Syracuse football looks to rebound from a disappointing 5-7 campaign in 2011 with some question marks on offense, so let's try to sort things out based on what we've seen thus far.
Dan Tortora: Goggins was spoken to, or at, the least during Fall camp because he was doing things right. He has the technique, he understands mentally, and he brings it to the field. Head Coach Doug Marrone said that Goggins played well against USC last season and has the ability to be that type of player all the time. I agree with him. With Goggins and Dyshawn Davis in the game, offensive lines will be busy and the quarterback has a better chance of being on the ground.
Mike McAllister: Welsh has had a very good camp, earning the praise of several coaches throughout. He is a bit of a surprise here, but based on what I've seen in camp, he deserves it. Syracuse is very deep at defensive end, so everyone will get reps. Donnie Simmons and Brandon Sharpe also have an argument, but Welsh has been more consistent throughout.
John Garcia Jr: Goggins has the experience, but he has played all over the line in his time at SU. That fact will help him hold off the speedy Simmons and the steady Sharpe, though the latter will have the reps on third-downs and in passing situations. Look out for Welsh as the season progresses, too.
Right Defensive End - Candidates include Brandon Sharpe, Donnie Simmons, Micah Robinson, Markus Pierce-Brewster, Deon Goggins, Robert Welsh and more
Tortora: Welsh, next to Jaston George, was one of the biggest surprises of Fall camp. His name was mentioned much, but his play makes me mention him now. Welsh got into the backfield and after the quarterback and batted down passes. He got threw linemen. Any offensive lineman Syracuse faces this season lined up versus Welsh will have to be strong and diligent because Welsh is, and he is going to bring it.
McAllister: Pierce-Brewster has had an excellent camp showing speed and toughness. He has improved seemingly every practice, and has speed that no one else on e defensive line can match.
Garcia Jr: Pierce-Brewster, or MPB as we will call him, begins his reign as a crafty pass-rusher against Big East competition. We're not saying Dwight Freeney, but MPB will make his mark in the two years he had to come off the edge.
Tortora: Crume, like Goggins, was trusted in drills to understand technique. However, unlike Goggins, Crume has more to improve on. He needs to get stronger at the line and provide more pressure inside on the offense. Crume is still not a take-you-down-alone kind of player. He will look better, for now, based on the play from those around him. Right now he gets the job because freshman nose tackle, Marcus Coleman, is not ready by any stretch of the imagination
McAllister: Walls gave a late push and will definitely be in the rotation, but Crume has been solid throughout. Despite his large frame, he has shown good burst out of his stance. The staff really likes Crume's upside, and he showed flashes of that in camp.
Garcia Jr: Walls has great upside, but his unfamiliarity with Scott Shafer's scheme will cost him as Eric Crume gets the nod. The big sophomore is ready to breakout, something that may be needed with Cory Boatman's sudden departure from the program earlier this month.
Defensive Tackle - Candidates include Eric Crume, Zian Jones, Jay Bromley, Davon Walls, John Raymon (waiver pending)
Tortora: Bromley, if healthy, is a starter. He, like Goggins, understands the game. Bromley makes other players better around him by teaching them the nuances of the game as well as giving them opportunities as a result of the pressure he provides. With him, Syracuse has another player that can get to the quarterback for a sack. He is tall, built, and agile, and needs to be in the game.
McAllister: Bromley is a very good football player and a returning starter. Before his injury, which is considered to be minor, he was having the best camp of any tackle. He is quick off the ball and plays very smart.
Garcia Jr: Bromley had the impact of his life in the spring game, and the versatile skill-set will once again play out once he is back to 100 percent. He can get leverage on blockers with either speed or strength, something every great interior lineman is able to do. The question will be can he get it done for 60 minutes.
Tortora: Lynch, in this being only his second season, has shown that he has a knack for getting to the quarterback. He got himself to the backfield during Fall camp, which when implemented into gameplay means sacks and hurries for the player under center. He can improve in his tackling and getting to the ball quicker, but Lynch's pressure that he can put on the quarterback is too hard to pass up.
McAllister: Spruill is maybe the most talented linebacker on the team. His strength/speed combination is unmatched. He had an average camp, but stood out above Vaughan in my opinion.
Garcia Jr: Spruill was in a leadership spot last season in the middle, and he should be expected to lead from a different angle this season. He is simply too talented to keep off the field, no matter where he lines up.
Will Linebacker (weak) - Candidates include Marquis Spruill, Dyshawn Davis, Dan Vaughan, Cameron Lynch, Oliver Vigille, Dom Anene and others
Tortora: Davis IS the defense. If you asked me to clone a Syracuse defender for all 11 positions, this is the man for the job. All throughout Fall camp, Davis was consistently getting to the quarterback for a sack. He seems to be the only player that can hold him back. Davis can improve on tackling and on running plays, but when you need to get after the quarterback, call DD.
McAllister: Davis had maybe the best camp of any player. With Cam Lynch looming behind him, it's a good thing he did. Davis is the best blitzer on the team, and has a knack for making plays in opponents' backfield. He seems to have progressed with making reads and becoming an all-around linebacker. He could have a breakout year in 2012.
Garcia Jr: With Spruill on one side, Vaughan should occupy the other. The consistent tackler and senior leader will face pressure from Davis and Lynch all year, but he will hold them off initially. The younger guys have more talent in passing situations, however.
Tortora: Diabate has gotten stronger and it was visibile in Fall camp. When he comes to it, he is taking you down. His coverage was one of the best from the linebacker unit, not only looking to tackle, but also knocking the ball away to prevent a completion.
