Three months ago to the day, Syracuse football brought in Tony White as its new defensive coordinator. White will implement Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 nickel defense. The Orange are in dire need of a scheme that will protect the aerial attack. SU allowed the second most passing yards per game in the ACC last season. Since he joined Babers’ staff, White has concentrated on the recruiting trail, adding four potential defensive lineman. The new formation, anchored by two-time All-ACC safety Andre Cisco, will take care of the opponents’ passing game. Now that the Orange are shorthanded on the line of scrimmage, someone has to get to the quarterback.
The Orange inked 2021 defensive end Derek McDonald just one day after landing Hayden Nelson at the same position. White’s game plan clearly focuses on the air. Meanwhile, he is stockpiling defensive end depth, hoping they will win their one-on-one battles.
Pass rush depth has been Syracuse’s achilles heel for the past few years. The Orange ranked in the bottom half of the ACC’s sacks list in five of the past six seasons.
McDonald is a three star recruit from the Marist School in Atlanta, GA. Syracuse was the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder’s only power-five offer. He chose SU over Connecticut, Akron, Western Carolina, Bucknell, Chattanooga, Harvard and Yale.
With Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson off to the NFL, it is unclear who will replace them. Redshirt senior Josh Black seems like the most obvious replacement after four sacks in 2019, but at 277 pounds he might not be swift enough to come off the edge. Linebacker Tyrell Richards has shown explosiveness, and could be a candidate to step up to the line of scrimmage. Kingsley Jonathan wasn’t even listed on the spring depth chart before the coronavirus suspended training camp. The senior is rehabbing an injury.
The point is, the Orange are looking for an answer in the defensive trenches, and McDonald may or may not be it. However, he and the three other defensive line commits for 2021 are a sign of a shifting focus in the program.