Syracuse Preview 2006 - Defense
Syracuse Orangemen
Posted Aug 1, 2006

Syracuse Orange Preview 2006 - Syracuse Orange Defense

What you need to know ... A defensive coach by nature, head man Greg Robinson improved things last year. Considering there was no help from the offense, the Orange defense did a great job. Now it has to overcome the loss of several top performers like linemen James Wyche and Ryan LaCasse along with defensive backs Anthony Smith and Steve Gregory, but there are some good players to build around. Linebacker Kelvin Smith is one of the best in the nation, and Tanard Jackson is a lock-down corner ready to start receiving national recognition.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Kelvin Smith, 84
Sacks: Kelvin Smith, 2
Interceptions: Dowayne Davis, 2

Star of the defense: Senior LB Kelvin Smith
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior CB Terrell Lemon and/or sophomore CB Nick Chestnut
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Jake Flaherty
Best pro prospect: Smith
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Smith, 2) CB Tanard Jackson, 3) SS Dowayne Davis
Strength of the defense: Size, Kelvin Smith
Weakness of the defense:
Overall experience, proven depth

Defensive Line
The line will take a big dip losing big-time talents in James Wyche and Ryan LaCasse along with tackle Kader Drame. There's plenty of size with the potential to average 282 pounds a man across the starting front four, and there are plenty of options ready to be part of the rotation. Chris Thorner is the only returning starter and a good anchor, and now pass rushers have to emerge around him.
The key to the unit: Playmakers have to shine through early on. SU loses some great players that won't quickly be replaced.

Defensive Line Rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- DE Nick Santiago, Soph. - 3 tackles
Santiago will be an interesting experiment in the attempt to replace James Wyche on the left side. A tackle by nature, the 298-pound sophomore is a good athlete who should do wonders over the course of the season against the run. It'll be a minor shock if he becomes much of a pass rusher.

- NT Chris Thorner, Jr. - 26 tackles
The only returning starter to the line, the former offensive lineman turned into a nice anchor on the nose. He's not a great interior pass rusher, but that's not necessarily his job. He has the lateral movement to hold up well against the run.

- DT Tony Jenkins, Jr. - 35 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
While not a starter last year, Jenkins didn't slip much after a great freshman season. The 286-pound junior is a nice pass rusher and has all-star potential with more experience. He can play either tackle position without a problem.

- DE Lee Williams, Jr. - 11 tackles, 2 TFL
A nice reserve and a special teamer so far, the 262-pound junior will be the biggest option on the right side in the attempt to replace Ryan LaCasse. He's not a proven pass rusher and he'll need time to develop as a starter, but he has the potential and the skills to be a key contributor.

Top Backups
- DE Brandon Gilbeaux, RFr.
More of a speed rusher on the left side than the big Nick Santiago, the 6-3, 256-pound Gilbeaux bulked up over the last year and should, if nothing else, see plenty of time in the rotation.
- DE Jameel McClain, Jr. - 20 tackles, 1 sack
Mostly a special teamer so far, the 252-pound junior has enough overall experience, and 31 career tackles, to be a factor on the right side combining with Lee Williams. He has plenty of talent; now it all has to come through.
- DT Cornelius Campbell, Jr. - 9 tackles, 1 sack
A slightly bigger option than Tony Jenkins on the inside, the 290-pound junior saw a little bit of time last season and has the strength to be a factor against the run. He saw time in every game last year and will be the top backup at both tackle spots.

The healthy return of Jerry Mackey and the projected emergence of Luke Cain as a top playmaker should make the linebacking corps shine. Kelvin Smith is one of the nation's best all-around defenders and will make everyone around him better. There's not a lot of experienced depth, but there's a ton of potential.
The key to the unit: The backups have to quickly become major factors and Luke Cain and Jerry Mackey have to be consistently disruptive on the outside.
Linebacker Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- Luke Cain, Sr. - 10 tackles, 1 TFL
Is Cain finally ready for the full-time job? The former safety saw plenty of practice reps trying to win the weakside job last year, but he ended up losing out. Now the 225-pound senior with great athleticism and good range will start on the strongside.

- Kelvin Smith, Sr. - 84 tackles, 2 sacks, 7 TFL, 1 interception, 3 broken up passes
One of the nation's best all-around linebackers, Smith can play inside or out and still make big plays. He led the team in tackles last season and has 208 career tackles along with 17 tackles for loss. He's a rock-solid tackler who's great at cleaning up messes against the run. While he isn't turned loose in the backfield as a pass rusher, he has the speed and athleticism to do it.

