his game after opposing offenses stopped targeting Garrett Willams. After a stellar freshman season, Chestnut finished second in the ACC’s race for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He started all 12 games and made eight more pass breakups to boot. Chestnut is special with the ball in his hands, so you better believe offenses are going to have to find other areas to throw to in 2022.

3) Mikel Jones, LB

Instead of entering the 2022 NFL Draft, Mikel Jones returns to once again lead the Orange defense. Jones is quite literally one of the best tacklers in the nation and led the ACC’s regular season in both total and solo tackles. What separates Jones from the rest of the country’s linebackers, however, is the fact that he excels everywhere on the field. If he blitzes, he gets home with pressure. If he covers a tight end or running back, that pass catcher goes nowhere. And if he sees a rushing lane, it’s squeezed off and shut down.

2) Garrett Williams, CB

With high 2023 NFL Draft aspirations, Garrett Williams is back to showcase once again why most in the scouting community think so highly of him. He recorded 10 pass breakups a season ago after breaking up 12 in 2021. Both of those figures led the ACC in consecutive years as he’s a ball hawk who doesn’t allow much in his coverage. He plays with great speed and a terrific burst to the football, but his instincts and sticky cover ability are what jump out about Williams’ game.

1) Sean Tucker, RB

Sean “Track Speed” Tucker returns as arguably the conference’s best running back. In what could only be described as a historic start to his career, Tucker set the Syracuse single-season rushing record at 1,496 yards and already ranks 20th on the program’s all-time rushing list. Considering this is a historic program with names like Jim Brown, Joe Morris, Delone Carter, Larry Csonka, Floyd Little, Dee Brown, and many others ahead of him, Tucker’s place on this list speaks volumes to why he’s not only one of the best returning in the ACC but across the country.

Honorable mention players returning to Syracuse in 2022

  • Courtney Jackson, WR
  • Damien Alford, WR
  • Christopher Bleich, G
  • Carlos Vettorello, OT
  • Justin Barron, S
  • Ja’Had Carter, S

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and follow him on Twitter: @CamMellor.

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