This is the second in a two part series previewing the 2012 Syracuse football team. Check out Part I, which highlights the offense.
The biggest storyline in this group is the loss of star DE Chandler Jones, who was picked 21st overall by the New England Patriots. Also gone are Mikhail Marinovich and reserve Torrey Ball.
But the Orange has reloaded at this position, shifting Deon Goggins, who started 12 games at nose tackle for the Orange in 2011, to defensive end.
Goggins is a nightmare for opposing tackles, as he uses his speed and strength effectively. Last year, he recorded 43 tackles (19 solo), and 1½ sacks and a forced fumble.
At the other end positions, senior DE Brandon Sharpe will be featured, and Robert Welsh, who appeared in 10 games last season made the same move as Goggins, and could see action, as well.
Jay Bromley will be a key on defense. Bromley had a hand in all nine points in the Spring Game. He forced a safety and had a strip sack that led to a touchdown.
Junior college standouts DE Markus Pierce-Brewster, the 2011 All-America Community College Defensive Player of the Year, and DT Zian Jones should be able to contribute immediately in the absence of Chandler Jones.
“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.”
This young group will be led by an experienced veteran in Shamarko Thomas, who recorded 47 solo tackles on the year, and 20 assists last year. Thomas will be looked at as the leader with FS Philip Thomas and CB Kevyn Scott both gone.
Surrounding Thomas will be CB Ri’Shard Anderson and CB Brandon Reddish, who made some big plays in the spring game and showcased his athleticism.
Keon Lyn and Jerami Wilkes will also have an opportunity to line up across opposing receivers.
Marquis Spruill should be able to build on a strong 2011 campaign, and will headline the most experienced group on the team.
Spruill started 11 of 12 games for Syracuse last season, and was named to the All-BIG EAST Second Team after finishing fourth on the team with 62 tackles, including 8.5 for a loss and three sacks in 2011.
It also includes sophomore linebacker Dyshawn Davis, who had a breakout freshman campaign. Davis, the 2011 ECAC Defensive Rookie of the Year, recorded 10.5 TFLs, including four sacks.
Graduate student linebacker Dan Vaughan was second on the team with 72 tackles (40 solo), including 6.5 for a loss of yards, and was a Phil Steele Preseason All-BIG EAST Fourth Team selection.
Sophomore Jonathan Fisher will try to give the defense some breathing room on changes of possession—he averaged 39.3 yards per punt last season, with a long kick of 57 yards. He is backed up by fellow sophomore Riley Dixon will be ready to step in if Fisher struggles or is injured.
Ross Krautman returns for his junior season after a successful sophomore campaign. Last year, he led the BIG EAST in field goal percentage (78.9%).
On the receiving end, look for blazing-fast Jeremiah Kobena to take over as the primary return man now that Dorian Graham is gone. Kobena averaged 22.8 yards per kickoff return last year, with a long return of 79 yards. RB Steve Rene will run back punts.
Marrone also took note of freshman kicker Ryan Norton as a player who could contribute immediately.
“I think he’s going to be the kickoff guy, we’ve seen that on film,” Marrone said. “He doesn’t have to block, he doesn’t have to tackle, and he doesn’t have to do a lot of things. All he has to do is what he’s been doing his entire life which is kicking the ball into the endzone.”
Check out Part I of the 2012 Syracuse football preview.Corey Mallonee (Follow on Twitter @CoreyMallonee)