Hands down, junior defensive end Ron Thompson is one of the Orange’s most important pieces on defense, if not the most important. He stands out among a defensive line unit that graduated defensive ends Robert Welsh and Micah Robinson and nose tackle Eric Crume. The Orange also graduated linebackers Dyshawn Davis, Josh Kirkland, and standout Cameron Lynch. And the secondary? Well that’s a whole different story.
So, that leaves the Orange with three potential go-to leaders in the front seven: Thompson and linebackers Marquez Hodge and Zaire Franklin. Unfortunately, Thompson was spotted wearing a boot on his left foot and was walking with crutches. Scott Shafer said on Friday that he will be out for a couple weeks with a lower body injury, but the Orange certainly cannot afford to lose the junior standout for any time if it hopes to improve on last year’s record, let alone reach the six-win plateau.
How important is Thompson to this defense? Well, when Franklin was asked about the most important player on the SU unit, he didn’t take any credit for himself. Instead, he opted to stress the importance of Thompson’s game and predicted him to have a strong season. Thompson was also the only Syracuse player selected to Phil Steele’s preseason All-ACC team (the fourth team, albeit). He’s arguably the Orange’s best NFL prospect on defense, as well.
Not only is the SU defense in search of a leader, but the secondary’s lack of depth and talent means that there will be even more pressure on the front seven to generate pressure on the quarterback. If the defensive line and linebackers give opposing quarterbacks all day to work in the pocket, simply put, the Orange is in deep trouble. It may also have to rely on freshman with such little depth.
Last season, Thompson started all 12 games and tallied 37 tackles, seven tackles for loss, three sacks, and two forced fumbles at defensive tackle. This year, the Orange are trying him out at defensive end. Originally a three-star recruit, the coaching staff brought him in as a tight end and even plucked him away from the Michigan Wolverines, despite growing up in Michigan. He is listed at 6-foot-3, 257 pounds.