2007 Syracuse Preview |
2007 Syracuse Offense Preview
2007 Syracuse Depth Chart
2006 CFN Syracuse Preview
What you need to know:
It might take a little while, but the D will improve as the
season goes on, It struggled in every area but getting into the
backfield, and with a strong defensive line returning, led be
end Jameel McClain, generating pressure won’t be much of a
problem. The linebacking corps will be a work in progress with
three new starters, but the excellent safety tandem of Dowayne
Davis and Joe Fields should clean up plenty of messes.
Jameel McClain, 9.5
Interceptions: Joe Fields, 4
Star of the defense: Senior DE Jameel McClain
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior LB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DE Brandon Gilbeaux
Best pro prospect: McClain
Top three all-star candidates: 1) McClain, 2) FS Joe
Fields, 3) SS Dowayne Davis
Strength of the defense: Safety, pass rush
Weakness of the defense:
The ineptitude of the 2006 Syracuse offense overshadowed the
play of a defense that couldn’t stop the run and
uncharacteristically ranked among the nation’s worst. The
Orange will attempt to rebuild the unit around a defensive line
that features all-league candidates in seniors Jameel McClain
and Tony Jenkins. McClain’s first season at end was
a rousing success that included 69 tackles, 14.5 tackles for
loss and a Big East-best 9.5 sacks. Just 6-1 and 256 pounds, he
explodes off the edge in a Dwight Freeney impersonation which is
too much for most tackles to handle.
A rock on the interior,
Jenkins is coming off the best season of his college career.
Using a hot motor and his trademark quickness off the snap, he
led all interior linemen with 41 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss
and 3.5 sacks.
The other openings on the line will be filled by a couple of
sophomores that saw extensive action last year. Brandon
Gilbeaux is a 6-3, 270-pound end who earned Freshman all-Big
East honors for picking up 21 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and
1.5 sacks a year ago. He’s bulked up significantly since
arriving on campus, yet still has a pretty quick first step.
tackle, 6-4, 289-pound Arthur Jones is being counted on
to build substantially on a debut season that was uneventful. A
former state wrestling champ with good technique, he needs to
improve his upper body strength to handle the rigors of facing
some of the league’s tougher interior linemen.
Projected Top Reserves: Powerful junior tackle
Nick Santiago will play a key part in the Orange rotation
this season. At 6-3 and 302 pounds, he’s easily the team’s
biggest lineman and the type of plugger that can be an asset to
Syracuse’s quest for a tighter run defense.
Owen was moved from linebacker to defensive end before the
2006 season in order to make better use of his speed and ability
to get penetration. Now at 6-4 and 255 pounds, he’s being
viewed as a situational pass-rusher after mainly appearing on
special teams a year ago.
Adding to the Orange’s suspect depth at end will be redshirt
freshmen Andrew Lewis and Jared Kimmel, both of
whom spent 2006 putting on muscle and learning the system in the
hopes of earning spots on the second unit.
Watch Out For… the academic grades of Lee
Williams and Cornelius Campbell, former Syracuse
linemen that combined for 13 starts in 2006. Both are
academically ineligible, but trying to get back in good standing
at local community colleges. Neither exactly lit it up last
year, however, retaining two experienced seniors would give a
huge boost to a unit that now lacks depth.
Strength: The inside-outside combination of
Jenkins and McClain. For all the dire news about the defense,
it shouldn’t be forgotten that Jenkins and McClain were the
disruptive catalysts for a group that finished 19th
nationally at almost three sacks a game.
Weakness: Depth. Losing Williams and Campbell
hurts most because it forces two kids to contribute right away
that probably don’t belong on the field just yet. After the two
staples on the line, the Orange is relying on too many players
that have yet to accomplish anything of significance at this
Outlook: With McClain ringing up double-digit
sacks, the pass rush will be a team strength, but the problems
with the run defense won’t disappear until Jenkins gets more
help from Jones and Santiago on the inside.
Although three starters are gone from last year’s team, the
Orange still feels cautiously optimistic at linebacker because
of the presence of three juniors that have taken plenty of reps
over the last two seasons. Jake Flaherty, Vincenzo
Giruzzi and Ben Maljovec are poised for promotions
after serving as valuable reserves in 2006.
Although just 6-1 and 228 pounds, Flaherty is a sensational
all-around athlete with the toughness, intensity and instincts
to excel in run defense and the speed to cover backs swinging
out of the backfield. He’ll be Syracuse’s man in the middle
with a chance to ring up 100 tackles in his first season as a
Giruzzi is a fifth-year player who redshirted in 2003 and missed
all of 2004 with a broken leg. After two years playing on
special teams, he’ll take over on the weakside where his
size-speed combo will be especially useful on blitz packages. A
former safety that picked off two passes in 2006, Maljovec
hasn’t lost the pass coverage skills that used to be a necessity
when he was a member of the secondary. Now 6-3 and 223 pounds,
he’s athletic, intelligent and about to begin his first season
as the starter at strongside.
Projected Top Reserves: In any other season,
redshirt freshman Parker Cantey would have been brought
along more slowly, but with the turnover at linebacker, he’ll be
thrown into the deep end of the pool. A superb athlete at 6-3
and 216 pounds, he’s a little more muscle and some game reps
away from being a major contributor.
Sophomore Mike Stenclik
will be the backup to Flaherty at middle linebacker after
appearing in three games. Undersized at 6-0 and 225 pounds, he
relies on his lateral quickness and reading of offenses to make
Watch Out For… the incoming freshmen. The shaky
situation at linebacker creates an immediate opportunity for
heralded newcomers Jermaine Pierce and Romale Tucker.
