Players leaving school before exhausting their eligibility is a fact of life and as fans we must not begrudge a student-athlete taking an opportunity to fulfill their dreams of playing professional sports. Coaches must anticipate such inevitability and be prepared for the next player in line to step up.
Coach Babers, however, has inherited a Syracuse Orange defensive line with very little depth or experience, especially at defensive end. Let's take a look at the roster and the recruiting targets to see what options Defens Coordinator Brian Ward may have to work with this spring and into next season.
Syracuse has five defensive linemen who won't be with the program next year. As noted, All-ACC selection Ron Thompson is taking his talents to the NFL. The other starting defensive end Donnie Simmons has exhausted his eligibility. Luke Arcineiga has opted not to use his last year of eligibility for health reasons. Defensive tackles John Raymon and Rony Charles have exhausted their eligibility as well.
Defensive Tackle, which had long been a source of concern, has a lot of young players who have gotten playing experience early in their careers. Kayton Samuels, Steven Clark and Chris Slayton all played well this past year. Anthony Guidice gained some experience and Tyler Cross redshirted.
At defensive end there is very little experience on the roster. Qaadir Sheppard and Amir Ealey both played sparingly and were suspended for the final three games of the year. Based upon the language of the drug policy, it's possible they may be suspended for another five games.
Other than those two, no one on the roster has played a snap at defensive end. Jake Pickard, who was a highly sought after recruit, redshirted last year and may be able to contribute right away. Kenny Carter redshirted as well but he is considered a much more raw prospect. Syracuse also could slide one of their smaller DTs, like Slayton or Giudice outside to play end as well.
Class of 2016 Targets
The Orange have one defensive end verbally committed in Jamal Holloway from Camden, New Jersey. Holloway is 6'4" but only 200 lbs. At that weight, it's unlikely Holloway will be able to contribute his freshman year.
Once the new coaching staff took over, they made Illinois commit Joshua Black one of their top recruiting priorities. Black is a 6' 3", 235 lbs. end from Harlem High School in Machesney, Illinois. He committed to Illinois in June but will be visiting Syracuse in January. Should the staff be able to flip Black, he may be in line for some immediate reps his freshman year.
Another defensive end target is former Bowling Green commit Drew Beesley. Beesley is a 6'3", 225 pounder from De La Salle High School in Warren, Michigan. He has a prior relationship with the new staff and will be visiting Syracuse in January. Hopefully, between who the Orange already have on campus and their new recruits, Syracuse is able to cobble together a defensive line to fit Coach Ward system going forward.