- Jerry Mackey, Sr. - 29 tackles, 2.5 TFL
Mackey led the team in tackles in 2004 with 106 stops, but he was never quite right last year after suffering a shoulder injury. He can play in the middle or on the outside with great quickness and range. At 233 pounds, he's a big weakside defender who needs to prove he can be consistent against the pass.

Top Backups
- Jake Flaherty, Soph. - 5 tackles
The 222-pound Flaherty got in the mix on special teams as a true freshman and now will be the understudy behind Kelvin Smith in the middle. He's a phenomenal athlete who could see time on the outside to get him on the field more.
- Vincenzo Giruzzi, Soph. - 7 tackles
After returning from a broken leg that cost him all of 2004, the 230-pound Giruzzi saw most of his work on special teams. He's a potentially dangerous pass rusher from the weakside with good all-around athleticism.

Defensive Backs
The Orange pass defense might not finish 21st in the nation again, but it won't slip too much. It loses two great playmakers in free safety Anthony Smith and corner Steve Gregory, but there are two great veterans to build around in corner Tanard Jackson and strong safety Dowayne Davis. They'll likely be on the All-Big East team when all is said and done, but they'll need a little help. There are good battles at the other corner spot and at free safety with good depth and the possibility of a solid rotation.
The key to the unit: A consistent corner needs to emerge on the other side of Tanard Jackson.
Secondary Rating: 7.5

Projected Starters
- CB Tanard Jackson, Sr. - 44 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 interception, 6 broken up passes
The team's best cover-corner, Jackson has been the main man over the last two seasons. He has good size at 6-1 and 193 pounds and enough speed to hang with most of the quicker receivers. Expect this to be the year he starts to get some big-time all-star recognition.

- SS Dowayne Davis, Jr. - 78 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 2 interception, 4 broken up passes
The former corner took to the strong safety position finishing second on the team in tackles. He's one of the best strong safeties in the Big East in pass defense and packs a nice punch as a tackler. He's not going to make many mistakes.

- FS A.J. Brown, Soph.
Brown will battle with Reggie McCoy for the starting job taking over for all-star Anthony Smith. Brown is a bit better in coverage and has the smarts to quickly adjust to the role. He has the athleticism to play corner if needed.

- CB
Terrell Lemon, Sr. - 5 tackles
Lemon will get the first shot at replacing Steve Gregory, but he'll have to battle with Nick Chestnut all season long. He's a good talent and a great special teamer, but he'll have to be used to being picked on with teams staying away from Tanard Jackson..

Top Backups
- CB Nick Chestnut, Soph. - 6 tackles
The future at one of the corner spots, he'll get every shot at taking over for Steve Gregory after seeing action last year a true freshman. Originally a receiver, he moved over to the defensive side early on and now appears ready to blossom into a big-time producer.
- FS Reggie McCoy, Jr. - 9 tackles
McCoy appeared to be on the verge of taking over a starting job at free safety early last year, but he ended up losing out to Dowayne Davis. He has plenty of experience and should be steady enough to see some starting time in place of Anthony Smith.

Special Teams
All-Big East punter Brendan Carney is one of the team's best weapons and should be in the hunt for All-America honors. John Barker came on last year as a field goal kicker, but he'll have to battle with Patrick Shadle for the job. The return game was solid last season with Kareem Jones averaging 23.4 yards per kickoff return, but a replacement needs to be found for Steve Gregory as a punt returner,

The key to the unit: John Barker has to be a steady field goal kicker and a bit more is needed from the coverage units.
Special Teams Rating: 8

Projected Starters
- PK John Barker, Soph. 8-12 FGs
Barker will battle with Patrick Shadle for the field goal kicking job. He had a nice season hitting 8 of 12 kicks connecting on seven of nine inside 40 yards.
- P Brendan Carney, Sr. - 82 punts, 3,491 yds, 42.6 yards per kick, 9 inside the 20
One of the nation's top punters, Carney is fantastic at forcing fair catches with 31 over the last three seasons and 38 put inside the 20. He's a consistent bomber who'll be in the mix for the Ray Guy Award. He'll also handle the kickoffs.

Related Stories
Syracuse Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 1, 2006
Syracuse Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 1, 2006
Syracuse Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 1, 2006

Add Topics to My HotList
Get free email alerts with news about your favorite topics. Click link to add to My HotList.
Football > Syracuse
[View My HotList]