College football: Syracuse's Lamson happy to be back on field after injury sidelined season

·4 min read

Mar. 21—SYRACUSE — Justin Lamson kept his emotions in check as he returned to the field to begin Syracuse University spring football practice Tuesday morning in the Ensley Athletic Center.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback was back under center surrounded by teammates for the first time since suffering a noncontact knee injury that required surgery and kept him out for all last season.

The injury occurred at the end of last year's spring session, just a few days after Lamson starred in the annual SU spring game, and he now returns to a prime opportunity to build on his past breakout after waiting nearly a year on the sidelines.

"I can't even explain it, I've been training for a year to come back, and today I was telling the trainers, they've done a great job for me," Lamson said moments after the first spring practice ended. "It's like Christmas, it's the best day. I love football, so I'm just happy to be back."

Lamson and fellow redshirt sophomore Carlos Del Rio-Wilson will battle for first-team reps during 15 practices over the next month leading into the annual SU spring game on April 29.

They are each vying for the full-time backup role while incumbent starter Garrett Shrader sits out the spring following a procedure to his right arm.

Lamson has no restrictions and said that he feels as healthy as ever, crediting the SU training staff for getting him back to top form entering the crucial spring session to help determine his 2023 role.

"We were one of the best defenses in the ACC, so just playing against the (first team) all the time, I said this last year when I got the opportunity, I'm grateful for it and they push me to be better every day," Lamson said.

The 6-foot-3, 209-pound passer from El Dorado Hills, Calif., was a top-20 dual threat prospect entering SU for the 2021 campaign but has yet to appear in any regular-season games.

Lamson outshined his fellow reserve QBs last spring, culminating with a 7-for-10 performance for 155 yards and touchdown passes of 75 and 35 yards on five possessions in the annual spring scrimmage.

Syracuse head coach Dino Babers acknowledged his growth through the 2022 spring session afterward, but Lamson was lost for the season just a few days later as the Orange was ending its final practices.

"We thought he did some good things, and it was unfortunate that the injury happened, but once again, I think all that stuff happens for a reason," Babers said. "He got a year of watching guys play, which is probably the first time in his life, and now he gets an opportunity to take that knowledge of watching and apply it to his physical skills, so we're looking forward to see where he ends up."

Lamson echoed the value of observing while he was forced out of action and said he worked closely with new offensive coordinator and then-QBs coach, Jason Beck, throughout last season.

"I learned patience, and kind of just seeing it from the coaches' perspective," Lamson said. "Coach Beck always kept me engaged in the meetings, and then just being next to Shrader and learning from him, so it was a lot of things."

Syracuse tight end Oronde Gadsden II said that he and other offensive players had been working out with both Lamson and Del Rio-Wilson in recent weeks ahead of the first spring practice.

"I'm really happy for him," Gadsden II said of Lamson's comeback. "He's a guy I came in with and really hoped he would be doing good and come back stronger than before. He had a great spring performance."

Lamson and Del Rio-Wilson are joined by classmate Luke MacPhail as available QBs active for the upcoming spring practices. Shrader is expected to be fully cleared by the start of regular training camp this summer.

Babers suggested that he is intrigued to see how the competition plays out for the spot behind his incumbent starter in the meantime, particularly when full-speed contact is permitted after this week.

"It's like Christmas day for them, they came home and saw all the presents sitting under the tree with Garrett sitting out," Babers said. "They better get excited and take advantage of their opportunities."