As the Syracuse Orange embark on a new frontier in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the secondary's ability to affect both the passing game and aid to stop the run becomes even more vital with a high level of talent opposite them.
At the cornerback positions, Keon Lyn and Ri'Shard Anderson return as the team's leaders on the depth chart once again. Lyn is the best between the two in man-to-man coverage and overall against the pass. He makes good reads on where the ball is heading and gets his body in to disrupt the pass.
Last season he seemed to take plays off at times, but if this Spring is any indicator of what is to come from him, Lyn will not be taking plays off or not going full throttle. He has appeared to continuously go after the ball in his most recent opportunities with the team.
Anderson demonstrated an increase in speed from 2011 to 2012, which he utilized to prevent scoring opportunities. But he seems to struggle in man-to-man coverage and has gotten himself in trouble with pass interference.
Behind Lyn on the post-Spring depth chart are Julian Whigham, Joe Nassib, and Eric Jackson. With Nassib upping his play during the Spring, Whigham's placement ahead of him speaks well of his work to become a noticeable threat in the secondary.
Nassib drew attention in the Spring in his play in man coverage, as depicted when he negated an opportunity for a passing touchdown and then came back on the next down to do just that again.
Jackson, though a walk-on, is not one to overlook either, making plays against the passing game in the Spring that silenced his opposing air attack.
After Anderson comes Brandon Reddish followed by Jaston George. Reddish is a better cover corner than Anderson and is effective when blitzing. He makes a strong case to be a starter but should see ample time on the field no matter where he is placed on the depth chart.
George performed at a high level last season in the secondary, but it was not seen on the field because outside of practice he was not given the opportunity to rotate in game situations. However he has found a place on special teams and should at the least be back there though his ability to shut down receivers in practice should not be overlooked.
Back listed as a starter along with Lyn and Anderson is Jeremi Wilkes at free safety. Wilkes aided each element of the defense last season, sacking the quarterback, stunting the run, and breaking up the pass. His recent performance in the Spring continues his stay on the frontline of the secondary.
Behind Wilkes is Wayne Morgan. Morgan was moved this Spring from cornerback to safety. The steps he takes in the Fall can be the determinant in how often he finds himself on the field.
To fill out the remaining spot on the top of the secondary on the post-Spring depth chart is strong safety Durell Eskridge. Eskridge is moving from his placement at free safety from last season. Behind Wilkes in 2012, he rotated in, giving assistance against the pass and the run. With his hard-hitting ability and speed to the ball, Eskridge can help lighten the blow of the loss of Shamarko Thomas.
In his first season on the field for the Orange, Eskridge did not waste any time in proving he can contribute, making nine tackles in his first collegiate game (versus Northwestern) which was a team high. He added two sacks, a forced fumble, and a blocked punt helping two phases of Syracuse's game, defense and special teams.
Ritchy Desir and Josh Mims follow Eskridge, respectively. After rotating into the defense for 11 games in his freshman season, Desir would come in as a backup strong safety in all 13 of Syracuse's matches last season. He recorded multiple tackles in the majority of the games played by the Orange, raising his output substantially in comparison to his freshman campaign.
Mims transferred from Buffalo State and has yet to get himself onto the field for the Orange.