The Syracuse defense is replacing eight starters from a year ago. That means a lot of players without significant playing experience will be counted on to play major roles. The first step in their maturation as a group is getting on the field against a different opponent in real game action.
There is always a difference between training camp, scrimmages and an actual game. So the Syracuse defense will have to be ready for that adjustment.
”The biggest thing will be tackling,” defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough said. “Because you don’t get a lot of live tackling in training camp. So tackling is always the biggest thing. The second thing we’ll be looking at as a defensive staff is our freshmen. The younger guys that are playing.
”Does the game become too big where they start doing their own thing instead of what they’ve been doing in practice. That’ll be something we’re talking about as a defensive staff the whole time.”
Those freshmen include several defensive linemen that will need to play in order to provide adequate depth in the rotation. Which ones will play in the opener?
”Steven Clark, Amir (Ealey), Qaadir (Sheppard), Jake (Pickard),” Bullough said. “They’ll see action. The other guys are just a little bit behind them. We’re not sure if we’re going to play them yet or not. We have not made that decision.”
Bullough added that neither will play the whole game, but how much they play will be dependent on how the game plays out. If Syracuse is able to get a lead and start to extend it, he will be able to rest both players. If Syracuse is tied or behind, Thompson specifically will need to play due to his importance to the defense as a whole.
Syracuse kicks off the 2015 season on Friday at 7pm against Rhode Island.