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Syracuse football position preview: defensive line

Can this group deliver on their potential?

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

As we approach the start of camp for the Syracuse Orange football team, it’s time to dig in and look at the position groups. We’ll leave the offensive line to Steve, so let’s start things on the defensive side with the line.

Last year injuries decimated this group and forced the Orange to have to go with younger players in ACC play. Four opponents were able to rush for over 200 yards on Syracuse last season and that inability to stop the ground game was a big reason for the five-game losing streak.

The departures of Jatius Geer and Steve Linton mean that Syracuse has to replace three of their top five players in terms of tackles for loss and sacks. Caleb Okechukwu led the team with seven sacks and he added two forced fumbles and an interception. He’ll be expected to anchor the line from one of the defensive end spots.

The opposite end during the spring was Alabama transfer Braylen Ingraham. A highly-regarded high school recruit, if Ingraham can serve as a run-stopper for the Orange that will be a huge plus. Behind these two are a group of very intriguing young players. Denis Jaquez Jr and Francois Nolton have flashed potential and could develop into pass-rush options this fall while Kevin Jobity and Chase Simmons gained valuable experience last season. Add that to the spring impression made by Jalil Smith and this means that a position in question could end up becoming an area of strength.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

In the middle of the 3-3-5, Terry Lockett is expected back in his starting role. We saw Kevon Darton step in and provide 54 tackles from the nose tackle spot. Elijah Fuentes-Cundiff and Belizaire Bessette should be ready to contribute more in 2023.

The defensive line has a lot of young players that Syracuse fans should be excited about. Health was a negative last year, but the fact that so many players were forced into action, could help the Orange this season and beyond. Will those players be ready to take a big leap forward in 2023? If they can, this variation of The Mob could wreak havoc against opposing offensive lines.