Position Preview: Defensive Back

CuseNation.com previews the defensive backs entering the 2014 season.

Depth Chart

Starters: Brandon Reddish, Julian Whigham, Durell Eskridge, Darius Kelly
Reserves: Wayne Morgan, Ritchy Desir, Rodney Williams, Juwan Dowels, Cordell Hudson, Chauncey Scissum, Antwan Cordy

2013 Statistics

Eskridge: 78 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
Desir: 47 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
Kelly: 44 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Reddish: 36 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
Morgan: 21 tackles
Whigham: 12 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 3 interceptions

What We Know

The starters and key reserves in the secondary all have experience playing meaningful snaps for Syracuse and each has been productive in that role. With so many more teams spreading the defense out and utilizing multiple wide receiver sets, having several corners who can play is becoming more and more important.

Syracuse returns three corners who have played significant roles in the past in Reddish, Whigham and Morgan. Each will be on the field frequently this season. Morgan is the most physical of the group and plays with a chip on his shoulder. Reddish has more speed and is a natural cover corner.

Whigham has length and closing speed which allow him to be a playmaker from the corner position.

Behind the three main corners are true freshmen Juwan Dowels, Cordell Hudson and Antwan Cordy. At least one, if not two, will have to contribute this season. Defensive backs coach Fred Reed has been impressed with their ability to pick things up quickly this fall.

At safety, Durell Eskridge is an emerging star nationally. Syracuse fans are already well versed in his talents, but a strong junior campaign could push him up draft boards and into the first round in April. He led the team in tackles and interceptions a year ago and could do the same this season.

Darius Kelly and Ritchy Desir will split time at the other safety spot. Both have contributed in the past and both have the trust of the coaching staff. Kelly gives a little more playmaking ability, but Desir is as solid as it gets.

Freshman Rodney Williams has made a name for himself during fall camp. Look for him to make an impact on special teams and in the Okie package. Redshirt freshman Chauncey Scissum will also see time in the Okie package from time to time. He could drop down to corner if need be as he spent most of last season working at cornerback.

Biggest Question

Which freshman corner will emerge? With three solid corners poised to play major roles, Syracuse will need at least one of the freshmen corners to play significant snaps this season in the dime package. Opposing offenses will run four and five wide receiver sets at times this season and Syracuse needs to have an answer.

Juwan Dowels or Cordell Hudson may be the two most ready to contribute this season, but Antwan Cordy could make a push as well. The ability for one of these players to be able to give Syracuse a consistent contribution will be very important.

The lack of a fourth corner would give opponents a weakness to exploit or force Syracuse to play a safety out of position.

Season Outlook

This is a really good group and could be one of the better secondary units that Syracuse has had in the last decade. They have several playmakers and an elite talent in Eskridge. Look for more interceptions from this unit this season, especially if the front four can generate a consistent pass rush. Darius Kelly may be the unsung hero of the defensive backs, and a few youngsters could emerge as well.

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