Anyone who follows Syracuse football is aware of its electric offense. Dino Babers’ up-tempo style has resulted in one of the best passing attacks in college football.
However, in Babers’ first two years at the helm, the defense held the team back. The 9-3 turnaround this year was in large part, because of defensive coordinator Brian Ward.
So far this season the Orange are seventh in the country with 38 sacks, after finishing with a measly 16 last year. Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman alone have 17 combined, which is tied with Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant for the best 1-2 punch in the ACC. The pressure off the edges has forced quarterbacks to step up in the pocket, giving the big guys in the middle a chance to feast too. Defensive tackles Chris Slayton and Jonathan Kingsley have combined for 9 sacks so far. Even though Clemson is known for their fearsome foursome, Syracuse’s starting D-lineman have more sacks this season.
The front four aren’t the only ones that have stepped up this year. The linebackers are playing well too, as Syracuse is tied for third in the nation with 13 fumble recoveries. With the graduation of Parris Bennett and Zaire Franklin last year, many thought a weakness at linebacker would stifle SU’s potential.
However, the emergence of Ryan Guthrie has catapulted the Orange to another level. He’s second on the team in tackles for loss as the senior has 14.5. Only Robinson, who is second in the ACC with 17, has more. That pressure in the run and pass game has made the secondary’s job much easier this season, allowing them to capitalize on quarterbacks mistakes.
SU has turned into a ball-hawk defense as it’s tied for fifth in the nation with 17 interceptions. Last year the squad had just four. Of course, the addition of freshman Andre Cisco has helped, as the safety leads the team with seven takeaways. However, it’s not just the play of Cisco that has made this unit a strength. Junior Chris Frederick has stepped up his game and has three interceptions this season. In his first two years in orange, he had just two picks.
Of course, bringing in a player like Andre Cisco makes the secondary look a whole lot better. That’s a testament to Syracuse’s coaching staff to find Cisco, a lowly rated three-star recruit who 247sports ranked as SU’s eleventh best commit last year.
Clearly, recruits are taking notice of this turnover savvy defense. In the past week Syracuse landed commitments from three talented defensive players, who 247sports ranks as SU’s top three recruits. So far in the 2019 recruiting class, six of Syracuse’s top eight commits are on the defensive side of the ball. For a team and coaching staff known for offense, the Orange are quietly building a stout, attacking defense.