“Next man up” will forever be a mantra in football. The game has a 100-percent injury rate and because of this, the key to winning is depth — not just any depth, but capable, productive depth.
For the Syracuse Orange the potential loss of starting free safety Antwan Cordy (again) could spell trouble for the secondary in 2017. So what is Syracuse losing if “Giant” can’t play?
1. Play-making ability
Play-makers win games. The more you have, the more games you win. Zaire Franklin and Paris Bennett are excellent tacklers and great play-makers for the Orange. But Antwan Cordy is a game-changer. His ability to take the ball away and wreak havoc on an offense is invaluable.
Players like that force teams to gameplan around them. And when offenses are worried about one guy, others get a chance to make win matchups and make plays. It’s a full circle, and one that’s completely disrupted by his absence.
No unit relies on chemistry more than the secondary. Communicating with one guy is way different than the next. For example, in 2014 I made a particular check with my safety, Durell Eskridge. We covered the play down and Durell ended up making a play on the ball. In 2015, I made that same check with a freshman DB I’d never practiced with, and ended up on Syracuse.com.
We saw a lot of communication issues and blown plays that I think an experienced player like Cordy could have prevented. Having a consistent presence that acts as that anchor for a unit can make all difference in having a successful season.
3. Proven leadership
I’ve written about leadership in the locker room before. For the secondary, Cordy seemed to be the glue that made this unit stick. Just last week Cordy told me, “When the other guys see me talking, communicating and turning up, they want to turn up too.”
The best leaders have a certain “it” factor about them. Younger players look up to them and everyone likes to be around them. They’re the guy. “I don’t try to be a leader,” Cordy said. Most leaders don’t. They set out to make a difference and this secondary certainly needs a difference maker to improve on last season.
4. Special Teams Value
Heading into the season, Antwan Cordy was listed as the first-team punt returner. Last Friday, the Orange struggled in that phase against a middling FCS opponent, averaging just 1.4 yards per return. That won’t cut it in ACC play.
Most coaching staffs, even at the NFL level aim for around a 10-yard average. To get that, you need the combination of a sound return unit and a superior athlete fielding kicks. Cordy, in my opinion, is the best athlete on the team. Having someone who can flip the field like Brisly Estime was a luxury for the Orange over the last four years and without a capable replacement, Syracuse may miss out on game-changing plays and favorable field position.
Hopefully Cordy’s injury isn’t serious. But if it is, can the Orange afford to lose him for any extended stretch? He’s just far too important to replace.