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Syracuse Football: A Way-Too-Early Look at the Orange Defensive Depth Chart for 2016


Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

(credit for this smart idea goes to Bud over at the excellent Tomahawk Nation, which you already read regularly)

As we mentioned yesterday while looking at our way-too-early offensive depth chart, the Syracuse Orange football team is still many months away from taking the field. But that's not holding us back from projecting the new SU defense either, which we take a swing at today.

After a year of youth all around, the SU defense actually brings back a ton of experience this season -- outside of the defensive line, which should frighten you quite a bit. But the rest of the unit? Veterans, at this point, despite the various struggles experienced in 2015.

There weren't nearly the same number of discrepancies when compiling the defensive depth chart as there were yesterday for the offense. But still, you'll find projections from our three-writer panel (Sean, Brandon and myself), followed by some explanations too.

Position Starter Reserve 1
DE Chris Slayton (R-So.) Kenny Carter (R-Fr.)
DT Kayton Samuels (R-So.) Anthony Giudice (So.)
DT Steven Clark (So.) Tyler Cross (R-Fr.)
DE Jake Pickard (R-Fr.) Lucas Albrecht (R-Sr.)
OLB Marqez Hodge (Sr.) Ted Taylor (Sr.)
MLB Zaire Franklin (Jr.) Troy Henderson (R-Fr.)
OLB Parris Bennett (Jr.) Jonathan Thomas (Jr.)
CB Cordell Hudson (R-So.) Wayne Morgan (R-Sr.)
CB Corey Winfield (R-Jr.) Juwan Dowels (R-So.)
SS Antwan Cordy (Jr.) Kielan Whitner (So.)
FS Chauncey Scissum (Jr.) Rodney Williams (R-So.)

Eight of 11 were unanimous selections. The rest?

  • Chris Slayton grabbed two of the three votes at defensive end. I was the lone dissenter that felt the larger Kenny Carter could be slotted in there in the early portion of the season.
  • Marqez Hodge struggled in many respects last year, so I moved him out of the starting lineup in exchange for Jonathan Thomas, who possesses far more speed and size that lines up well with what defensive coordinator Brian Ward's Tampa-2 will probably do. Sean and Brandon are still believers that the smaller pass-rushing threat Hodge remains in play, as they have every right to. He very well could be if Ward and co. fail to really shake things up personnel-wise.
  • I also differed from the group by picking Rodney Williams to start at free safety. Williams began the year as a camp standout in 2015, and injuries seemed to derail him and move the job to Chauncey Scissum. His skill set and history of excelling in training camp could propel him to the top of the depth chart once more.

There are two absent names that you're probably wondering about too, and rightfully so. Qadir Sheppard and Amir Ealey, suspended for failing drug tests, would certainly shore up some concerns at defensive end above. Instead, they're out for the beginning of the year and as a result, we'll avoid planning for them (for now).

As far as reserves go, things were pretty cut and dry there -- a weird feeling a year after the Syracuse defense was littered with true freshmen -- with the only differences appearing from my off-the-beaten-path picks above. Or the faith I put into Alryk Perry and (true frosh) Jamal Holloway that no one else bought into.

Oh, and we also picked special teams players too. Kicker's clearly Cole Murphy. But who takes up the mantle of man/god Riley Dixon at punter? Introducing redshirt (called it) freshman Sterling Hofrichter, who will likely take over as kicker too once Murphy graduates.


So, what do you think? Are we very wrong? Very right? Both? Neither? Weigh in below.