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A Glossary to SU’s New 3-3-5 Defense

Syracuse’s week one depth chart only raised more questions about what this team will look like. Projected starting running back Abdul Adams, offensive lineman Dakota Davis and linebacker Tyrell Richards were not listed at all. Tailback Jarveon Howard was also absent. 

But when Syracuse fans look at the depth chart, they probably have a few questions about some new positions on the defensive side of the ball. First-year defensive coordinator Tony White is shaking up the defense that ranked 11th in the ACC last season, and that means reinventing the wheel. 


The 3-3-5 system calls for a rover. Former All-American safety Andre Cisco is expected to fill that role. The rover is a defensive swiss army knife, who can be considered a cross between a linebacker and a strong safety. Cisco will be asked to stop the run and defend the pass. However, a rover is also often used as a spy on an elite running back or quarterback. 

Eric Coley is slotted as the starting boundary safety, which means Syracuse fans will always see the Fayetteville-Manlius High School alum on the short side of the field. If the offense is lined up on the right hash mark, for example, the short side is the right side because there is less room for the offense to work with. This is also known as the boundary side. Coley covering the boundary side indicates that Tony White has faith in him because it allows the Orange to assign more help to the field side. 

Trill Williams, who started as a nickelback last season, is listed as the starting free safety. That’s where Cisco started in 2019. 

A couple of other minor switches from last season include an extra linebacker from last year’s two, and only three down lineman, as opposed to four, hence the 3-3-5 system. 

The most interesting aspect of the scheme is its versatility. White will likely draw up plays for each player. Tempo is key under Tony White. When asked, players consistently say mistakes are forgivable as long as they are made at full speed. In other words, Orange is the new fast has a new meaning.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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