Now that the Spring Game is behind us, the Syracuse football offseason is officially here and Phillip Thomas wants you to know he’s ready to be a leader. Team Fizz was on hand for the SU final scrimmage at the Dome which produced mixed results. While depth could be a weakness, there were some standout individual performances including Thomas’.
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The fast-rising junior will be the key cog in Syracuse’s secondary with the departure of both starting corners and Max Suter. With the losses of leaders like Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue ,and a young defense in a lot of areas, Thomas says he’s already begun establishing himself as point man of the unit.
“I’m trying to take that role to be a leader. I want the defense to feed off my energy. I try to communicate and be loud out there. Let them know what’s going on. I just try to be a vocal leader, and a leader on and off the field. I think we can continue to bond as a whole.”
There’s been concerns about discipline within the defense, with the startling exits of both Brice Hawkes and Macolm Cater. Thus, the emergence of natural leaders that embrace the role like Thomas is vital to success on the field and stability off it. The secondary showed flashes in the Spring Game as Kevyn Scott had a pick-six against Ryan Nassib and Thomas, who played for both teams, was literally looking to tackle everyone on the field (he was credited with only six, but it felt like he was in on every play).
“I played probably like 90 snaps, but I knew coming in I had to prepare for this, get in shape. I knew coming in I might have to play the whole game, and I think we did well.”
After the game, Thomas said he was happy with the defense’s performance throughout the spring. The one thing he wants to work on: communication. This should sound like sweet harmonious music to Orange fans’ ears.
“Going into the summer, we still have a lot of bonding to do. We have a lot going on. As long as we stay together and if we continue to communicate on both offense and defense, we’ll be okay.”
We all remember moments last year when wide open receivers waltzed into the end zone as two Orange defenders stood staring at each other. Overall the defense was good, but if there was one glaring weakness it was pass coverage. The best teams on SU’s schedule took advantage of it. Jake Locker tore the secondary to bits. Same with Pitt’s pro-style offense. With the losses of Hawkes and Cater to the linebacking unit, is the clock already ticking on when the defense gels?
“It’s a good challenge. It’s just gonna make us push harder. Coach Shafer will coach even harder. It’ll be a good challenge. Everyone’s gotta be accountable. We just have to bond as a defense.”
Even in wins, the defense was rather displeased with the tape. Multiple players told me after the USF game they should have lost handily. Fortunately BJ Daniels is only given one or two reads and if those aren’t there, he is instructed to run. He missed plenty of open receivers and most of them deep.
SU’s secondary should be greatly improved this year in the passing game and just as stout against the run with Phillip and Shamarko Thomas (no relation) both returning. They’re going to need to be with the adventures at linebacker that many Orange fans fear with the departures of veteran standouts like Smith and Doug Hogue.
On the outside, no matter how the inexperienced corners play, they can be sure they’ll hear about it from the #1 jersey behind them. And Thomas is more than willing to take on that role of guard dog of the secondary.
“We have to continue to communicate as a defense. That’s the big key. Continue to let everyone knows what’s going on. Continue to let the defense feed off me.”
Posted: Craig Hoffman