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National Signing Day: Recapping Syracuse football’s 2020 defensive signees

Who’s suiting up for new defensive coordinator Tony White?

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

Syracuse Orange football’s 2020 recruiting class is all wrapped up — barring late additions this spring, anyway. And though most of the players in this year’s class actually signed on the dotted line back in December, National Signing Day made us want to remind everyone who’s in the door on both sides of the ball.

Between December and Wednesday, SU added a grand total of 11 defensive players — plus one special teamer! Those names:

Chase Atkinson, S

Some people are going to look at Atkinson’s offer list and be underwhelmed, but as mentioned before and in our write up on his commitment, Syracuse got in on Atkinson so early, he wasn’t even ranked and now he’s a 3 star recruit. The coaching staff clearly saw potential here, and I’m inclined to believe in them. I don’t know if Atkinson is playing much in year one, but beyond that, he should be a solid defensive back in the Orange rotation.

Justin Barron, ATH

This entirely depends on what position group Barron gets put in, as he could literally play all of wide receiver, tight end, defensive end, linebacker and even potentially safety. However, early indications are that Barron will be put at wide receiver. Should this hold true, he’ll be an almost surefire redshirt bet in a position group returning basically everyone except Sean Riley. However, after 2020, the Orange lose Nykeim Johnson. That could provide an opening for Barron to contribute as a redshirt freshman, but then again, Cuse’s receiving corps is loaded with young talent and it could be very tough to emerge from that pool so early.

Jahad Carter, S

Carter enters a pretty crowded safety depth chart, but if he had enough talent for Virginia Tech a year ago, you have to think enough talent to potentially work his way up SU’s chart over time. Maybe we see more of him on the field in a year. He already seems to have the sort of size required for the system.

Robert Hanna, S

Syracuse has plenty of defensive backs waiting in the wings to replace Christopher Fredrick, Antwan Cordy, Scoop Bradshaw, and Evan Foster. That said, only Allen Stritzinger stands out as anyone with some experience that could be safely considered in the rotation. Hanna won’t be an early enrollee, but there’s a chance he impresses early and gets special teams work, which leads to snaps in early games. 2021 and beyond? He should be another athletic defensive back that can step up and get a starting role as early as ‘21.

Joshua Ilaoa, DT

Syracuse will be returning McKinley Williams, Josh Black and Curtis Harper along the interior of the defensive line but the Orange will need to have depth behind them. Depending on how quickly Josh can show that he can hold up in the middle will determine how much he’ll see the field next Fall.

Latarie Kinsler, DE

Defensive end is a big hole for the Orange next year with the departures of Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson. Under Babers, the Orange have not been shy to thrust promising freshman into the rotation from the get go, with Andre Cisco and Mikel Jones being the most prominent examples. It sure seems like there’s been some promises made to this extent, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s getting plenty of snaps by ACC play.

Ben LaBrosse, S

Syracuse is losing a lot of secondary depth and there will be opportunities for someone with Labrosse’s size to find the field especially on special teams. We’ll see if he’s able to push for a spot on the depth chart. He adds to the talent that Dino Babers has been able to bring from Canada and we’ll see how quickly he’ll make the transition to the level of play in the ACC.

Kevin Lemieux, DE

He looks more the prototype end with his frame, rather than a tweener that would be converted to outside linebacker, as sometimes happens. As such, the roster looks to have a few folks in front of Lemieux, in Josh Black and Kingsley Johnathon to start, then Drew Tuazama and Steve Linton, but there’s some room for growth and a good season to redshirt and get into the system for the Massachusetts product.

Leon Lowery, DE

At his current size, Lowery may be more in the outside linebacker mold, but if he puts on some weight, his frame could play a weak side defensive end, like a Tyrell Richards. Both positions could use some depth moving forward, but I would say that the hope is that Leon comes in and is able to redshirt, take advantage of the strength and conditioning system and move forward in whatever position that the staff decides to utilize him in.

Stefon Thompson, LB

The linebacker position is going to be hard to get a read on before the new system’s installed, but Thompson has the body type to excel in coverage and keep up with quicker wideouts. Using the 4.53-second shuttle time posted from the Opening Regional back in April, may already be on the faster end with just a little more work. Thompson’s one of a handful of early enrollees this cycle, and that could give him a chance for some early playing time. At the very least we’ll probably see some of him in the spring game as he and the rest of the Orange’s young linebackers figure out their place in this scheme.

James Williams, P

With the graduation of Sterling Hofrichter the expectation is that Williams will be the Orange’s punter in 2020. Syracuse has certainly been spoiled by having Hofrichter but the hope is that Williams can continue the tradition of outstanding kickers in the Dome.