Despite allowing nine passing touchdowns through their first two games, the Syracuse University football squad has made improvements through players like cornerback Ri'Shard Anderson who has prevented some big plays from ending in touchdowns.
"That's the type of defense we want to be," Anderson said. "We want to never give up. Always fight, no matter what the score is. We're gonna fight. We're gonna go hard, every play. So that's what I just try to do. I just try to be there for my teammates and they be there for me."
An increase in speed and better tackling have increased Anderson's positive impact on the field, as does having both hands, which he could not say last season due to injury.
"Last year…I couldn't really tackle the way I wanted to tackle," Anderson shared. "I couldn't really do everything I wanted to do. It was hard to fight off blocks, and now I'm just better and I can do that and it just feels great to get out there."
"We probably won't never see a better quarterback & receiver duo like that, so I'll take it as it got us better with our techniques," Anderson stated. "It got me better as a person, as a player. To fight constantly against them players, down after down, so I guess just keep working on our techniques and keep fundamentally doing what [we're] coached to do."
Coaching Anderson and the rest of the secondary this season is newcomer Donnie Henderson. Anderson shared the effect that Henderson has had on the Orange.
"The way he coaches gets you better," Anderson expressed. "The way he coaches, he's on us every day. He never lets us slack. He don't give us no break for nothin'. And, if you do something wrong, if you mess up, or get beat, [he's] gonna let you know. [He's] gonna tell you ‘bout it."
With Anderson in his senior and being a returning starter, he discussed how much Henderson places on his shoulders.
"He put on a lot, ‘cause we've got to lead the team," Anderson said. "What young guys see me do, that's what they're gonna do, so he tells me I gotta be a leader. So I gotta watch everything I do, ‘cause somebody's watching."
One of those players watching is second-year cornerback Brandon Reddish, who, as a freshman last season, got beat on some plays, leaving adversity confronting him on his doorstep. How has Reddish responded?
"I've seen he's more confident with himself," Anderson expressed. He plays better, uses his hands better, and he's just [an] all-around better player."
Along with Henderson's coaching, Anderson feels that the secondary did not come into this season the same as they were at the end of 2011.
"We [are] way better than we were last year," Anderson stated. "Our communication and the way we do everything with each other is way better. You can tell we…work together, so it's good."
Communication will be an asset against Seawolves' wide receiver Kevin Norrell, who has broken away in both of Stony Brook's first two games for an 80-plus yard receiving play. Anderson spoke on how the Orange plan to combat that.
"You gotta stick the deep routes," Anderson stated. "You rather any short routes any day. We know they like to go deep, so that's what we going [to] play, the deep routes. And if it's not deep, it's running the ball, so we gonna cover the run. And we know if it's not a play they like to do, come out and play us, and they run deep passes, so that's what [we're] gonna cover."
Even with two losses, Anderson shared that Syracuse is in no way losing their fight.
"We keep each other going," Anderson expressed. "We tell each other we gonna get it. We just gotta close it out and we gonna make this happen, and we gonna work on it. We work on it every day in practice and make sure we need to know, we lost. We coulda won and we coulda been looking at a 2-0 team instead of an 0-2 team and we make sure we let each other know that so we can keep going hard every play."
"You can expect us, every team we play, we're gonna give a fight," Anderson continued. "We're never gonna give up no matter what the score is. We're gonna play hard every play, every snap, in all aspects: special teams, offense, and defense. That's what you can expect from us."