Sophomore linebacker Dyshawn Davis is not a newcomer to the defense. He did not sit his freshman year and watch veterans play at the position he wanted. Davis was called upon by the Syracuse staff from Day One to be a presence. He had moments where he lit up opposing offenses and other times, he went dim.
"My freshman year, I was kinda a little bit hesitant there some games," said Davis. "…Sometimes I didn't believe in myself. Good thing I got that experience early. Now, I'm familiar with the game."
His familiarity with the game has shown leading up to the season-opener in his ability to get through to the quarterback more than any other linebacker, and more importantly, any other defensemen.
"There's no hesitation, Davis remarked. "I've got the confidence level, so I'm just always going 110% every play. There's no surprise or shock when I got untouched…"
Davis has spoken of having clarity with the defense, including in the fourth quarter, when the game may not be going the way of the Orange.
"I think I'm better as far as disciple wise with my assignments," Davis stated. "I know the defense in and out. My reaction is two times, maybe five times, as quick as it was last year. As far that standpoint, I'm just ready to go, man."
The second-year linebacker will not have to wait long for an opportunity to display his improvements with the game versus Northwestern less than a day away, set for Saturday, September 1st. Davis took a look at the scouting report, along with his teammates and specified the team's primary target area for the Wildcats.
"Our main focus…is just containing the quarterback," said Davis. "I wasn't even thinking about the linemen because I know the linemen are going to try to do a pretty good job. Our main focus is we want to stop number 2 (Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter) from controlling the game with his legs…"
"So, we're just trying to do a good job of containing them and getting good rushes," Davis continued. "(Defensive Coordinator) Coach [Scott] Shafer tried to do a good job of getting [us] home on a couple blitzes."
Colter has had success through the air as both a quarterback and a receiver and on the ground as a running back. Last season, he led Northwestern in passing, rushing, and receiving yards. With Colter at the helm of the offense, Syracuse is preparing for a no-huddle, hurry-up style that they will have to counterattack on Saturday.
"We're getting familiar with the game tempo, how fast they are," Davis shared. "And we're getting used to the [Carrier] Dome, the atmosphere. How loud it is and how hot it's going to be in there. And we're all taking care of each other, making sure we're hydrated…making sure we're eating the right things."
With the Dome being a change in environment to some, the environment of the linebacker core has also undergone change. Senior Siriki Diabate has moved to starting middle linebacker, while junior Marquis Spruill has transitioned out of the middle and onto the strongside to flank Diabate.
Davis offered his opinion of the transition that place Diabate at the middle of the core.
"I'm pretty comfortable with it. I've got faith in Siriki," Davis expressed. "Siriki's been doing a pretty good job since the Spring, controlling the whole defense, controlling the whole front. Making sure everybody's going to the right places.
"Making sure the d-line (defensive line) knows where they're going."
Shifting the conversation to Spruill, Davis spoke on his teammate's new assignment.
"Marquis got moved on to the outside, which I thought he was better at anyway," Davis stated. "He's faster, bigger, and stronger than last year and he doesn't have to control the front.
"And I think Siriki does a better job at doing that than marquis does, and that standpoint makes Marquis a better player ‘cause he doesn't have to worry about that."
A humble Davis finished the starting core by offering his thoughts on his own talents, refusing to give himself all the credit.
"As far as me on the outside, we've got the size, strength, and our speed is incredible."
With the new setup of Davis and Spruill on the outside, as wingmen to Diabate, Davis put everyone's strengths together in one statement,
"I'm feeling great with the three linebackers we have," he said.
This retooled starting unit will have its first opportunity to showcase their talent this Saturday when Syracuse opens the Carrier Dome to visiting Northwestern at noon eastern for the first game of the 2012 season.