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Way-too-early Syracuse football defensive depth chart projections for 2018

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Glancing at the roster now that the early signing period’s wrapped up.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

With about two thirds of the Syracuse Orange 2018 football recruiting class signed now, we can start looking ahead to next season’s depth chart.

There’s plenty to get sorted out this spring, and position changes could also occur. But based on the 78 scholarship players (so far) that are set to be on the roster come next summer, here’s how things could sort out:

Defensive tackle: Chris Slayton (R-Sr.) | Josh Black (Jr.)

Nose tackle: McKinley Williams (Jr.) | Kenneth Ruff (R-So.)

Strongside defensive end: Kendall Coleman (Jr.) | Brandon Berry (R-Jr.)

Weakside defensive end: Alton Robinson (Jr.) | Kingsley Johnathan (So.)

SU loses Kayton Samuels but returns everyone else. That has the potential to be a good thing, if all of those players can stay healthy. The top four above are the starters in name, though it’s likely you see all eight of them thrown into action rather frequently. The lack of seniors (beyond Slayton) obviously create a bit of a logjam further down the depth chart. We do have quite a few young players who could push for playing time in case of injury. But experience is pretty limited beyond these players above and a couple more.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Weakside linebacker: Ryan Guthrie (Sr.) | Kadeem Trotter (R-Fr.)

Middle linebacker: Andrew Armstrong (Jr.) | Tyrell Richards (R-Fr.)

Strongside linebacker: Nadarius Fagan (So.) | Shyheim Cullen (R-Jr.)

There are a lot of names to toss around at linebacker, and none beyond Guthrie and Armstrong have a lot of in-game experience at the positions. The success of this group is going to dictate what the defense can do in 2018, especially at middle linebacker, where Armstrong could offer a potential upgrade just in terms of coverage (though far from replacing Zaire Franklin’s leadership just yet). You could see any number of combinations attempted in this group until something fits. Perhaps a few players differentiate themselves in the spring.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerback: Christopher Fredrick (R-Jr.) | Carl Jones (Jr.)

Cornerback: Scoop Bradshaw (Jr.) | Eric Coley (R-Fr.)

Free safety: Antwan Cordy (R-Sr.) | Rodney Williams (R-Sr.)

Strong safety: Evan Foster (Jr.) | Ifeatu Melifonwu (R-Fr.)

Given last year’s struggles, Cordy’s return and the offseason departures, it’s tough to say exactly who rises to the top here. But in the short-term, expect the starting corners to go unchanged. And for Cordy to quickly re-assume his role. Foster started at strong safety but that could be up for grabs if Melifonwu emerges as predicted. Even some of the true freshmen (Trill Williams, Andre Cisco) will likely get a look here depending on how the offseason progresses.

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