We're one week (!!!) from college football season, everybody! So of course, we're asking questions which we won't have an answer to until months from now. We'll be resuming our typical format (multiple questions on actual football results) next week. But in the meantime, no harm in tossing around a few other hot topics before we start playing some actual games.
This Week: Who's Syracuse's Most Important Defensive Player for the 2013 Season?
Andrew Pregler: This is much more difficult to answer than offense simply because in past years, we've known of at least one playmaker type player on defense headed into the season (ie Chandler Jones, Shamarko Thomas most recently) however this year, Marquis Spruill doesn't seem to invoke that same playmaking abilities. Hence, I'm going Dyshawn Davis. His rookie season flashed the potential of a playmaking force patrolling the field while last year was more of the same: flashes over consistency. We know Spruill will be consistently clogging the middle of the field so if Davis becomes a force alongside Spruill, the SU defense will have the potential to clog the most potent running games and pressure the top tier quarterbacks in the ACC.
The Invisible Swordsman (channeling SI.com's Zac Ellis): For my pick, I am going to pretend I'm SI.com's Zac Ellis, who joined a long list of lazy media types apparently writing off SU's chances this year by stating Syracuse was a "middle-of-the-pack finisher in a weak Big East Conference last year." Zac, did I read that correctly? I'm sorry, my vision might have just been obstructed...what with this 2012 Big East Conference Regular Season Champions trophy getting in my way! So I guess I'll just "phone it in" like Zac would when it comes to our most important defensive player: Arthur Jones, DT; Look, I have a deadline here, and it's August. So like everyone on the writing staff is away bunking up four-to-a-room out in The Hamptons and I'm stuck here in Midtown. Let's be honest, Syracuse hasn't been good as far as I can recall since Marvin McNabb was quarterback so why waste time. I did a trending search on "syracuse football players", and Arthur Jones showed up. I looked into some links and found a funny YouTube clip of Arthur chasing an ice cream truck. I honestly don't have any idea if he's any good, but if he goes after Tajh Boyd with half the passion he goes after Mr. Softee, Greg Robinson might have a half-useful player on his hands.
Matt McClusky: By halftime of game one we'll really know the answer to this question, but for now, I'll go with Jay Bromley. As the old saying goes: your secondary is only as good as your pass rush. Bromley is one of those potential breakout stars just waiting to create havoc on opposing offensive lines and opposing quarterbacks. Given all the transition on this side of the ball, including a new defensive coordinator, having a rock in Bromley could be key. That goes double for game one against Penn State. Should Bromley dominate, Syracuse could very well start the season with a big ole check mark in the "W" column.
Sean Keeley: Toughie. I mean, you could make the case that Keon Lyn is most important because he's the leader of the secondary, a unit that usually ends up making or breaking games. But then again Marquis Spruill is likely to be our best tackler and is a true force in the linebacking corp. But I think I'm going to go Jay Bromley. Clearly, the coaching staff thinks the world of him (he's gone to two-consecutive media days). I expect him to make some kind of leap, either statistically or in terms of making his presence known on the field. Lord knows we need him to, the defensive line could end up being the difference between 4-8 and 7-5.
John Cassillo: Dyshawn Davis. The (arguably) best player on the Syracuse defense's best unit. Davis racks up TFLs (14.5 last year) and if this team is going to "shock the world" at all, you can bet he's going to be the one leading that charge. I'm worried about the defensive line (as we all are), and it's the linebackers who are going to decide just how effective this team can be in terms of both rushing the passer and stopping the running game. Davis has the ability to help with both, and considering how much the Orange have struggled making stops on the outside in recent years, that becomes doubly important this fall. Jay Bromley may have the most talent on the defense, but it's Davis who's already asserted himself as the much-needed vocal leader of this team.
Thoughts? From everyone's responses, there's no clear-cut answer -- indicative of how many questions this defense actually has. Is SU's most important player among those named above, or someone else altogether? Feel free to chime in below in the comments with your picks.