Yesterday provided a huge bit of welcome news for Syracuse Orange football fans. Down to just three defensive ends in spring practice, the situation was looking dire for the team to make an addition to ease fears around an overly inexperienced group taking the field this fall.
Luckily, help came in the form of a verbal commitment from Delaware State defensive end transfer Gabe Sherrod. As a graduate student, he'll be able to play right away at SU, and likely shoots to the top of the depth chart, especially given the team's depth issues there. He'd be slated alongside some combination of redshirt freshman Jake Pickard to start with, one would think. while getting ample contributions from Trey Dunkelberger and Kenneth Ruff (both of whom are on campus this spring), and the three incoming freshmen.
But what are we getting from Sherrod, other than starting snaps? Ends up, quite a bit.
This season, the big (6-foot-4) end was a force for Delaware State, racking up the second-most tackles for loss in all of the FCS with 25 (!!!). As a converted wideout, Sherrod's used that speed and his hands to quickly get after ball-carriers and get in the way of the football even when the sack fails. Obviously FCS competition is a step down in many cases (especially from a power conference), but his production didn't really dip as opponents ranged from the MEAC to the Big South and even the MAC last year in Kent State. His production and ability to get into the backfield quickly has already come up in conversations for the 2017 NFL Draft. It's worth a quick look at his video below for more.
Some of the major things you'll notice above: An intimidating size and speed advantage, and a very quick first step that has him in the backfield before anyone on the line can react. Even against Kent State, he blows right through the tackle hole with ease. In the FCS games, double-teams are of little use, as he uses a variety of skill moves to get around blocks. He's relentless in pursuit, and showed versatility as well, even clogging the middle on both interior runs and special teams. His long wing span allows him to cover a ton of ground very quickly, and effectively blanket ball-carriers while they're in the early parts of their own progressions.
Later in the film, you see him play out in coverage a bit too, quickly reacting to the type of bubble screens that have victimized Syracuse's defense in the past. Even if he can be half that player with the Orange, it's a huge positive step for a defense (and defensive line) sorely lacking in experience.
While we won't get to see what Sherrod can really do for the Orange until this summer and fall, it's good to get a glimpse of what we're getting now. He has verballed to Syracuse and says he won't visit other schools. But we'll have to wait and see until he signs the necessary paperwork to enroll this summer before we know he's 100-percent coming (though we should trust his word until given reason not to).
In the meantime, SU's young DEs can get some meaningful practice reps this spring and will start getting a feel for Brian Ward's scheme on the defensive side. Sherrod will be one of four summer arrivals, and none of the (now) seven defensive ends will have experienced this defense in a game situation. The fifth-year senior's extensive playing time at Delaware State should at least give him a leg up in adjusting quickly, however. Syracuse will certainly need him to in order avoid the defense being a major liability for the second straight season.