The Syracuse secondary last year was putrid, there’s no way around it. It was a group that fought injuries and lack of talent the entire season. The images of deep balls sailing over Orange helmets will forever haunt SU fans when thinking of the 5-game collapse. In the first two months of the season, the DBs bent but did not break. They gave up yardage, but buckled down in the red zone and came up big when it mattered most. In the final five losses though, the plays given up got bigger and the game saving ones disappeared.
This year’s secondary is a complete mystery. Phillip Thomas was the best player off last year’s crew and he’s gone. He led the team in tackles despite missing the last two games. Shamarko Thomas will be the best returning Orange, but he’s an undersized safety who used to play corner.
The Fizz has been high on Ritchy Desir, and we expect to see the second-year man make some big plays. He stood out in the Rochester scrimmage, causing turnovers and was constantly around the ball. Jeremi Wilkes is back, although he was the personification of the Orange issues. J-Dub was beat on more deep balls than anyone else, but also snared many key interceptions. Corners Keon Lyn and Ri’Shard Anderson return, and each had their moments last year. Youngster Brandon Reddish should find the field this year. Shu Mungwa and Durrell Eskridge are also in play.
SU’s secondary is a work in progress, so there’s room for incoming freshman to make an impact. Wayne Morgan was Syracuse’s biggest recruiting grab, and there’s a great chance he sees the field this year. Julian Whigham could also come in and make a splash, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of the two freshman ending up as the nickel back. Add injury issues for Lyn and Anderson to the uncertainty surrounding the last line of defense.
Another incoming frosh who will fight for time is Dontez Ford. The Sto-Rox product from outside Pittsburgh already has impressive size at 6’2” (as opposed to Wilkes’ generous listing of 5’9”) and has plenty of raw skills. He’s also incredibly intelligent. The Fizz met up with Ford in Pittsburgh while covering the NCAA Tournament, and his maturity was obvious.
“Good size, smart, mature but not quite ready to play yet as a freshman.” That description also fit Mungwa last year. The New Jersey product sat on the sidelines in ’11 and watched intently. Buzz is he’s playing very well in Spring Ball and will push to get on the field. With no one but Thomas as a starting lock, there’s a great shot Mungwa gets snaps this year.
This is probably Ford in ’13. He has a distinct skill set along with above average size. Ford also played receiver in high school, and uses that experience to consistently bring down jump balls. With the move to the ACC and bigger, faster, more athletic receivers around the corner, a guy like Ford could be a huge asset. He’s still raw, but with his brains and physical tools, he’s certainly capable of developing into a solid guy at the back end of Doug Marrone’s secondary.
Posted: Craig Hoffman