After a double-digit win season in 2018, the hype train for the upcoming season in Syracuse is packed to the brim. The Orange are less than a month away from beginning their most-anticipated season in recent memory. If SU wants to continue its rise to national prominence, a few players are going to need to thrive.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll detail the five players that need to have healthy, productive seasons if the Orange are going to meet the rising outside expectations.
Starting us off at #5: S Andre Cisco (Sophomore)
What can you say about this dude? Cisco burst onto the scene last year by hauling in seven interceptions (tied for NCAA lead) in 13 games. That flashy style of play propelled him to All-America honors. However, Cisco’s game was about more than just the highlights.
When you watch the tape, many of Cisco’s interceptions from last year appear to just “fall in his lap.” This stat from Pro Football Focus helps dispel that narrative with analytics. Essentially, Cisco forced an incompletion 25 percent of the time a ball was thrown his way. Impressive, to say the least. Quarterbacks didn’t have much success throwing it his way.
Recruited as a three-star prospect from IMG Academy, Cisco has quickly proven to be a steal. He was one of the top freshman in the country last season on either side of the ball. The combination of him making plays in the defensive backfield, combined with a renewed pass rush, helped Syracuse turn its defense from laughing stock to legit in one season.
Why Cisco’s production is crucial
Going into the 2019 season, the secondary is one of the Orange’s deepest units. Take Cisco out of the mix and college football analysts may not feel that way anymore.
At cornerback, redshirt-senior Christopher Frederick has quietly gained respect around the ACC. He’s a guy that can go step for step with the league’s elite receivers. On the other side, things aren’t so clear. Scoop Bradshaw, an experienced veteran, was just replaced by redshirt-sophomore Ifeatu Melifonwu in the Orange’s pre-season depth chart. There are questions there. Opposite Cisco is Evan Adams, a veteran safety who you can rely on.
So while things aren’t perfect in SU’s defensive backfield, the group should be the least of head coach Dino Babers’ worries. After all, it shouldn’t be that tall of a task with Cisco back there. Babers praised the sophomore at ACC Kickoff last month, saying he’s amped up his work in the weight room. At one point, Babers even joked that he grabbed his newly-defined pecks off a shelf at Walmart.
The next step for Cisco is proving all the doubters wrong. He can do that by not only putting up a similar interception total, but by making more open-field tackles. Cisco and fellow safety Adams had a number of missed tackles in the Clemson game last year. If the Orange want to knock off the Tigers for the second time in three years this September, that’s going to have to change.
The secondary is in a good spot, but there’s more depth at the cornerback/nickel positions than safety. Devon Clarke and Eric Coley are listed as the two backup options. In order for Syracuse to keep the train rolling and continue its rise, strong play in the secondary is going to be key.
While Frederick and Adams are good pieces, Cisco has proven to be the star. That will need to be proven even further this fall.
We’ll continue to unveil our top five throughout the month of August. Check back here on these days as we continue to get you ready for the much-anticipated 2019 football season. Also, make sure to check out our audio content on SoundCloud at Orange Fizz. We post a weekly show, podcasts and more.
August 1st: #5 Andre Cisco
August 5th: #4
August 8th: #3
August 12th: #2
August 15th: #1