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Syracuse football spring game: Five defensive players we’re excited to watch

What are we anxious to see from the defense on Saturday?

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Boston College Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange‘s “Spring Football Saturday” is just three days away, and with it we’ll be able to get perhaps a first extended glimpse of key players on both sides of the ball (and special teams).

We’ve covered position previews extensively. But as the game — which will be an offense vs. defense scrimmage — nears, we did want to highlight some players that we’re specifically encouraged to see more of.

Yesterday was the offense, so now we move onto the defense:

(and before you ask “where’s Andre Cisco?” we already know what we’re getting from him based on last year’s All-American performance)

Mikel Jones, LB

Half of the team’s impressive freshman linebacker duo has had a busy spring on campus, as Jones has shown a strong ability to get behind the line of scrimmage already. Last year’s linebackers relied heavily on Ryan Guthrie’s penchant for applying pressure, and it already looks like Jones could try to plug in as a replacement there.

Lee Kpogba, LB

Kpgoba’s the other half of that linebacker group and has had his own strong spring. He managed an impressive interception during last Saturday’s scrimmage and does appear to have some potential in coverage. Not to draw a direct line from last year’s players to this year’s, but he could play similarly to Kielan Whitner. It’ll be great to see both in “game” action.

NCAA Football: Wagner at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Tyrell Richards, LB

Sorry, more linebackers. Richards looked great playing various roles at the end of 2018, and now he’s potentially going to parlay that into a starting role this year (we’ll see how the 4-2-5 vs. 4-3 conversation sorts out). On Saturday, it’ll be the most extended look at him playing linebacker we’ve yet seen. But the Orange already seem pretty high on his potential versatility according to this recent profile.

Trill Williams, CB

Trill didn’t suit up for the bowl game, but the 12 games before that showed us a ton of what he could become as a playmaker within this defense. Assuming Antwan Cordy won’t return, Trill should inhabit the nickelback role and get more opportunities to play in coverage and get behind the line too. He had two picks and 2.5 TFLs last year despite playing time being more focused on special teams (where he also excelled). The spring game should show us a bit more on how his role will evolve for 2019.

Cam Jonas, S

Coming last fall, there was reason to be excited about incoming safeties Andre Cisco and Cam Jonas. While Cisco wound up delivering on that promise and then some, Jonas redshirted in part due to the crowded secondary depth chart. That won’t clear up much this spring, but he’s still likely to get some extended time as part of the second team out there on Saturday. Given how little we’ve seen of him so far, it’ll be great to see what he brings to the table and whether he can challenge for snaps this year.

Who else are you looking forward to seeing? Obviously a lot of young defenders on the team — especially at linebacker. So this is really just scratching the surface when it comes to promising players to watch.