With less than two weeks until kickoff of Syracuse’s season opener, the Orange still isn’t firm on who will start at free safety. Shu Mungwa was a top candidate to wear Phillip Thomas’ old shoes and play opposite Shamarko Thomas this year, but it appears Mungwa is one of three players not on the 2012 roster published in the media guide earlier this month.
Also missing from the roster is nose tackle Cory Boatman and walk-on kicker Riley Dixon. Boatman was a 5th year senior who played in 12 games last year, starting one. Dixon did not see the field at all.
Mungwa, however, was a promising safety coming off a year of being injured who The Fizz thought may fill the open gap at free safety position. Now, the SU Football Office simply states he’s “no longer with the football program.” Per usual, Marrone won’t comment on a player not on the roster, nor why the up-and-coming zone defender split ways with the Orange.
Scout’s John Garcia caught up with Mungwa who simply said, ”It wasn’t the right place for me. There’s no ill-will with anybody over there. It was my decision, I wasn’t forced to do it. I just felt like that situation wasn’t the right one for me.”
This is a frustrating loss for Orange fans. Mungwa was a Jersey kid, plucked from Rutgers country and powerhouse Bergen Catholic. He was a intelligent athlete, originally looking at Stanford. Once that fell through, he contacted the SU coaches. He had listed Donovan Darius as one of his favorite Orange players ever. Many hoped he would become the next hard-hitting safety for the SU secondary. That never materialized, and it’s another void for a shaky unit.
As for Boatman’s absence, Eric Crume is listed as the starting NT in his place. Dixon was never going to start as the kicker for this team, so he won’t be missed terribly. However, Mungwa’s disappearance adds some new question marks to a secondary already belabored with uncertainty. Last season, SU allowed 250+ passing yards to USF and Pitt and 300+ passing yards against Wake Forest, USC, West Virginia, Tulane and Toledo.
(In case you’re wondering, Mungwa’s work in the rap game hasn’t slowed a bit while his football career has taken a pit stop. “Shu-Tang Clan” released a single on YouTube July 29th, a few days before his name evaporated from the SU roster.)
Mungwa wasn’t a slam dunk solution to the entire secondary (or even his position), but it does leave an already vulnerable part of the defense with one less capable body. Can incoming freshman DB Dontez Ford now see playing time as a starter? What about the ultra talented NYC star Wayne Morgan? With Mungwa now gone, SU’s most experienced replacements for Phil Thomas become Jeremi Wilkes and Durell Eskridge. Wilkes was burned on more deep balls than any other Orange last year, and his attitude could stand to be improved. That said, there is a whole mix of undefined members of the secondary who could fill in with an impressive enough training camp.
We saw what Brandon Reddish is capable of during the Spring Game, and at the time he may have been the most improved member of the secondary to return. But many of the guys who populate SU’s “melting pot” secondary are not true safeties who have experience covering large, deep zones in the middle of the field. The most proven starter of the group, Shamarko Thomas, is undersized for the position since he used to play corner.
That doesn’t mean the Orange can’t cultivate a hard hitting FS out of what it has on the roster right now. Marrone has a big influx of talent at DB with the additions of Morgan, Ford, and Julian Whigam. If none of these guys can get the hang of playing safety, Eskridge is still a viable option even though he’s coming off a bench year. His senior year in high school was a blockbuster one as he led his team to a championship, playing both wide receiver and safety.
With Shu Mungwa gone, who do you think should start at FS?
Posted: Jake Moskowitz