Syracuse enjoyed one of its best years in recent memory on defense, as the Orange held opponents to 19.3 points a game, good with 17th in the NCAA.
But much of that unit from last year is gone, as the Orange will have to replace more than half of its starters. Still, Syracuse coach Doug Marrone has some experience to work with.
“Defensively, the ends and the safety position has been the strength,” Marrone said. “Some of the young kids really stepped up and played well (during Spring practice). I was very happy with the way the defense performed and played together with a lot of guys having to fill some holes. We have a lot of good athletes there.”
SU is solid on the defensive ends, with seniors Chandler Jones and Mikhail Marinovich on the outside. Both had productive years in 2010, combining for 87 tackles, including 13.5 for a loss and seven sacks and four forced fumbles.
As for the interior linemen?
“I think the interior defensive line will still be done by committee,” Marrone said.
Among the players that will be involved in filling the defensive tackle positions will be Jay Bromley, Cory Boatman, Deon Goggins, Ollie Haney, Max Beaulieu and Robert Welsh.
One of the biggest questions that the defense will have to answer this year is who will fill the void left by All-Big East linebackers Doug Hogue and Derrell Smith. Hogue accounted for 95 tackles and three sacks while Smith finished the season with 114 tackles.
The most experienced returning linebacker is Marquis Spruill, who started at outside linebacker as a true freshman in 2010 and recorded 51 tackles, including nine for a loss. He’ll shift to the middle linebacker for the season.
Dan Vaughan and Dyshawn Davis are listed as the starters at the two outside linebacker positions. Vaughan played 25 games, primarily on special teams, while Davis just arrived to Syracuse in January 2011.
“I think Dyshawn Davis can be a good player,” defensive coordinator Scott Shafer said. “We’ve got four years with him to keep developing him. Of course, you can never develop guys as fast as you want to, but I’ve been pleased with him.”
Siriki Diabate, Dom Anene, Lewelly Coker, Zachary McCarrell and Femi Aliyu will all have a chance to play, as well.
Aside from the defensive ends, the position with the most experience on defense is safety. Free safety Phillip Thomas and strong safety Shamarko Thomas and returning starters and both enjoyed a productive 2010.
Phillip had 92 tackles, good for third on the team, while Shamarko finished fourth. They will be backed up by Olando Fisher and Jeremi Wilkes.
That being said, the cornerback group will be a completely new group of faces.
Kevyn Scott and Keon Lyn will start the season but look for Ri’Shard Anderson, Joe Nassib and Jaston George to play as well.
Scott missed the first seven games last year due to injury while Lyn appeared in nine games.
“When you look across the board personnel-wise, you lose two good corners in (Da’Mon) Merkerson and Mike Holmes,” Shafer said. “But I’ve been pleased. Keon Lyn has had a really good spring. Ri’Shard Anderson has had a good spring. I’ve been pleased with those two guys. Kevyn Scott’s been solid. We’re happy to have him back healthy.”
The Orange return kicker Ross Krautman, who had a prolific freshman campaign. Krautman was named a freshman All-American after he tied a school record set by Gary Anderson in 1981 with 18 field goals. On the season, Krautman missed just one field goal.
Shane Raupers will take over for Rob Long as the team’s punter and Eric Morris will be the long snapper. MacPherson will be the snapper for PATs and field goals, while Rene and Gulley will return punts, and Gulley, Kobena and Graham will return kicks.
“During the spring, we focused on our punt protection team and our kickoff coverage team, as well as our PAT and field goal units,” Marrone said. “We feel that a lot of the younger kids will come in and participate in some of those areas. We feel very comfortable about it now and I am very excited about the special teams.”