Every football team has strengths and weaknesses. Identifying them is crucial in order to understand matchups. It’s early, but this is a nice way to size up Syracuse’s 2019 squad. Part one of a three part power ranking for SU football position groups.
1. Defensive Line
The D-line is led by a pair of pass rushers who could both break Syracuse’s NFL draft cold streak. Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman. They’re easily the Orange’s best defensive duo since Paris Bennett and Zaire Franklin at linebacker. Robinson was potentially snubbed on the All-ACC first defensive team, but his 10 sacks and 11 quarterback hurries landed him on the second team. Coleman also had ten sacks, good for a tie for second in the conference. The interior of the line loses 7th-round NFL draft pick Chris Slayton, whose prowess made it difficult for defenses to double-team Robinson and Coleman. Josh Black and McKinley Williams offer plenty of experience to mitigate the effects of Slayton’s departure. Ultimately, offenses gameplanning for Syracuse will have to do so with Robinson and Coleman on the front of their minds. That’s why the defensive line is #1.
2. Running Backs
Who’s the starter? Moe Neal or Abdul Adams? The answer might not matter, because both have shown to be explosive assets. Neal stepped up last season, leading the Orange in rushing yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and improving as a blocker. Adams scored two touchdowns at the Camping World Bowl. He would be the highest rated recruit SU has at this position by far (4-stars). And he transferred from Oklahoma after averaging 9.2 yards per carry in limited action. Jarveon Howard will see snaps in his defined role of running over people at the goal line. Plus, freshman Jawhar Jordan is my bet for the fastest 40-yard dash on the team. The running backs are close to perfect. Solid all-around options at the top, and pieces with distinguished strengths at the depth positions.
This is the position group of the future. Sophomore safety Andre Cisco might be the best defensive player Syracuse has had since Chandler Jones. He was a ACC defensive Rookie of the Year and an All-ACC defesnsive first-teamer as a freshman, finishing tied for the conference lead in interceptions (7). Christopher Fredrick was the largest unsung hero from Syracuse’s ten-win season. He’ll be reliable as the lead cover-man at cornerback. It could be Trill Williams, Scoop Bradshaw or Iffy Melifonwu at the other starting CB position, but I lean towards Williams, who showed loads of potential in his first season. Joining Cisco at safety is senior Evan Foster who helps with run-stopping as a big-hitter out of the secondary. This group isn’t number one at the moment, but Cisco, Williams and Melifonwu make this position a tantalizing watch for the long-term.
Make sure to check back in on orangefizz.net next Friday for Part Two!