Syracuse football has to replace eight of the eleven starters from a 2014 defense that was one of the best in the country. That includes safety Durell Eskridge who was in the discussion as the most talented on last season’s roster. The primary candidate to take his place is redshirt sophomore Chauncey Scissum.
The Rochester (N.Y.) native spent his first season on The Hill redshirting, and last season learning while contributing on special teams. He entered spring football as one of the favorites to land a starting safety position after the Orange lost their top three safeties from last season.
Early returns are very encouraging.
”He’s doing a good job,” head coach Scott Shafer said. “Last year we had three safeties that were in front of him so he didn’t get a chance to play as much. He helped in the kicking game and did some good things. He’s a very good athlete. I like his body type. He’s long, athletic and runs well.”
Scissum’s ease into a starting role gave him the benefit of learning from talented veterans that had a lot of success in the Syracuse defense. One predicated on a combination of aggression and discipline. Studying and learning over the last two years have readied Scissum for his expanded role this fall.
”I think the key has just been watching the guys around me,” he said. “We had a good group of guys here before me that allowed me to see what they saw. A big part of the game is your eyes. Your eyes are going to take you everywhere. So I learned to control the game at the highest level with my eyes and taking everything as it comes.”
One player who took Scissum under his wing was the departed Durell Eskridge, who will begin his NFL career after being drafted in May. After learning under Eskridge’s tutelage, Scissum is ready to translate that into becoming a defensive leader.
”A lot of what Durell taught me was not just on the field but off the field,” Scissum said. “He taught me you’ve got to be a leader. You’ve got to be vocal. Just push the guys around you. On the field, he taught me I’ve got to be an attacker. Just go get anything that’s meant for you. Don’t let anyone deter you from your goals and dreams.”
Speed of the game has never been an issue for Scissum, according to coach Shafer. The biggest hurdle has been tackling technique and knowledge of the defensive system. Now that he is more comfortable in his assignments and transitioning from cornerback to safety, he is able to react and let his natural athleticism take over.
”I’m not sitting back anymore,” Scissum said. “I’m attacking everything. I’m using every opportunity to its fullest. I know the coaches have the utmost confidence in me and believe I can do it. We have some good freshmen coming in and I know they’re going to push me for my spot. I’m looking forward to that and just to keep improving. To push the guys around me and be a leader for everybody.”
When the former three-star defensive back walked onto the Syracuse campus, he was a skinny, wide-eyed kid. Not even two years later, the transformation he has made has been quite remarkable. His shoulders are broader, legs thicker and body stronger.
On top of that, the way he speaks is noticeably more mature, focused and confident.
Losing eight starters off of a strong unit generally means a step back in production the next year. As Scissum enhances his leadership role, he is doing everything in his power to make sure the production remains at the same high level.
”We talk about that all the time,” Scissum said. “We don’t look at it as replacing, we look at it as reloading. We’ve got guys that we know can play at this level. We’re young, but we know we’ve got some fighters. I think we’re going to be alright.”