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Syracuse football position preview: Secondary

A position group in transition

Virginia v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

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. Today we look at the secondary.

Let’s start with the bad news first. Gone are Garrett Williams, Duce Chestnut and Ja’Had Carter. That trio had six of Syracuse’s nine interceptions last year. There’s no denying that’s a lot of talent to replace, especially when the Orange expected Chestnut and Carter to be anchors for this season. Can this defense regroup without the three playmakers around?

The good news is that Syracuse returns a lot of experienced players. Justin Barron, Alijah Clark, Isaiah Johnson, Jason Simmons, Jr., Jeremiah Wilson and Aman Greenwood have all seen significant snaps.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson and Wilson appear to have the inside track on the starting corner positions while the other four will compete for the three safety spots. Wilson struggled against Florida State but he made a strong impression in his first season and he could take a big step forward this fall, while Johnson brings size and experience to the other corner. Tony White liked to leave his corners in man coverage, so we’ll have to see if Rocky Long does the same.

Barron, Clark and Simmons, Jr are likely to start. Barron and Clark were among the top tacklers on the team last year, but success for this group would be more evident in the third-down conversion rate of opposing offenses. Last year Syracuse allowed opponents to convert on 40% of third-downs, and that’s not a winning formula. The defense needs to get off the field in these situations and the safety group will be critical in these situations.

Dino Babers and his staff reloaded this position in the transfer market. After adding Clark, Johnson and Bralyn Oliver for the 2022 season, the Orange will welcome Jayden Bellamy, Jaeden Gould, Jakobie Seabourn, Berry Buxton III and Jalil Martin. This group along with Greenwood, Quan Peterson and Cornell Perry will be pushing for playing time on defense and special teams. Bellamy and Gould are two highly-rated players out of New Jersey and we’ll see if they can wrest a starting spot heading into fall.

The ability for this group to increase their forced turnovers and make third-down stops could be critical for the Orange’s hopes in 2023. We know fans have a lot of concerns about The Mob being able to match recent success without Tony White, but there is a lot of promising talent.