McAllister: Some were surprised with Diabate was named the starter before fall camp. But he has looked the part so far. A little undersized, Diabate is quick, makes good reads, and knows gh defense.
Garcia Jr: Diabate got the nod heading into camp after a strong spring, and all indications are that he held the lead firmly from there on out. The senior finally gets his shot to be the man in the middle in 2012.
Tortora: George had the best Fall camp out of anyone in the secondary. He is not talked about by many and at this point, I do not get it. George goes high to prevent a completion and gets a hand in on routes. In one day at camp, he silenced numerous receivers. George seems to understand the game, reading both the quarterback and the receiver. You cannot keep a mentally-prepared, gifted corner like George off the field, unless you want to lose.
McAllister: Reddish had a very good camp, and looks like the real deal. He can run like a deer, and has improved his cover skills a lot from last season. He should be the starter against Northwestern.
Garcia Jr: Despite and up-and-down camp after an injury-sidelined spring, it's Lyn. He's the most talented cover-guy on the roster and SU will need him on the field regardless of his inconsistency.
Cornerback 2 - Candidates include Keon Lyn, Ri'Shard Anderson, Brandon Reddish, Jaston George, Julian Whigham and others
Tortora: Whigham, be it that he is a freshman, still provided more plays for the defense toward the end of Fall camp than veterans Keon Lyn and Ri'Shard Anderson. He did get beat a few times, but so did the vets. What Whigham brings to the defense is his improvement. He has started to look like George, getting his hand in to stop a potential offensive gain. Whigham appears to know the receivers better than most in the secondary, as of right now.
McAllister: Anderson is a senior who Shafer trusts. He's a solid player and had a solid camp. From a pure talent standpoint, Lyn is the better choice. But he had a better camp than Lyn. Jaston George had a much better camp, but had too much ground to make up.
Garcia Jr: Anderson is, statistically the fastest player on the roster, and speed is an area SU desperately needs to improve in. Another veteran presence should also help out as more teams on the schedule revert to the spread look.
Cornerback 3 - Candidates include Keon Lyn, Ri'Shard Anderson, Brandon Reddish, Jaston George, Julian Whigham, Wayne Morgan and others
Tortora: Anderson still needs work, despite being a senior. He will run a route with a receiver, only to not face the ball and knock the receiver down for pass interference. However, between him and Lyn, Anderson is a step ahead. He does always cover receivers, but he does understand the quarterback enough to read the pass and makes plays on the ball. Anderson can provide at least a couple interceptions this season. That is why he makes my list of starting corners.
McAllister: In a surprise, returning starter Lyn will be replaced by Reddish as a starter and move into the nickel corner position. The good news for Lyn is he will still get plenty of playing time. George has pushed for playing time, but Lyn's athletic ability and speed set him apart. Lyn still has a very high ceiling and could work his way back into a stating role as the season progresses. His quick feet should allow him to be productive in the slot. The junior's physicality makes him the best bump and run corner on the team.
Garcia Jr: George had the camp of his life, but Reddish has been groomed for the position. The sophomore will get to be in the spotlight more times than not, looking to avenge a very rookie-looking 2011.
Tortora: From what I saw of Desir this Fall camp, I realize just how much Syracuse was missing last season when he was injured. Desir was in plays to prevent completions. He has vision for the ball and can get out to a play, instead of leaving the field wide open. Though Shamarko Thomas is strong and fast, Desir can tackle, and that, at the end of the day, is key. Power and speed are good assets, but tackling ability is what puts Desir over Thomas.
McAllister: Thomas is the best hitter on the team. He is a defensive leader with a lot of ability. Marrone said he would have to earn his starting spot in camp, and his performance should put him there. Thomas was not really pushed by anyone during camp, and stood out as a consistent forced in the defensive backfield.
Garcia Jr: The no-brainer of the depth chart is this one. Thomas has been there for years, and the senior has one more campaign to show NFL scouts he can be a balanced defender – not just a speedy big-hitter.
Tortora: Eskridge showed speed to the ball at Fall camp. Though freshman Dontez Ford improved at this position during camp, Eskridge kept him off his heels with his coverage. He made himself known on the field by constantly involving himself in numerous plays. Eskridge can hit, too. Just not as hard as Ashton Broyld, who left him on the ground during a play. Good news is, Eskridge only has to play Broyld in practice.
McAllister: Wilkes started the last few games of the season in 2011 after Phillip Thomas left the team. He has had a solid camp, and proven to be a reliable player in the past. Ritchy Desir has had an arguably better camp, and will likely rotate with Wilkes during the season. But Wilkes' experience sets him apart here.
Garcia Jr: Wilkes has the experience, but Eskridge has the high ceiling. The younger option will need to be steady out of the gates to hold onto the job, but his talent should help him hold off the rest until the mental side catches up.
Tortora: LDE – Welsh, RDE- Goggins, NT – Crume, DT – Bromley, SLB – Lynch, MLB – Diabate, WLB – Davis, CB1 – George, CB2 – Whigham, CB3 – Anderson, SS – Desir, FS - Eskridge
McAllister: LDE – Welsh, RDE- Pierce-Brewster, NT – Crume, DT – Bromley, SLB – Spruill, MLB – Diabate, WLB – Davis, CB1 – Reddish, CB2 – Anderson, CB3 – Lyn, SS – Thomas, FS - Wilkes
Garcia Jr: LDE – Goggins, RDE- Pierce-Brewster, NT – Crume, DT – Bromley, SLB – Spruill, MLB – Diabate, WLB – Vaughan, CB1 – Lyn, CB2 – Anderson, CB3 – Reddish, SS – Thomas, FS - Eskridge