Pierce-Brewster, Jones will fill big void for Syracuse

One of the glaring holes in Syracuse’s defense next season will be the loss of defensive end Chandler Jones, who decided to forgo his final year at SU and declare early for the NFL draft in December. But the sting of losing Jones will be lessened by the Orange’s incoming class, which the University announced Wednesday afternoon.

The Orange signed five defensive linemen, including defensive ends Myles Hilliard, Josh Manley and Markus Pierce-Brewster, and defensive tackles Marcus Coleman and Zian Jones.

Of the group, Zian Jones and Pierce-Brewster may make an immediate impact since they have played junior college football. Zian Jones was at West Los Angeles Community College while Pierce-Brewster played at the City College of San Francisco.

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Pierce-Brewster had 62 tackles, including 18.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks, and was named 2011 All-America Community College Defensive Player of the Year. Meanwhile, Zian Jones recorded 45 tackles, including 15 tackles for a loss and four sacks.

“It’s very difficult for us to bring in people with size. We’ve had issues with that trying to find enough players in this area with size,” Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said. “For us to have to go to junior college to get a player like Zian Jones or Markus Pierce-Brewster, people who have been established that have done a very good job is going to help our football team.”

They will need all the help they can get without Jones.

The defensive end was named to the All Big East First Team this season after amassing 38 tackles (30 solo) and 4.5 sacks. Jones missed five games due to a lower body injury, but returned against West Virginia and led the Orange to a 49-23 win over West Virginia with six solo tackles and two sacks for a loss of 19 yards.

But Marrone is confident that the void can be filled.

“The one thing about junior college, for us, we’ve been very successful,” Marrone said. “To this point, every junior college player we’ve brought in has graduated. They’ve been outstanding citizens for us and done a very good job. They’ve all contributed in their own way, whether it be on special teams, offense or defense.”

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.