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Syracuse Football: Tampa-2 Switch Means a Whole New Role for Orange Linebackers

Big changes for what was (and still is) Syracuse's most important defensive position.

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange's coaching staff change obviously means a lot of other things are changing. One of the biggest adjustments will be in terms of the defensive scheme. From Scott Shafer's aggressive, blitzing attack, SU now moves to the coverage-centric Tampa-2 led by defensive coordinator Brian Ward. That's a tough change for everyone on the Orange defense -- but especially the linebackers, as detailed yesterday.

Parris Bennett talks about some of the bigger differences:

"You definitely need a lot more patience. We were used to going downhill a little more often in the old defense."

"In this defense, you need to make sure you see things before you go. So I try to pause and take things in for a split second, then make things happen and just be quick."

Back in December, we looked at some of the adjustments in this scheme -- especially with regard to the linebackers -- but perhaps we even underestimated just how much of a struggle this could potentially be for the team's current LBs. From blitzing to coverage is not the simplest adjustments. And it's not just Bennett that needs to change his mindset and tailor his skillset to a different goal. One of last year's captains, Zaire Franklin, also needs to shift everything about his game that made him an asset for Shafer's scheme. Says Bennett:

"Zaire's definitely a guy who likes to be downhill. That pass coverage, that deep middle zone is something he had to do every once in a while in the old defense. Now it's a pretty big deal for him, but he's getting used to it."

Based on how much difficulty linebackers seemed to display defending the pass last year, it's tough to doubt Bennett's assessment above.

Part of all that is why we're seeing changes like yesterday's news of Jonathan Thomas and Ted Taylor practicing over at nickelback.


So... this is something worth keeping an eye on. Saturday's scrimmage may provide some insight on progress, but realistically, we're waiting until the summer to really see some positive changes. No one claimed this shift would be easy. We may have just underestimated the speed at which this team could pull a 180 regarding its speed and skillset. Slow adjustments aren't bad. At this point, they should probably be expected while every member of this defense (especially) figures out their new role.