Could these two youngsters step in and help the Orange right away?
Syracuse’s pre-season training camp is coming to a close, and there are plenty of questions prior to opening day at MetLife Stadium against Penn State. Obviously the QB competition between Drew Allen and Terrell Hunt is the most intriguing storyline, as Scott Shafer has no problem letting the debate drag into August 31st. His exact words were “why give anyone an advantage?” What Shafer has been clear about is how impressed he is with the freshman duo of DE Isaiah Johnson and WR/DB/KR Brisly Estime.
Johnson and Estime play positions of need for Syracuse this season. In Zeke’s case, he’s competing with a slate of defensive ends that aren’t seniors and other unproven players. The only legit starters the Orange has on the ends are junior Robert Welsh and sophomore John Raymon. Eric Crume also provides some stability there. He’s been solid up the middle with DL Jay Bromley. Shafer says Welsh isn’t blessed with the tools of Chandler Jones, but knows exactly what he’s getting on a week in, week out basis. Bromley has been very vocal about his confidence in the D-ends, especially with Raymon inside. Johnson has the chance to step in and help a depleted spot on the roster.
Why should we believe Johnson can step up right away? Flashback to January as Doug Marrone bounced for Buffalo. Zeke took the initiative and did his best to keep the 2013 recruiting class intact. His conversation with The Fizz demonstrated he has the passion to be a difference maker right away:
“Somebody needed to step up and be the leader. I tried my best to get in touch with all the recruits. I have the technique and the ability to become a leader on and off the field.”
No disrespect to junior Kennedy Kodua or sophomore Donnie Simmons, or defensive newcomer Ron Thompson. But Johnson’s timing couldn’t be better to show-off his quickness on the defensive end during camp. It’s crazy to think Johnson was looked at as just another 2-star recruit hopping on the Orange bandwagon. Shafer and Chuck Bullough have their eye on this kid to play at some point into the season. SU’s favorable non-conference schedule calls for a fast start so Zeke could see time sooner rather than later.
Then there’s the versatile athlete in Estime. He was listed as a second string halfback, which came as a surprise to a lot of people. But include Estime’s rumored 4.2 40-yard dash time that we touched on back on National Signing Day. His high school head coach Chris Bean told The Fizz he expects Brisly to be used on special teams early on, and shift that blazing speed to the outside as a WR. Bean on Estime:
“Just explosiveness. He brings a dynamic to the game that coaches rarely have. And that’s a guy that can touch the football and take it to the house at any time.”
So with the wide receiver position also with unanswered questions, Estime could find time on the field early on. Syracuse has been a sloppy special teams bunch, so the young Devin Hester clone (Bean compared Estime to him) could do some damage right now. Look out.
It should be fun to watch these two climb the ladder on the depth chart, not in their sophomore or junior seasons, but in their freshman stints.
Posted: Brendan Glasheen