Position Preview: Defensive Tackle

CuseNation.com continues its series in breaking down each position before training camp begins. Today, we look at the defensive tackle position.

Syracuse will start training camp the first week in August as they prepare for the 2014 season. CuseNation.com takes a look at the defensive end position entering camp.

Current Depth Chart

Starters: Eric Crume, Marcus Coleman

Reserves: Wayne Williams, Isaiah Johnson, Jalen Harvey, Kayton Samuels, Ryan Sloan

The Incumbents

Eric Crume comes back as a starter from a year ago when he was next to Jay Bromley. Bromley has left for the NFL, however. Isaiah Johnson contributed as a true freshman, but primarily as a defensive end. He will move all over the defensive line this season, but will play most of his snaps at tackle.

Crume was solid last season, but not spectacular. The loss of Bromley is big and will take the effort of more than just Crume to fill his shoes. However, it starts with Crume as the elder statesman and tackle with the most experience.

Crume plays with solid leverage and is very strong. He can, however, get lost at times as he loses his technique. Taking that next step into a tackle at the position will be key for the middle of the defensive line.

Specifically, pushing the pocket back to help collapse it in order to put pressure on the quarterback. That was something Bromley excelled at while Crume was not as productive in that manner.

Breakout Potential

There are three players that jump off the page as having breakout potential. The first is fellow starter entering camp Marcus Coleman. Coleman earned a lot of praise from both head coach Scott Shafer and defensive line coach Tim Daoust during the spring.

He has become a player on which the Syracuse coaches can rely. Someone that will step into Jay Bromley’s position and try to give the Orange some of that production. With his size, work ethic and underrated athleticism, he could do just that.

Wayne Williams is another player to watch. While he came to Syracuse in January severely overweight, he has worked diligently on getting that under control. According to his social media posts, he is down around 50-pounds from January. Assuming he continues that trend, he should be at the size the coaching staff wants in order for him to earn playing time.

Williams has always been a talented football player. Getting his conditioning under control will allow him to utilize his extreme strength, athleticism and quickness to become a force in the middle.

Isaiah Johnson moving inside adds quickness and athleticism to the position. He will have to add a bit more upper body strength to play inside consistently, but the ability is all there. If he adjusts to moving inside well, he could be poised to have another strong season.

Johnson flashed star-like ability last season as a true freshman. This season could be when he takes that next step towards realizing that potential.

Freshman Impact

Jalen Harvey and Kayton Samuels were the two defensive tackles that signed with Syracuse’s 2014 class. Both are players that could use a redshirt season. However, depending on the depth and production at the position, Syracuse may need one of them to join the rotation.

The most likely candidate is Harvey, who has the quick first step and upper body strength to handle playing at the division one level right away. He won’t be counted on for major contributions, but could rotate in occasionally.

That’s not likely, and both are expected to redshirt, but you never know how things will pan out. Harvey could also surprise during training camp so that the coaching staff cannot keep him off the field.

Most Important Player

Wayne Williams is the most important player for the defensive tackle position. Eric Crume is a solid player, but even if he reaches his maximum potential, he is not as talented as Williams.

Coleman is unproven and has ability, but does not match what Williams can if he has his weight under control. Williams has the potential to be a force in the middle, pushing opposing guards into the backfield and taking up space against the interior running game.

His development would give Syracuse four solid tackles with at least one standout who can give opposing offensive linemen fits. He is the difference between an average group and an above average group.

Projected Starters

Coleman and Crume are still the most likely starters. Crume is a veteran who is solid and won’t make major mistakes. The staff trusts him and he will start as a result. Similarly with Coleman, he has earned the staff’s trust with his performance this spring.

Williams and Johnson will push them, and both will factor into the rotation. They will have plenty of opportunities to make plays this season, but won’t be able to supplant Coleman and Crume as the starters.

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