With the loss of Shamarko Thomas to the NFL, a key focus this preseason is how the secondary will look for Syracuse. Groomed veterans along with some new faces have been impressing at camp and showing off the secondary’s depth thus far with the season opener less than three weeks away.
There is little question as to who the starting corners are going to be. Keon Lyn and Ri’Shard Anderson are both heading into their senior seasons looking to prove they can shut down the best of the ACC. However, there are some newer names giving them some added pressure from further down on the depth chart. Brandon Reddish and Julian Whigham have been catching Scott Shafer’s eye during practice and can challenge for increased playing time. Anderson did not have a spectacular year in ’12 and has to step up early on to avoid giving up playing time up to Reddish, who looked impressive last year. Shafer loves competition even at positions that seem locked up with seniors, so it’s no surprise he noticed Whigham’s stellar interception on the first day of practice. With the secondary being an area where players rotate constantly do not be shocked to see players like Reddish on a big time wide receiver at some point this season.
Durell Eskridge is going to be looked at to fill the shoes of Shamarko. Eskridge showed signs of brilliance last year as a redshirt freshman and has the physical attributes to be the starting strong safety this year. This could be a breakout season for Eskridge with the playing time he will be given. He did have wrist surgery after the season ended but is the frontrunner to land the starting spot. Ritchy Desir, who will also be vying to return punts for the Orange, would back up Eskridge.
The free safety position looks locked up by Jeremi Wilkes. Starting in all 13 games, Wilkes was beaten a few times last year and missed several tackles. However, he still has an aggressive style of play to keep himself in the starting role. Wilkes backup is Wayne Morgan who will be groomed to take over for Wilkes at the end of his tenure. Morgan was a highly touted recruit and a key piece of the NYC puzzle, and could benefit with more playing time because of his move from cornerback to free safety.
With a few weeks to go the defense looks ACC-strong, especially in the secondary and linebacking corps. It will not be surprising to see some breakout stars coming from the defensive side of the ball this fall.
Posted: Zephan Mayell