Syracuse Orange Training Camp Position Preview: Defensive Line breaks down the Syracuse defensive line heading into training camp.

The Syracuse Orange football team starts their first training camp under head coach Dino Babers. Heading into camp, the linebackers may be the most steady on the defensive side of the ball.

Other Previews

Running Back 
Wide Receiver   
Tight End       
Offensive Line   

Post-Spring Depth Chart


Starter: Kenneth Ruff 
Backup: Trey Dunkelberger           


Starter: Jake Pickard  
Backup: Hernz Laguerre                       

DEFENSIVE TACKLE 1              

Starter: Chris Slayton  
Backup: Tyler Cross           
Third String: Anthony Giudice                      

DEFENSIVE TACKLE 2             

Starter: Kayton Samuels  
Backup: Steven Clark           

Steady on the Inside

Yes the Syracuse defensive line has questions, but those are mostly on the outside. At defensive tackle, Syracuse has three quality players that will all see plenty of snaps.

Chris Slayton and Kayton Samuels are both solid starting tackles who have shown promise. Slayton may be the strongest guy on the team, or at least is in the discussion. Both are athletic as well, with quickness being a strong attribute. At times, however, they were swallowed up by opposing offensive lineman last season.

Becoming more consistent in terms of shedding their block and being disruptive will be key this season.

An interesting battle for the starting gig between Samuels and true sophomore Steven Clark should be fun to watch this fall. Clark is a big time talent with a very high ceiling. He eats up blockers, takes up space and moves very well for his size. Even if he does not win the job, he will be in the rotation and see the field quite a bit this season.

Behind those three is where Syracuse is looking for someone to emerge. Tyler Cross had a decent spring, but is looking to add consistency. Anthony Giudice fell behind Cross and has ground to make up. Adding one player to the defensive tackle rotation would be ideal, and they are the prime candidates.  

Questions at End

At defensive end, there is a very different story. There is a severe lack of experience despite having some intriguing talent. Jake Pickard emerged as a starter during the spring. He is a long, athletic body without elite speed or quickness. He has done a nice job packing on the pounds and is a high IQ football player. 

Pickard needs to become a solid, steady force for Syracuse at defensive end and that starts this fall. He seems to be solidly entrenched at one starting spot, though tight end convert Trey Dunkelberger is looking to push him.

Dunkelberger is extremely athletic, but is learning a new position. He was decent during the spring, but needs to take that next step during camp. 

Opposite Pickard there are even more questions. Graduate transfer De'Jon Wilson is the favorite to win the job. He comes from Colorado where he did not play much, largely due to their scheme switch from a 4-3 (which he was recruited for) to a 3-4. The 3-4 did not suit his talents. 

Wilson is someone who can be productive on first and second down, but is not a pass rushing force. On obvious passing downs, he may come out in favor of a pass rushing specialist. Still, Wilson is big and strong, and should provide some stability. 

Pushing Wilson is Kenneth Ruff, a true freshman who enrolled in the spring. The reps and experience he earned during that time as a starting defensive end will be invaluable. Still, to rely on a true freshman to be a difference maker is tough. He could end up as the pass rushing specialist, however, which may suit him well to start his career. 

Hernz Laguerre is someone interesting to watch. The walk-on defensive end was good during the spring and will try to carve out a role this fall. 


Syracuse has plenty of incoming freshmen to bolster their defensive line depth. One or two has a good shot at cracking the two-deep. 

At defensive tackle, McKinley Williams comes from Florida. He is strong, plays with low pad level and is agile. A bit raw with technique, Williams may not be needed right away, but gives them an option if neither Cross nor Giudice step up. 

At defensive end, Syracuse brings in Jaquwan NelsonJoshua Black and Kendall Coleman

The most talented of the group may be Nelson, who has burst off the edge and is an explosive talent. He may be the best best to emerge as a pass rushing threat who plays situationally on third downs and obvious passing situations. 

Black is a bigger defensive end who has done a nice job bulking up during the offseason. He may end up moving inside, to give Syracuse an athletic, quicker tackle, but that is yet to be determined. Counting on him in year one may be asking too much, but he has a lot of potential. 

Coleman is another physical defensive end with a nice frame and strong athleticism. Keep an eye on how he develops throughout camp. He may not crack the two deep right away, but could find a role in the rotation. There is certainly plenty of opportunity. 


Jake Pickard holds down one starting spot while De'Jon Wilson claims the other. Dunkelberger, Ruff and Nelson all find roles within the rotation. 


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