With the season now in the rearview mirror, the offseason is upon Syracuse football. Besides wrapping up a mediocre recruiting class, Dino Babers must replace seven defensive starters. That becomes even more challenging when you factor in that Syracuse is looking for a new defensive coordinator. Syracuse doesn’t have the 15 extra practices given to teams in a bowl game. For a squad that’s trying to figure out who will start along most of the defense – including three of four defensive linemen – that’s problematic.
SU loses star edge rushers Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson, both will likely be drafted in the NFL Draft. But besides those two stalwarts, defensive tackle Kenneth Ruff and defensive end Brandon Berry are also graduating. Ruff’s back-up McKinley Williams is also a senior but he will be returning for a fifth season.
Let’s assume Williams takes Ruff’s starting position, and Josh Black continues to hold down the other defensive tackle spot. Kingsley Jonathan will likely replace Kendall Coleman, but Alton Robinson’s spot is wide open. Berry is his back-up. One potential name is SU’s top recruit Latarie Kinsler, who’s rated the 15th best recruit at WDE. He committed to Syracuse at the beginning of November when everything was going wrong for the Orange. It’s possible the allure of early playing time enticed him.
SU seems like it replaces its linebackers every year. Next season will be no different with Andrew Armstrong and Lakiem Williams both graduating. But Syracuse’s top recruits from last season could slide in and replace the duo. Lee Kpogba and Mikel Jones are really exciting prospects, and Jones showed flashes of his potential this season. He was Williams back-up this season and totaled 38 tackles with two tackles for loss. Another guy to keep an eye on is redshirt sophomore Tyrell Richards who could replace Armstrong. He started his career as a defensive linemen but moved to the second level. He didn’t get much playing time this season, recording 14 tackles but he has a knack for finding opponents in the backfield. He had three TFLs.
This position group should be very good for Syracuse next season. Andre Cisco, Ifeatu Melifonwu, and Trill Williams all return. SU does have to replace Antwan Cordy, Christopher Fredrick, Evan Foster, and Carl Jones. While there’s some good players returning, there’s not much depth. Eric Coley could replace Foster at strong safety, but Fredrick’s corner spot is wide open. Maybe Williams slides over from nickel. Another player to watch is incoming safety Ben LaBrosse who is the Orange’s second ranked commit per 247sports. Cornelius Nunn is another guy who could contribute next season.
The defense was supposed to be a lockdown unit. Instead opposing running backs consistently steamrolled the group. Stars like Robinson, Coleman, and Cisco all failed to improve upon great 2018 seasons. Maybe a new defensive coordinator will do wonders, but Syracuse better find somebody soon. The early signing day is now just days away. This season was a complete disappointment, and the recruiting class isn’t very good either. Heading into next season, there will be plenty of question marks that need answering about SU’s defense.