Syracuse defeating Central Michigan 40-3 was a full team effort, but for those who witnessed the Orange's early season disaster, you couldn't help but notice a much-improved defensive line this past Saturday. Constantly getting pressure on CMU QB Cooper Rush, they -- along with the linebackers -- were able to control the line of scrimmage and turn the tide of that game in the second quarter.
One of those stalwarts in the front four was once highly-touted DT Wayne Williams. As Syracuse.com points out, his 25 snaps were fifth on the team (of the D-linemen), and with the work he's put in this summer, he may finally be putting all of those concerns about work ethic behind.
So what do we think of the job Williams did this weekend? And how do we feel about the defensive line's overall progress following such a strong push against the Chippewas?
Jared Smith: Looking back on the game, his name wasn't called a lot but it was nice to hear it every once in awhile. It addition, if he can stay healthy, will be a good one though considering this team's defensive line will need all the help it can get, especially with losses from last season.
As for the unit as a whole, I thought they did a fantastic job of holding their assignments and letting the Chuck Bullough blitz do its thing. CMU got little time to throw the ball and didn't do much of anything on the ground. It was an impressive effort all-around. Though, I don't know how much Williams did to help that.
Sean Keeley: Looking back, I feel like the coaches knew this was coming the entire off-season. Or at least, they knew it was very possible. Williams is the only player who we would get public updates over regarding his weight and conditioning. They were very clearly challenging him publicly to get in shape because they saw potential in him. Glad to see he followed through and he's paying off on that now.
I'll be honest, I don't remember really noticing him as much I noticed the improvement of the defensive line in general. Obviously the linebackers led the blitzing charge but it was the work of the linemen that really made that happen. While we don't have a star like Jay Bromley or Chandler Jones, it looks like we might actually have that solid defensive line unit that we were hoping to see. Question is, can they maintain against some bigger hosses like they'll see against Maryland and Notre Dame.
John Cassillo: Williams's emergence was great to watch on Saturday, even if it didn't always show up in the stat line (though his two tackles were certainly recorded). Having him on the inside allowed Eric Crume to operate more freely and allowed him the ability to get right through the middle on both passing and running plays. Even if he functions as a decoy or a way to draw the double off Crume, that's an invaluable asset, and one that we'll see Williams improve upon as the season progresses.
In terms of the defense overall, Williams is also a part of that improvement too. Against Villanova, there was not a whole lot of pressure coming from the interior of the defense -- with the blitz nearly always coming from the edge (a change in philosophy for this group). Marqez Hodge was able to get penetration, but beyond him, the middle seemed largely ineffective against the Wildcats. Fast-forward a week, and we're looking at a team that was suddenly blitzing from all directions and crashing guys in at various points on the offensive line and the edge. Williams's function helping out Crume (see above) is a big part of that, and this defense does appear to be improving. They'll need to keep varying where the pressure comes from, though, to continue seeing the sort of success we saw on Saturday.
What do you think? Like what you saw from Williams? How about the defensive line?