Dags Discusses: Defensive Report Card

With Syracuse a little more than halfway through the season, it's time to hand out some progress reports. The SU defense could have been put on academic probation for the way it performed last season. Has it improved its grades enough to rise to the head of the class? Let's find out.

FRONT FOUR: This group of guys has the most experience out of the whole defense. Louis Gachelin, Josh Thomas, and Christian Ferrara all provide senior leadership, while James Wyche is a sophomore who has seen plenty of playing time. This group looked to be the most ready to contribute at the start of the season. They started out slowly, with few sacks to show for their steady performance. Their experience has started to show through in racking up nine of the team's 13 sacks. Also, they have slowed down many opponent's rushing attacks, such as Boston College's Derrick Knight, one of the premier rushers in the nation. This group has quietly been successful. The unit is the anchor of the SU defense. GRADE: B+

LINEBACKERS: Rich Scanlon is another senior who has been an emotional leader, as well as providing a spark on the field. He leads the team with 90 tackles. Sophomore Kellen Pruitt and redshirt freshman Kelvin Smith are fourth and fifth on the team in tackles with 51 and 45 tackles, respectively. Those three have combined for 3.5 sacks also. The younger guys have picked up the slack for the injured Jameel Dumas, last year's second leading tackler behind another linebacker, Clifton Smith. They have been solid in pass coverage. Scanlon's leadership makes him this year's defensive MVP. GRADE: B

SECONDARY: After last year's performance, this group could not perform much worse. But this year's secondary is trying hard to come close to last year, it seems. Although sophomores Anthony Smith and Steve Gregory are solid players, they lack big play capabilities. While they are steady, you are more likely to see them make a mistake than make a big play. Safety Diamond Ferri has been a solid contributor, in this his first year on defense. The former SU running back has two interceptions, and is a threat on the blitz. However, opponents still average 248 yards through the air on SU's defensive backs. Until they start to shut down more teams, opponents know that the secondary is Syracuse's weakest link. GRADE: C

For every good defensive performance (i.e. seven points allowed against Toledo, 14 against Boston College, 14 against Central Florida), there have been just as many games where SU opponents have carved up the defense like a Thanksgiving turkey (i.e. 51 points allowed against Virginia Tech, 47 against North Carolina, and 34 against Pittsburgh). This defense needs to establish an identity and become more consistent. If it does, SU is sure to enjoy several more victories in the latter part of the season. OVERALL DEFENSIVE GRADE: B-.

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