A major get for the Orange, Pierce is a 6-3, 240-pound menace
that’ll be very hard to keep away from the two-deep.
Strength: Athleticism. The new linebackers may
not have a single start among them, but that’s no indictment on
their collective ability to move rapidly to the ball and make
plays. Flaherty, Giruzzi and Maljovec are athletes first with
the range and quickness to make plays all over the field.
Weakness: Depth. Not only will Syracuse be
breaking in a whole new starting three, but not one of the
second or third teamers has ever even made a tackle at this
level. Any injuries to the starters might quickly stretch this
group to its breaking point.
Outlook: The Orange will recover surprisingly well
from the turnover, getting a fringe all-Big East season from
Flaherty and solid years from Giruzzi and Maljovec. The
linebackers might actually wind up being an asset if they don’t
have to rely too heavily on the backups.
If there’s one single most pressing need on defense, it’s
replacing two starting corners, especially current pro Tanard
Jackson. On a defense pining for a shut down corner, junior
Nick Chestnut is ready to fill the order. A playmaking
athlete who caught three touchdown passes as a true freshman
receiver, he had 56 tackles to go along with two picks and a
forced fumble in 2006. Although just 5-11 and 185 pounds,
Chestnut is physical, fast and on the verge of becoming a
game-changer in the secondary. On the opposite side, the
situation will be far more fluid.
Senior Jason Tanner has the edge at right corner based on
seniority, however, he played sparingly last year for a reason.
A 5-11, 200-pound former JUCO transfer, he’ll need to step up
this summer to hold off a couple of the eager young kids that
have more physical ability.
The safeties are set with the return of starting seniors
Dowayne Davis and Joe Fields. Davis is a 6-0,
200-pound strong safety about to begin his third season as the
starter. He’s a hard-hitting all-Big East candidate
that’ll be one of the leaders of this defense. Fields’
first season after moving from quarterback went better than
anyone could have guessed. A naturally gifted athlete with
good size, he had 66 tackles and led the defense with eight
break ups and four interceptions in 2006. With the
awkwardness of that first season on defense now behind him,
Fields is looking to emerge as an even more productive defender
in his final year.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior A.J. Brown
nearly won the free safety job a year ago before picking off
three passes as the Orange’s steadiest reserve. At 6-0 and 200
pounds, he has the agility of a corner, making him an asset on
passing downs. With continued development from Brown, Davis may
move to corner in order to open space in the starting lineup.
Junior Bruce Williams is the heir apparent to Davis at
strong safety. A former star high school receiver with great
ball skills, he missed half of last season with a hand injury
and is still learning the finer points of playing defense.
Williams, the staff hopes it can transform senior Quinton
Brown from a fluid pass-catcher to a feisty pass defender.
After playing offense his first two years, he’ll bolster the
secondary depth at cornerback.
Redshirt freshman Nico Scott
made enough of an impression on the scout team last year to
warrant a real close look at cornerback in 2007.
Watch Out For… true freshman cornerback Matt
Reid. Physically and emotionally, he has the right makeup
to soar past a few upperclassmen en route to immediate playing
time in 2007. A superb athlete with deft ball skills, he will
not shy away from contact despite holding just 165 pounds on his
Strength: The safeties. Davis and Fields are a
couple of seniors that play like linebackers in run defense, yet
don’t sacrifice much when playing the pass. Brown and Williams
are veteran backups who’ll be auditioning this fall to start in
Weakness: Cornerback depth. Chestnut is on the
fast track, however, Tanner is a big question mark on the other
side and the reserves inject precious little experience or
confidence to the equation.
Outlook: While building depth and developing a
capable rotation at cornerback will be important tasks for the
defense, there are enough veteran holdovers to feel confident
about this group heading into the season.
When an offense labors to score as much as Syracuse’s does, it’s
a godsend to have a reliable kicker like junior Patrick
Shadle, a Groza Award semifinalist in his debut as the
starter. Although he’s yet to get a chance to show off his
distance, inside 50 yards, he was near-automatic in 2006,
nailing 16-of-18 field goal attempts and all 21 extra point
tries. All is not so stable at punter where the Orange will be
auditioning replacements for big Brendan Carney who also handled
kickoffs and was the team’s holder.
A pair of walk-ons,
sophomore Kyle Muir and junior Niko Rechul will go
toe-to-toe before being joined by incoming freshman Rob Long
in August. Muir has a slight edge that could easily
evaporate between now and the opener. On a team that endures
plenty of three-and-outs, the punter is especially important at
Projected Top Reserves: Junior John Barker
is no threat to Shadle, however, he does offer a nice insurance
policy in the event of an injury. Barker connected on 8-of-12
field goals in 2005, most from close range, and is also expected
to supplant Carney as the holder.
Watch Out For: Long. The punting job is wide-open
with no clear favorite, opening the door for Long to start
immediately as a true freshman. He was recruited to contribute
right away and it won’t hurt his case that he and Carney are
Strength: Shadle. He won’t get as much attention
as the Big East’s more prominent kickers, but Shadle proved last
year that he’s one of Syracuse’s steadiest offensive weapons and
about to carry on the tradition of solid Orange placekickers.
Weakness: Punting. Even in a best case scenario,
the drop-off from Carney figures to be precipitous which is
going to put even more pressure on an Orange D that can
ill-afford any more obstacles.
Outlook: The special teams glass is half full. Or
half empty, depending on your perspective. While Shadle will
build on his sophomore season, the Orange could spend the entire
year struggling with its punting situation. Syracuse can also
use a boost from its return teams which ranked in the bottom
half of the league in 2006.