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Syracuse football All-21st-Century Team: Secondary

We’ve had a few folks that could defend a pass over this timeframe.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Kansas State v Syracuse
Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

As hard to believe as it is, the 2019 iteration of the Syracuse Orange football season is only a few weeks away. This season is the twentieth year of football being played since the year 2000. We’re forging on in this series to the cornerbacks and safeties.

Cornerback Nominees (listed chronologically):

  • Will Allen (1996-2000)
  • Steve Gregory (2002-2005)
  • Tanard Jackson (2003-2006)
  • Mike Holmes (2007-2010)
  • Brandon Reddish (2011-2014)
  • Julian Wigham (2012-2015)
  • Chris Fredrick (2015-2019)

One on one, on an island outside, corner takes some talent to play. There were quite a good few options to work through.

Will Allen

After a redshirt year and biding time, Allen was a three year starter for the Syracuse Orange from 1998-2000. Amazingly quick, Allen clocked in with a 4.29 40-yard dash while on campus. He is credited with the Syracuse record for pass breakups in a season with 19 in the 2000 campaign and 38 overall in his career. The standout corner was a first round draft pick in 2001 and went on to play ten years with the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins.

Steve Gregory

Not too many folks can play both ways at the college level. Primarily he was a three year starter at corner, racking up 40 passes defended and 34 pass breakups, both good for third overall in the career charts. He also was an edge-rush specialist for field goals, blocking five over his career. Gregory pulled off the switch for his junior season in Orange, starting as a wide receiver that year, derelict of his standard cornerback duties. He racked up 38 catches for 420 yards, while fighting injury, only playing in eight games. He went undrafted, but played in the league for the Chargers and Patriots from 2006-2013 and is currently coaching as a defensive assistant for the Detroit Lions.

Tanard Jackson

Jackson started for three years and contributed as a true freshman as well, earning All-Big East honors as a senior. Over the course, he accumulated 165 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss to go along with his five interceptions. He and Gregory formed a dangerous defensive backfield for anyone trying to pass on the Orange around the turn of the century. While he had his issues in the NFL, he was a fourth round pick who played with the Tampa Bay Bucs and Washington Redskins from 2007-2013.

Mike Holmes

Four years as a starting cornerback for the Orange had Holmes in a good spot to reach fifth on the all time tackles list for a defensive back with 274. He also finished his career with 6 interceptions, and was a standout kick and punt returner for the squad for his entire career. As is the case, Holmes moved around as well, with a chunk of his time coming from the safety positions.

Brandon Reddish

Spanning the Big East and ACC eras, Reddish started at corner for the latter two years, with the Orange in the ACC. He tallied 122 tackles on his career, with 4 picks. While the safeties and linebackers in the Scott Shafer era shone, the corners weren’t in the limelight. Reddish was a bright point in a dull era of Syracuse football.

Chris Fredrick

The current starting cornerback for the Orange, Fredrick has maintained that role for three years, amassing 139 tackles already in his career. The tally also includes 6 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and 2 recoveries and he still has the second half of his senior season to play. Prior to the season he was dubbed as an All-ACC preseason pick at corner.

The Depth Chart

  1. Will Allen / Tanard Jackson
  2. Steve Gregory / Chris Fredrick

As you can see, most of our cornerback talent decided to show up around the turn of the century. Allen, Jackson and Gregory were all great players for the Orange and Frederick in one to keep the momentum moving forward in the present. If we did this next year, maybe Ifeatu Melifonwu would be on there.

CB Voting Breakdown

Rank Steve John Kevin
Rank Steve John Kevin
1 Will Allen Will Allen Will Allen
2 Tanard Jackson Steve Gregory Tanard Jackson
3 Mike Holmes Steve Gregory
4 Steve Gregory Chris Frederick

Free Safety Nominees:

  • Quentin Harris (1998-2001)
  • Anthony Smith (2002-2005)
  • Joe Fields (2004-2007)
  • Phillip Thomas (2009-2011)
  • Durrell Eskridge (2011-2014)
  • Antwan Cordy (2014-2019)
  • Andre Cisco (2018-2021)

There were definitely some solid names in the free safety category. Some that hit the way-back machine and others quite recently. It’s been a good mix of talent through the years, rather than any peaks and valleys that we’ve seen at other positions.

