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Syracuse football spring position preview: Secondary

We look at the group that might be the deepest group on the team

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

We’re moving through the Syracuse Orange football previews. We’ll get through all the position groups and coaching staff as we move through the spring and this week we’ve got the group which might be the deepest on the roster: the secondary.

Who’s gone?

The Orange lost three players to the transfer portal from last year’s roster. Adrian Cole has joined several Syracuse teammates down at FIU while Ben LaBrosse and Chase Atkinson have not decided on a new program.

Who’s on campus?

Both of the Orange’s starting corners from last year are back. Garrett Williams and Duce Chestnut give Syracuse potential pros on the outside. Eric Coley, Ja’Had Carter, Jason Simmons, Justin Barron, Rob Hanna, Neil Nunn and Aman Greenwood have all seen significant snaps in their Syracuse careers. Malcolm Folk was a redshirt last season and transfers Alijah Clark (Rutgers) and Bralyn Oliver (Louisville) have joined incoming freshmen Dom Foster, Cornell Perry, and Jeremiah Wilson in the defensive backfield. Add to that four walk-ons in TJ Harness, Cam Reirden, Clay Masters and Tommy Porter and that’s a lot to work with.

Who’s arriving this summer?

One more experienced transfer Isaiah Johnson (Dartmouth) joins the group along with recruits Greg Delaine from Fort Myers and Quan Peterson from South Carolina.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Can this group create more turnovers in 2022?

Chestnut led Syracuse last year with three interceptions while Simmons had one and that was all for the Orange. In 2020 Syracuse had 13 interceptions so creating turnovers is something that Tony White is going to be looking to see more of next Fall. Garret Williams has shown the ability to get up and get the ball and he did have 9 passes defended last Fall so if teams keep testing him he will be able to make them pay.

Who emerges in the middle of the defense?

Coley and Carter played a lot in 2020 but due to injuries we saw Simmons, Hanna and Barron were pressed into action more last year. Clark was a 4-star recruit who saw time at Rutgers before an injury and Nunn was a highly-touted recruit when he signed with the Orange. If we assume the corners are set then there will be options for the final three starting jobs and possibly experienced depth for the first time in a while. Hopefully the experience and depth will prevent Syracuse from suffering the type of breakdowns in zone coverage that cost them big last year, especially against Wake Forest

What does this position depth mean for special teams?

Garrett Williams has already said that he wants to play more on special teams. We see the number of available defensive backs on this roster so it would make sense to see more of them used on the kick coverage teams. For a team like Syracuse that isn’t loaded with the most talent taking advantage of special teams is crucial. If the Orange can rotate in some strong defenders without taking away their effectiveness on defense it can help gain an advantage in that “hidden yardage” that can flip games.


It will be interesting to follow some of the position battles in the secondary as we work towards next August. Not sure we’ll learn a lot this Friday night but the talent in the back eight of the Orange defense could help the inexperience in the front three. The secondary could be poised to better handle the passing offenses they will face in 2022.