Syracuse Football Fall Camp Day 1: Receivers adjust to new offense; transfer QB sees representatives on the goal line

Syracuse, NY — There’s been a spotlight this preseason on how Syracuse football quarterbacks and running back Sean Tucker are adjusting to Robert Anae’s offensive scheme.

But there’s another equally important group that also needs to learn the new playbook — wide receivers.

“I think they’re still learning,” SU head coach Dino Babers said on the first day of fall camp. “They give really good effort. They looked good today in training. We had a lot to do. …As a group, these guys are doing really, really well.

Redshirt main receiver Devaughn Cooper said the biggest transition was learning the new terminology and signals employed by Anae and quarterbacks coach Jason Beck. The staff chose to implement the new scheme in phases so that it would be easier for players to adjust to it.

“The coaches arrived and worked with us slowly. Everything has been simplified,” Cooper said. “I think the receivers get it all, and I think they’re adjusting pretty well.”

While 2022 will only be Cooper’s second year at Syracuse, he is a seventh-year college football player. Cooper chose Arizona over Syracuse out of high school, working his way through the receiving rotation as a rookie before an injury forced him to wear a red shirt.

He spent two more seasons with the Wildcats before transferring to the University of Texas-El Paso, where he donned a redshirt in 2019 and played in all eight games in 2020. Cooper transferred to Syracuse just at time for fall camp 2021.

Cooper is in his seventh year of college, an exceptional amount of time made possible not only by his two years of redshirt but also by the extra year of player eligibility given due to Covid-19. Cooper took a moment to wonder if he knew any peers who had been in the game as long as he had been.

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“I know people who have been playing for a long time, but I’m not sure,” he said. “I may be the only one.”

Experience, however, is useful, especially when implementing a new offense. Similar to starting quarterback Garrett Shrader, who played under four offensive coordinators in as many years, Cooper also worked under several different coaches during his career.

“I’ve been in the game. I know what it takes and how it is,” Cooper said. “I’m able to tell some of the younger guys what to expect or what’s going to happen. That’s really it. Just an experience since I’ve been there before.

Syracuse is firing its top three receivers this season — Courtney Jackson, Damien Alford and Cooper — but also has a number of young receivers who should feature more prominently this season. Cooper said none have yet stood out from the rest of the group, but all are making progress.

QB Carlos Del Rio-Wilson, transferred to Florida, takes shots on the goal line

While the Syracuse quarterback’s room rotated reps in most Day 1 drills, new transfer Carlos Del Rio-Wilson was the only one to participate in the goal-line drill in addition to Shrader.

He was forced to rush on his first plays but then found the end zone.

Babers said letting Rio-Wilson take a few shots in the exercise gave him the opportunity to assess him more and allowed him to get some quality reps with the team. The redshirt freshman transferred from Florida to Syracuse in May. Wednesday was his first official training with the Orange.

Most quarterbacks competing to support Shrader have only had limited time with the team. However, they have already made a good impression on more established teammates like offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron.

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“I think they’re just adult players,” Bergeron said. “I’m comfortable with Shrader based on last season and all that, but the young guys are going to step in and we’ll see what happens.”

Michigan transfer Dan Villari, redshirt rookie JaCobian Morgan and redshirt rookie Luke McPhail are the other QBs vying alongside Rio-Wilson to earn second place.

As for what Babers and the rest of the staff are looking for in a backup quarterback, the answer is simple.

“Well, someone who will move the chains,” Babers said. “Someone who is going to be consistent. Someone you can count on.”

injury report

Outside of quarterback Justin Lamson, who Babers confirmed will be out for the season on Tuesday, most of Syracuse’s roster was healthy heading into fall camp.

Babers said receiver Isaiah Jones left practice with an injury, but did not provide further details, saying he had not heard from medical staff.

Jones played four games last year before going redshirt, but was expected to be one of the receivers to step up more in 2022.

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