Returning Starters: Ron Thompson
Biggest Question Mark: Can the youth emerge to provide quality depth? The loss of players like Ryan Sloan, Marcus Coleman, Isaiah Johnson and Wayne Williams has put a significant dent into the experienced depth along the defensive line. Specifically at tackle. Syracuse needs players like Kayton Samuels, Chris Slayton and Steven Clark (all freshmen) to step up in order to make the defensive line as productive as it has been over the past few seasons.
Most Important Player: Ron Thompson – Thompson is arguably the most important player on the entire defense. At least according to linebacker Zaire Franklin. His ability to become a consistent pass rusher will take pressure off of the linebackers and secondary. It will also draw double teams from the opposition, opening things up for the other linemen.
Outlook for 2015 Season: The outlook for the defensive line is one of youth and question marks. With so much lack of experience, there is a lot of intrigue on how these players will perform. The reports out of training camp were very strong for Samuels, Slayton, Clark, Sheppard and Simmons. But until they prove it during real games, the outlook will remain a murky one.
What will constitute a successful season for this position group: Consistency among this group of players, from starters to reserves, to allow Syracuse to use the four and five man rotation at each spot that they like to have will make this year a successful one. If the young players can translate their camp performance to in-game production, along with a breakout season from Ron Thompson, the Syracuse defensive line will have had a successful 2015 campaign.