Speed Trap: Syracuse’s Defense Needs to Step Up With Faster ACC Offenses

Cam Lynch and the linebacking crew will be asked to shut down players with far more speed than the Big East.

The biggest part of the transition from the Big East to the ACC is the speed of the players. For the Orange that means concern on the defensive side of the ball, where Syracuse has to react to the tempo of the game. Against Penn State and Northwestern, the defense had lapses where it looked overmatched, notably against Allen Robinson and Tony Jones. ACC teams such as Clemson and Florida State will have even faster players at every single offensive position on the field. The real question is not whether the Orange has the speed to keep up with Florida State and Clemson, but whether it has the speed to beat the next tier of conference foes like NC State, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Maryland. Those are where the wins need to come from if SU wants to make a bowl.

Through the first three games, the SU pass rush has had on and off success. Against Penn State, the line did a great job getting to Christian Hackenberg, getting sacks and forcing two interceptions. Against Northwestern, it wasn’t effective. There are two reasons why: Northwestern has a strong offensive line and Kain Coulter is a great runner. The Orange will need to do a better job containing the quarterback run in facing Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Georgia Tech’s triple option system. The SU defensive line needs to do a lot more than simply get to the quarterback. When it cannot get there, it will need to contain him so he does not make huge plays with his legs. The defensive line has shown some athleticism (think about Robert Welch rumbling down the sideline after his interception) and they will need every bit of it against these teams.

The linebackers are the best unit on the SU defense. Even without the sideline-to-sideline speed necessary to beat the top teams in the ACC, the linebackers should be able to cover Wake, Maryland and NC State. But GT runs the ball just about every single play. The linebackers will be asked to cover faster running backs and tight ends. Marquis Sprull, Dyshawn Davis, and Cam Lynch have experience, but the closest thing they have seen to an ACC speed offense might be West Virginia with Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey. The linebackers will play a huge role in being able to contain more mobile quarterbacks. Georgia Tech and Maryland both use the quarterback run as a big part of their offenses, with the QB in the top two rushing for each team.

The secondary will likely have trouble with the receivers around the league this season. Robinson and Jones were able to get behind the secondary for Penn State and Northwestern, respectively. The secondary is inexperienced and has had communication issues. The defense simply cannot have the breakdowns it had against Penn State that allowed Robinson to go crazy in just one half. However, while Clemson and Florida State have strong passing attacks, the next level teams are more run based and struggle through the air. Boston College’s Chase Rettig struggled against USC last weekend. Pitt is working in Rutgers’ transfer Tom Savage. Georgia Tech has just 27 pass attempts through two games. The secondary should be effective against the teams the Orange will need to beat in order to stay around .500.

The Orange does not have the team speed to keep up with Clemson and Florida State. But few do, those two teams are top 10 squads and National Championship contenders. The Orange need to be fast enough to take on the next group of ACC foes like BC, Pitt, Maryland, Wake Forrest, Georgia Tech and NC State. If not, the only thing going fast will be SU’s bowl hopes.

Posted: Seth Goldberg

24 Comments on this Post

  1. KevMonstah

    “… The secondary is inexperienced …” How is this true when it starts three seniors in Lyn, Anderson, and Wilkes? And they’ve been playing for a long time, they aren’t first year players. A more appropriate description might be “the better players (Morgan, Reddish, Desir, Whigham) are inexperienced, while the starters have experience, but aren’t that good.” I mean, at the PSU game, there were times that the DB gave the WR a 15-18 yard cushion. How is that supposed to stop a team?


  2. @Russell Stugot’s;

    A University of Texas Regents visited Nick Sabans agent,and had talks about him replacing Mac Brown as the next Texas Longhorn head coach. It looks like Coach Brown has some serious problems.

    A couple of points to ponder. The SEC has told us all that thier coaches don’t leave the SEC. If he accepts the position at Texas,wouldn’t that break that statement wide open? Do you think he would go after recruits in the south,or would he try and continue to lock the State of Texas down?

    It kind of looks like things are getting interesting.

  3. Ron,as much as I hate most of Texas for their arrogance they really shouldn’t have to leave there own state except to “cherrypick”?I don’t think recruiting is the problem as much as utilizing it?Maybe Mack is guilty of nepotism and loyalty to his small circle of friends and lack of vision?Like ND recruiting for Texas should never be a concern for a team that “chooses” rather than recruits!Texas kids are the most loyal to there homestate teams than almost any other state and usually feed 12-15 teams with talent every year.I think a little more out-of state blood might be good for UTexas?

  4. I don’t get where everyone thinks everyone not in the ACC is slow?Does speed now know conference boundaries?Why if so fast has the conference lagged so far behind all the other BCS conferences in bowl games and OOC competition?Did Clemson look fast against a slow WVU team last year in the blowout bowl?Yet we handled WVU twice recently with much less talent!Did L’ville have more talent/speed than SEC Fla?Yet we handled them well too!Maybe we shouldn’t show up for Clemson/FSU?Isn’t that why we play the games?

  5. How fast are BC/Wake/Duke/NC/NCst/VT/Va/GT?So because FSU and to a lesser degree Clemson(who has great WR’s)count as the barometer of the whole conference?I think the “U” finally wakes up from there ACC slumber under NJ Al Golden and gives FSU the biggest challenge this year because I won’t believe in Clemson(except in recruiting) until they actually achieve FB success with all that talent like it appears FSU is in the process of doing!Which team blows up the Clemson myth this year?I think maybe its us?

  6. @Russell Stugots;

    I watched the Clemson-NC State game last night. I’ve always said that for anyone to win the national championship yhou needed the ball to bounce in your favor.

    The game was 13-7 in favor of Clemson and NC State ran the ball 83 yards for the go ahead score that got called back because the officals said the ball carrier stepped out of bounds. They blew the call,put the ball on the 36 yard line and then turned the ball over 2 play’s later allowing clemson to score and make the score 19-7.

    Clemsons weakness,it’s secondary, was exposed by NC State lastnight. FSU should rip them apart and Clemson will not have an undefeated season in 2013.

  7. Ron your homer side is showing again. Clemson/FSU are far ahead of SU in all kinds of talent “including” speed!! Clemsons weakness is their coach ain’t caled Saban!! GEZ!!

  8. @Terry;

    Clemson’s speed couldn’t catch the NCST RB once he turned the corner and ran away from the Clemson defenders for 83 yds and the go-ahead TD that was called back on a blown call from the ref’s.

    I’ll be in the dome tomorrow watching Syracuse beat Tulane. I have to have my granddaughter there by 10:30 am.

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