Quentin Harris

The 2001 All-Big East selection and honorable mention All-American is tenth on the Syracuse career interceptions list. He finished with 327 total tackles and started most of his four years in the Dome. The undrafted safety made a name for himself and carved a five year NFL career out with the Cardinals, Giants and Broncos.

Anthony Smith

A two time All-Big East pick during his junior and senior years and three year starter, Smith acquitted himself well in the Syracuse community. He blocked six kicks in his career, combining with Steve Gregory to terrorize opposition kickers. Smith it third on the all-time interceptions list for Syracuse with 14 total. He also tallied a ridiculous 293 tackles in his career.

Joe Fields

Joe was a quarterback turned safety, due to lack of playing time behind Perry Patterson and Andrew Robinson. He garnered All-Big East honors his senior year with 97 tackles, 53 solo and was selected to the Hula Bowl. He was a two year starter as safety and excelled in a way we never would have seen if he hadn’t converted.

Philip Thomas

While a controversial pick off the field, Thomas was another “when he was eligible” type pick. He was an All-Big East freshman performer who went on to be a two year starter his sophomore and junior seasons. He finished his career with 203 tackles and nine interceptions, both set to be career type numbers after his senior year. Unfortunately, Thomas was suspended for his senior year, violations of athletic department rules. What could have been, we’ll never know.

Andre Cisco

While Cisco only has a year under his belt, he made the most of it. All-American is as high as it gets and Cisco won the honor as a true freshman. As such, he was the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year, and an All-ACC first teamer. He tied for the NCAA lead with seven interceptions on the season last year (and growing). He has another two interceptions already on the year, causing the hype train to leave the station. The kid’s good. Real good.

The Depth Chart

  1. Anthony Smith
  2. Quentin Harris OR Philip Thomas OR Andre Cisco

In what was a surprisingly deep position, Smith unanimously edged out the others. This group helped to create a long stretch in Syracuse history where coming across the middle of a defense wasn’t a wise decision for opposing offenses. Harris locked down things in the early part of the decade, Cisco is currently a stud and we’re this not his sophomore year probably would have been higher on the list, and Philip Thomas was eminently talented but cut short by off the field issues

Free Safety Voting Breakdown

Rank Steve John Kevin
Rank Steve John Kevin
1 Anthony Smith Anthony Smith Anthony Smith
2 Quentin Harris Phillip Thomas Andre Cisco

Strong Safety Nominees:

  • Diamond Ferri (2000-2004)
  • Shamarko Thomas (2009-2012)

The pickings are slim for strong safety, but they’re both some quality options.

Diamond Ferri

Ferri brings one thing to mind. THAT Boston College game. He became the only player to win both Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week in the Big East, for his effort against the Eagles. In that game he was the starting safety, picking off the ball late and returning it for a touchdown... and also rushed for 141 yards and 2 more touchdowns. He only started for two years for the Orange at safety, but amassed 226 tackles, including 75 solo his junior year, which is the Syracuse mark for a defensive back. Ferri won All-Big East honors his senior year.

Shamarko Thomas

Shamarko was unique in his own right. The two year starter beat to his own drum on and off the field, using his smaller stature and sheer tenacity to reach the level he did. The All-Big East selection in his senior year, recorded 263 tackles in his career. He was an All-Big East Freshmen selection.

The Depth Chart

  1. Diamond Ferri
  2. Shamarko Thomas

Again solidifying the middle of the field, Ferri was an athletic force. That BC game alone could have catapulted him into this spot, but the rest of his resume verified the choice. #SHAMARKO earned himself the number two honors, but to no fault of his own. The hashtag was a standout in Orange and the spot was definitely deserved.

Strong Safety Voting Breakdown

Rank Steve John Kevin
Rank Steve John Kevin
1 Shamarko Thomas Diamond Ferri Diamond Ferri
2 Diamond Ferri Shamarko Thomas Shamarko Thomas