Every year ESPN.com ranks the top defensive fronts in the ACC. This year, the Syracuse Orange came in last at the end of the spring. The group certainly had it’s questions heading into camp (even on this site), but as it heads into fall, the group believes they are coming together nicely.
Returning tackles Kayton Samuels, Steven Clark and Chris Slayton have all performed well early in their careers, and they are poised to lead the defense along with redshirt freshman Jake Pickard.
Nate Mink of Syracuse.com, spoke with some of the defensive line members during practice yesterday. Said redshirt freshman DE Jake Pickard:
“We’ve always been the picture of saying that this is such a young defense, that’s going to be an issue, it’s going to be a handicap for everything. We’re just taking that as motivation, and we’ve really come into our own.
“... We got the ESPN article taped up saying we’re the weak part. Everybody likes to talk trash, and we like to keep it on the DL and just show them what were about.”
Clark and Samuels will be in the mix to start on the interior part of the defensive line. Slayton, a DT last year, will now split time at defensive end and defensive tackle. The two starting defensive ends will likely be some combination of Pickard, Slayton, De’Jon Wilson and Kenneth Ruff, along with several other freshmen who could work their way into the rotation.
Among those freshmen, tackle McKinley Williams and ends Josh Black, Kendall Coleman and Jaquwan Nelson are all names to watch. Returning players like tackles Tyler Cross and Anthony Giudice, plus converted linebacker Hernz Laguerre, will also be part of the thin rotation.
No matter who is out there for the Orange, expect this to be a motivated group in the trenches.