Where They Stand: The Defense

With Spring practice over, go position by position with us to see how things look so far for the Orange defense as they prepare for their first season in the ACC.

The Syracuse Orange football program has lost some leadership and in turn starters from last season's successful team.

With a want to continue moving in the positive direction, the rest of the defensive squad looks to step up. See how each position breaks down so far heading into the 2013-14 campaign:

Defensive end:

Micah Robinson helped last season's defensive line to stunt the run and grow in their ability to handle a dual-threat quarterback.

Heading toward the upcoming campaign, Robinson has not taken his foot off the gas. He has made his number known in his tenacity during Spring practice to attack the ball and those trying to protect it.

Robert Welsh left a big impression on me from last Fall because of his skill and strength to break through blockers and attack the backfield as well as the quarterback. Used in a rotation system by defensive line coach Tim Daoust, Welsh had opportunities last season, but with Brandon Sharpe and Deon Goggins having finished their eligibility, Welsh has enough talent and less competition to obtain a starting spot.

Defensive tackle:

Jay Bromley is a lock for this position having played it already as a starter and aiding the entire defensive line in pressuring both the passing and rushing attacks they have faced. As time has gone by, Bromley has gotten better at helping the line progress instead of the more up-and-down seasons of past.

His leadership as a veteran and returning starter will be imperative to the team's future moving forward.

Ryan Sloan's name is gaining more and more exposure coming out of Spring practice. Sloan has read the offense well and has shown sound decision-making resulting in short gains for the offense at best. Sloan moves well inside the defensive line and is able to tackle in traffic. His progress means less drop-off from the loss of veterans Sharpe and Goggins from the line.

Coming in as a junior college (JUCO) transfer last season, Zian Jones went from a lineman who heard his name frequently for corrections he needed to make in practice to a lineman who worked himself onto the field. Though Jones was not always given long sequences of time on the field, his progression within his first season on the Orange happened faster than it previously appeared to be going in practice. Jones helped move the defensive line forward and opposing offenses back last season. If he continues to improve off of the 2012-13 campaign, "Z" will more than likely have his opportunities to stunt offenses.

Also in the mix is Eric Crume, noted by the coaching staff as a positive aid to the line in the past. With his experience and shown ability to bring down opponents, Crume should get opportunities as long as he stays healthy.

Daoust stated last season that a depth chart means very little to him because of his use of a rotation system, so all named will most likely find their way onto the field this coming season.

Linebacker:

Marquis Spruill was placed at middle linebacker two seasons ago and then moved to the outside last season. With Siriki Diabate, the last holder of the middle slot having finished his eligibility, Spruill will most likely head back to the middle having already held the position as well as also being a returning starter.

On the outside, Cameron Lynch has been given opportunities in rotation in the past. His speed and power coming off the edge has led to sacks as well as disruption of opposing offenses. Add in his ability to make tackles in the open field and you have a football specimen that should continue to increase his field time.

Josh Kirkland, another JUCO transfer, has made quite an impression from Spring practice. The two hardest hits in the Spring game both came from the body of Kirkland. He has been playing with a no-fear, take down mentality that can help lighten the blow from the loss of Shamarko Thomas.

Dyshawn Davis, a two-season starter is currently out due to injury. His strong sense of where the offense will move, speed, direction, and hard-hitting nature placed him on the field as a freshman and should put him right back this season. But Kirkland's success may leave him in a sharing position with Lynch on the opposite side.

Cornerback:

Keon Lyn, a perennial starter, has made big plays and then gone silent in games of the past.

During Spring practice, the roller-coaster style of Lyn's game was replaced by more consistency. He read passes and disrupted attempts, looking like more of a veteran than he has before.

With an increase in playing time between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Brandon Reddish increased his production. He set and surpassed new personal bests in tackles for a single game, attained his first collegiate sack and interception, broke up passes, and forced fumbles.

Although Ri'Shard Anderson was the starter opposite Lyn last season, Reddish and Anderson could switch places with Anderson now rotating in. Anderson has had trouble in coverage, getting himself called for pass interference penalties. Reddish is less of a burden in coverage and is more of a threat throughout than in merely a few games.

Safety:

With Thomas now gone, Ritchy Desir and Wayne Morgan are both eyeing the strong safety position. Desir holds the experience advantage, having come in during games for Thomas throughout last season.

Morgan is attempting to play safety for the Orange for the first time after spending last season as a backup cornerback.

Though Desir has some experience, Morgan would not have been moved if Desir had already shown the staff enough to take the position full-time, leaving strong safety a continued competition.

Jeremi Wilkes was the starter at free safety last season. Elevated to the top of the depth chart for the first time, he helped the line, linebackers, and secondary, sacking the quarterback, condensing the run, and breaking up pass attempts. Adding positives to the defense as a whole last season means Wilkes should not have to worry about coming off the field any time soon.

Durell Eskridge served as a safety in rotation last season. He made 36 tackles and forced a fumble. Eskridge's speed and hard-hitting nature are much needed with Thomas no longer in the secondary, but after having surgery on May 1st, his status for the upcoming season is uncertain.


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