If the offense continues to lack big play ability in 2012, the defense will have to step up to help Syracuse win games. CuseNation.com analyzes how they have performed during the Fort Drum portion of Fall Camp.
Areas Needing Improvement
Lack of Veteran Leadership in the Secondary
Senior Free Safety James Jarrett did not have a good showing at Fort Drum. He failed to knock away passes and allowed for scoring opportunities, like when Wide Receiver Marcus Sales caught a pass from Quarterback Charley Loeb in an 11-on-11 drill and went in between him and Cornerback Jaston George for a touchdown.
Senior Cornerback Ri-Shard Anderson puts himself and the team in danger in how he covers at times, by not making a play for the ball. With a pass toward the endzone, Anderson was covering Wide Receiver Adrian Flemming. He did not face the ball and contacted Flemming, causing Defensive Coordinator Scott Shafer to throw a flag inside the goal. In a game situation, Anderson would have put the opposing offense on the goal-line.
In an 11-on-11 drill, Anderson was covering Wide Receiver Marcus Sales, but when he turned to look for the ball, he failed to prevent Sales from making a play on the ball, resulting a touchdown. Anderson had an opportunity on another play for an interception in the endzone but did not get to the ball in time.
However, Anderson did display a good read on a pass by Quarterback Ryan Nassib when he got in front of Wide Receiver Jarrod West on West's route to the endzone, intercepting the pass attempt. Then, Anderson had a nice run back, also credit to the defense for blocking, to about the offense's line of scrimmage. This play came after Anderson blew coverage on Sales, showing that Anderson was able to bounce back from a poor play and after giving up a touchdown, he took a touchdown away.
Though he is not a senior, Junior Cornerback Keon Lyn did have many minutes on the field last season to gain experience in how to cover. At Fort Drum, Lyn was not a threat to the receiving core. He was usually left trailing the player he was covering. If a pass was not caught by a player he was covering, it was typically because the receiver failed the play, rather than Lyn stopping the play.
Defensive End Josh Manley
Manley is still a work in progress. He was constantly spoken to about needing to shoot both of his hands out when he comes up from his stance, instead of just one hand. Manley was also asked to redo a drill where he was supposed to put his helmet to the numbers of his defender and then cut the defender off.
He did have a good moment in 11-on-11 drills, when he took down Running Back Adonis Ameen-Moore after a short completion.
Failure to Contain After A Stop
When the defense had a good down, knocking down a pass or taking down a running back before they reached the first-down marker, the unit would frequently allow the offense to get them the following time. On a rushing attempt, Running Back Jerome Smith was taken down by Dan Vaughn before gaining a new set of downs. On the next play, Smith was not stopped, getting the extra yardage he needed to recharge the offensive drive.
Defensive End Robert Welsh showed speed and nice footwork in a defensive line drill where he had to get his feet over pads, one foot at a time, staying sideways. His speed and footwork translated into 11-on-11 drills, where he was able to get through to the quarterback. Welsh attained a sack during the scrimmage at Fort Drum. Also during the scrimmage, Welsh got through and running at Quarterback Charley Loeb, came face-to-face with him, batting down his pass attempt. Even when not right in the quarterback's face, Welsh came the man under center fits from a distance, as in when he tipped the ball with putting his hand out horizontal to stop a pass attempt.
Defensive End John Raymon's only experience with the defensive line has been at Fall camp. Coming in as a freshman, most people understand when the youngest of the bunch are the ones making mistakes. However, Raymon has already been a presence at the line, getting into the backfield. During an 11-on-11 drill, Raymon got through and to Adonis Ameen-Moore for a loss. At the line, Raymon batted down a pass during the scrimmage on the team's final day at Fort Drum.
Along with Raymon, Nose Tackle Zian Jones has gone from being screamed at in defensive line drills to being the one under the pile who came up with a fumble recovery in 11-on-11 drills. Jones' body movement has been criticized and worked on extensively, but when the game was on, Jones was the one canceling out the offense and gaining possession, like when he got through for a sack of his own.
From being told to get his elbow in tight during defensive line drills to getting to the quarterback twice during a short period of 11-on-11 drills, Defensive End Donnie Simmons has been improving his game.
Defensive End Brandon Sharpe also grew during his time at Fort Drum, becoming more of a threat for the offensive line to stop, which they failed to do on a sack, where Sharpe got through to Quarterback Ryan Nassib.
Sharpe got through on another occasion, but made the mistake of lowering his head when running at the quarterback, which resulted in a completed pass. If he had put his hands up, he may have taken away a down, or even intercepted the ball.
But overall Sharpe looked to improve, having a positive involvement in more plays, including his recovery after a fumble by Running Back George Morris, III.
Linebacker Dyshawn Davis
Davis got to the quarterback more than any other defender on the field. He not only got through, he got through quickly, and with little or no trouble. Davis' ability to get to the quarterback is unparalleled on the team thus far. His vision, speed, and elusiveness have been evident. Davis has had multiple sacks. On one sack, Davis came straight through and ran body to body with Quarterback Ryan Nassib, whom he could not tackle in the drill. Had that been a defending quarterback? Hello, and goodnight.
The sophomore linebacker has also been involved in stopping rushing attempts, as when he and Brandon Sharpe prevented George Morris, III, from gaining anything on his try. From stopping any play to stopping a running play to getting involved in stopping an air attack on the defense, Davis has shown that he is the most versatile and most reliable weapon on the field for the defense. His raised hand that tipped the ball on a pass attempt led to an interception by Cornerback Brandon Reddish during the scrimmage at Fort Drum.
Linebackers in General
Dan Vaughn does not always get there to stop every pass or every run, but he does get there more than most. When it comes to tackling, if Vaughn is on the field, he is usually involved in some way in bringing down a player. His ability to read the play and speed to the ball are not duplicated by many, but he could be better at negating a play instead of just being the first response.
As camp progressed at Fort Drum, Linebacker Siriki Diabate looked to get more tenacious. He is showing power in his hits and takedowns. With the help of fellow Linebacker Marquis Spruill, Diabate formed a barrier near the sideline and took down Running Back Prince-Tyson Gulley for a loss of five yards. Diabate is also extending his game outside of mere hits to take down players by staying close on coverage and knocking away pass attempts. He has also shown a good ability to read players, as in when he tackled George Morris, III, by being ready for Morris' cut on a running play.
Toeing the Equator:
Linebacker Dom Anene
Anene has shown that he can read the offense and avoid barriers when trying to get to the quarterback, which he did on more than one occasion.
At the same time, when Anene is in coverage, he failed to stop the pass and/or take the receiver down numerous times.