Syracuse Orange football is coming off of a 3-9 season (sorry for reminding you) and they're headed into the 2015 season without a few standout upperclassmen who have gone off to greener NFL pastures. If they want to improve on that poor 2014 result, they're going to need some newbies to step up and fill the void left behind.
ESPN's David Hale sees the hole left behind by linebacker Cameron Lynch as the most pressing for SU football.
There are question marks all over Syracuse’s defense with an abundance of veteran leaders departing after the 2014 season. If we’re forced to pinpoint one departure that looms larger than the rest it’s Lynch, who led the team with 97 tackles and 12 tackles for loss last season. This spring, Marqez Hodge has done a nice job of rehabbing a knee injury and playing the Will linebacker spot. He’s got potential there, but there will be youth surrounding him and limited depth behind him -- which isn’t ideal for a player still working back from an injury.
While losing Cam is definitely tough to get over, we at TNIAAM wondered if that was truly the most pressing position that needs to be filled. We put it to the staff and here's what everyone thought...
I know I'm on an island with this one, but I'm saying Brandon Reddish leaves the biggest hole to fill in 2015. Reddish had 3 of SU's 8 interceptions last year, and with only Julian Whigham returning as a starter in the secondary, replacing Reddish might be harder than any of the other players SU lost. Wayne Morgan should have the inside track at the job, but he's returning from a knee injury which ended his 2014 season in the 3rd game. If SU doesn't have guys step up here it could mean trouble in 2015.
The answer has to be Sean Hickey, no? The anchor of a battered offensive line last season, he was viewed as the only assured prospect in that position group, despite a constant assault by opposing teams' best pass rusher(s). When you read up on the Orange's biggest concerns, OL is right at the top, and that's largest because of the hole someone needs to fill in his absence. That group's success without him will be a major factor in how much this team can rebound this fall.
For a team that won just three games, Syracuse loses a number of key players. Cam Lynch was definitely a great linebacker, although I disagree with the ESPN assessment that he is the most important loss. If anything, Syracuse's young linebackers are among the most intriguing players on the team. Brandon Reddish was incredibly underrated and did his best to hold together a flimsy secondary. Ultimately, Sean Hickey is the biggest loss. When he was healthy, the offensive line wasn't great, but it was serviceable, and he had some very strong performances last year—his game against Clemson's Vic Beasley, the No. 8 pick in last week's NFL Draft comes to mind. When he went out in that game, the unit was a total disaster. In years past, we've been able to anchor lines around our top-level left tackles in Hickey and Justin Pugh before him. We're entering uncharted territory without a guy like that to hold down Terrel Hunt's blindside this year, and it is quite scary.
When Syracuse lost Justin Pugh, we had Sean Hickey to step up and be the anchor on the offensive line. Now Hickey is gone and we have...hmm... Rob Trudo should do well but what's going on around him on a unit that's traditionally one of SU's biggest question marks? With Terrel Hunt back behind center trying to re-establish himself and the Orange yet again working on a new offense with young playmakers, we need a secure line to give them time. That's not a question we'll be able to answer until the season starts and the same goes for who, exactly, is going to be The Next Solid Syracuse Offensive Lineman.