We've discussed the Syracuse Orange defensive line before, and expressed some concern. Then we expressed more concern when Wayne Williams departed the program. The issue, of course, is depth and the fact that SU has very little at the position for 2015. With this in mind, Syracuse.com's Nate Mink spoke to Tim Daoust about those depth issues and the D-line group as a whole.
He leads off with what we knew: freshman Steven Clark is going to have to play at defensive tackle this season. But on the bright side, he's actually looking up to the challenge. Daoust says Clark is far and away the most physically advanced freshmen on campus right now, though Tyler Cross is the best athlete they have. We shouldn't expect either to be forced into more than they can handle, however -- at least by design. Said Daoust:
"It would be hard if you bring in an 18-year-old kid and tell them to go play 50-plus snaps a game...
... Pray for me if that happens. That's not the plan. There are three good defensive tackles here right now that have played in my mind. Yeah, they didn't play in the fall, but Kayton and Chris can play. I don't need to get to a game to know that Kayton Samuels and Chris Slayton can play football. I've seen it."
So that's a relief. While guys like Clark and Cross have the potential to be very good players for the Orange, it's best to not put them so far in over their heads that they're doomed to failure.
Daoust says "(he's) not sleepless at night over the defensive tackle situation" and says that SU is "not short on ability" on the defensive line, which I'd tend to agree with. If he can get the stated goal of 8-10 players into the rotation there, the Orange may not need an all-world performance from any of them to keep the unit's production at a similarly high level to previous years.
Mink closes with some additional notes, which have varying levels of interest for the fan base:
- Ron Thompson will hopefully avoid being shifted inside (as he was last year).
- Freshman Kenny Carter is going to start practicing at defensive end.
- O-linemen are going to stay on the O-line and won't get switched to D (that's a plus).
- Other freshmen beyond the names listed earlier -- Amir Ealey, Qaadir Shepphard and Jake Pickard -- are also in the mix for playing time. Seems like most of this year's defensive players are going to forgo redshirts...
Any thoughts? Daoust doesn't provide a ton of new info, but at least we know where the staff's heads are at in terms of the depth issues and who may need to step up early. The next few weeks should tell us a lot.