ESPN's Brian Bennet gave some love to Syracuse's defense in his Best "Triplets" post yesterday. The conditions spelled out by a reader was to find the best DL-LB-DB tandem's in the Big East. Bennett puts the Orange at No.5 with DE Chandler Jones, LB Derrell Smith and DB #Shamarko Thomas.
How about a little love for the Orange? This might be the year when Chandler Jones breaks out of the shadow of his older brother, Arthur. You could put Smith or Doug Hogue here at linebacker and be in great shape. And Thomas had a terrific freshman year.
He's right, you could probably swap out Smith for Hogue and still not lose much. And you could also probably swap #Shamarko with Mike Holmes and still be in great shape. And that means...by God...we actually have a solid defense!
Jones might be the anchor but Mikael Marinovich, Bud Tribbey and Andrew Lewis are no slouches. And they have tons of experience (2 seniors, 2 juniors). Meanwhile, freshman Max Beaulieu lurks.
Even with the Spinal Tap Drummer-esque position of WLB forever in flux, 2/3 of the linebacker unit is as strong as we've seen in a long time. Hogue and Smith bring experience, talent and senior leadership (Gillum is also a senior).
Finally the DBs are solid mix of veteran leadership (Holmes, Merkerson, Suter) and up-and-coming talent (#Shamarko, Phillip Thomas).
Pressure's in the defensive backfield to improve more than the other two units but there's good reason to think this might be our strongest overall defense in a long time. We shall see.