Syracuse football spring practiced kicked off on Sunday, and there was a bit of moving and shaking to the roster. Not in terms of unknown additions or subtractions, but in terms of some players’ roles for the upcoming 2015 season.
The linebacker position is losing two of last season’s three starters. Entering the spring, the battle to replace Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch will begin. The middle linebacker spot is currently manned by Zaire Franklin, a true freshman who played a significant role down the stretch in 2014.
Franklin played outside and middle linebacker last season, and opens the spring as the starter in the middle.
At the outside linebacker spots, Marqez Hodge opens as the weak side or WILL linebacker. He opened 2014 as the starter at middle linebacker.
The other outside backer spot is where there is some question. The strong side or SAM linebacker is currently a battle between Jonathan Thomas and Parris Bennett. To make things even more interesting, incoming JUCO transfer Ted Taylor will also be in the mix there.
One of the reserve linebackers entering last season was Luke Arciniega. He rarely played because of another injury and is seeking a medical waiver for a sixth year. He has moved to the defensive end position for the spring. Assuming he is granted the medical waiver by the NCAA, defensive end is where he will stay.
Syracuse is also losing three of their four starters in the secondary. Losing their top three safeties leaves a lack of depth at the position. There is one player in particular who is learning cornerback and safety in order to give the Orange some versatility.
”We’ve got a lot of guys,” Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer said. “Antwan Cordy is the one guy that’ll learn both corner and safety right now. For the most part, it’s just the guys coming back. Rodney Williams did some good things today. Chauncey Scissum looked like he had confidence and was making calls quick. He’s a bright young man and I thought he did a nice job.”
Offensive line is another spot with some departures due to graduation. Starting left tackle Sean Hickey and center John Miller have to be replaced. Right now, Ivan Foy is working at both right and left tackle. The interior of the offensive line is still in flux and the staff is working on finding the best group.
”We’re going to bounce guys around,” Shafer said. “Unfortunately last year we really learned on the run. You have interior guys and outside guys. You like to have them learn that way for the most part. We’ll have centers and guards working at the guard and center positions. Then the tackles need to be able to flip-flop.
”Then you have instances where a guy like Omari (Palmer) needs to learn both guard and tackle, which last year we did because of injury. Having everybody back gives us the luxury of narrowing in on techniques at positions. There will be some movement. I don’t like to put depth charts out there early. I just like to let them compete.”
As the offense under new coordinator Tim Lester starts implementing his system, there be some role changes. One area where that could be the most noticeable is the former h-back position with players like Ervin Philips and Ashton Broyld.
”Offensively, you’ll see a lot of guys playing in the h-back or super back position, which is where Erv’s playing and where Ashton’s playing, that can be lined up in a lot of different places,” Shafer said. “They can be lined up in the slot. They can be lined up in the wing. They can line up in the backfield.
”They can motion to the backfield and run the ball. They can motion out and catch the ball. Force some isolation on some outside linebackers matchups, that sort of thing. I thought both Erv and Ashton did a nice job today.”