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Syracuse Football: 5 under-the-radar critical players for success in 2023

Syracuse football (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse football (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports) /

Earlier this week, I wrote about five pivotal keys to success for Syracuse football in 2023. And it made me think, what about the players?

I mean, let’s face it, I could write about Garrett Shrader, Oronde Gadsden II, Marlowe Wax Jr., LeQuint Allen Jr. and Justin Barron, and most fans would either say “we knew that already” or just agree they’re worthy. But what about five players who might be getting some recognition here and there but truly could be just as vital if this team is looking for success in 2023?

So here are my five SU players who I think are just as likely to be as important at times but maybe not recognized as much.

Five additional pivotal players for Syracuse football success this season.

Caleb Okechukwu

The Mob is coming into 2023 to make some noise and while Marlowe is getting a lot of love, Caleb will be the anchor on the line. He’s a fan favorite for a reason and that reason is his drive and desire to excel.

He’s not on any lists but he’s a leader on social media and on the field. And he’s not letting those omissions determine his fate and trust me when I tell you that if there’s a guy on this roster who when faced with adversity will kick butt, it’s Caleb.

Trebor Pena

Trebor is likely out for game 1 with an owie but when asked about it in his press conference, Head Coach Dino Babers expects him to be back very soon. And Trebor is a reliable player at two positions and even Bruce Feldman thinks he’s a freak.

Trebor if healthy is a core player not just as a receiver but on special teams as well. Trebor has been consistently good only getting better as he gets experienced and I love watching him play. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes with his decision-making and will be a guy fans will talk about before this season is over.

J’Onre Reed

Nicknamed “The Big General,” J’Onre is the starting center for your Syracuse football Orange. He is a JUCO transfer who came to Syracuse because he believes they have a chance to win the ACC championship (and so do I).

When asked in the preseason if Coach Babers used that nickname to refer to him, Coach said he’d have to earn it to him. And at least week 1, it looks like the man snapping the ball and “centering” one of the most pivotal positions for success, the offensive line, I think Coach Babers might be more open to it and I might be too. If he and the line can get Garrett Shrader time to pass and LeQuint Allen Jr. (and the other backs too) room to run, that ACC championship might not be as far out of reach as many think.

Jack Stonehouse

Syracuse football has a vast history of punters and kickers who can excel and play in the NFL and Jack Stonehouse is no exception. He is a transfer from Missouri who is the son of an NFL punter and a UCLA women’s soccer player.

Those family attributes aside, the Syracuse Spider-Man can kick. Instead of shooting webs, this guy punts fingers. Last year with his feet, he had 9 punts of over 50 yards with his longest going 68. He also landed 15 punts inside the 20 and only had 4 touchbacks. If he can at least duplicate that level of play, I see another reason we will see this 2023 team put the SU in success. With great power, comes great responsibility.

Donovan Brown

When Donovan first committed to play for Syracuse University, I was so excited and wrote about why here. He had so much speed he was a Maryland State champion in various distant running events and I loved his passion to want to play here.

With Trebor Pena out due to an “owie” and his hard work, Brown is listed on the depth chart against Colgate. This is his chance to prove he can contribute and I think he will and with his speed, he’s a deep threat to beat his defender.

Will he take advantage of this opportunity and be that second receiver Coach Dino Babers is looking for? I hope so especially since he’s a redshirt freshman who has more years of eligibility to contribute as well.

Next. Syracuse Football: We no longer have to wait, SU starts 2023 vs. Colgate. dark