While Syracuse’s dynamic duo bursting off the edge had a disappointing 2019 season, Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson were still two of the best players in Orange last year. Now both are in the NFL, Robinson with the Seahawks and Coleman signing with the Colts.
Redshirt senior Brandon Berry surprised everyone and led SU with 5.5 sacks last season. That’s a stark contrast from Coleman and Robinson’s 10 sacks apiece 2018. But now, all three of those guys are gone. While the Orange won’t have the depth on the defensive line that it boasted this season, there are some talented playmakers who could emerge.
Black, a redshirt senior, was listed as a starter on Syracuse’s spring depth chart. Last season he chipped in with four sacks. At 6-foot-3, 270 pounds, Black is going to play as a defensive end rather than an edge rusher. This works well with the 3-3-5 defensive scheme that new Syracuse defensive coordinator Tony White is implementing. Rather than the old 4-3 scheme where Coleman and Robinson could come off the edge, the new scheme will require three full time lineman. Black’s job will be to eat up blockers, allowing linebackers behind him to fill gaps in the run game, and come after quarterbacks on pass plays.
The 3-3-5 defense works by confusing offenses. Anyone can rush the passer. A linebacker can drop into coverage, filling the role of a defensive back when the defense runs a corner blitz. With five defensive backs on the field, there’s more variety in the play calls for White. So it seems like rather than finding a couple of guys to replicate the production of Coleman and Robinson, Babers will rely on his whole defense to pressure the quarterback. With that being said, the players that should benefit the most are outside linebackers like Tyrell Richards. The redshirt junior is inexperienced, with only 30 career tackles and four sacks. As we’ve seen in the past, SU doesn’t generally seem too concerned about inexperienced linebackers. But maybe after allowing over 200 yards rushing per game last season, Babers’ opinion has changed.
It’s surprising to see Steve Linton listed as a starter at linebacker for spring practice after redshirting last season. Coming out of high school Linton was a defensive end but was moved to linebacker once he arrived on campus. This guy has the look of an edge rusher at 6-foot-5 and 226 pounds. It’ll be interesting to see how Babers uses him on plays where he will be in coverage, but when he’s rushing the quarterback it should be like a fourth lineman. Linton could very well be a Swiss army knife in the SU defense.
Latarie Kinsler wasn’t listed on the spring depth chart, but he was an early enrollee in the spring semester after becoming the crown jewel of Syracuse’s 2020 recruiting class. Due to COVID-19, it would be surprising to see any incoming freshmen take over a starting spot. But, if there’s a guy who has the talent to make an impact, it’s Kinsler. The nearly 6-foot-3 linebacker boasted offers from powerhouses like LSU, Penn State, USC, Oregon, and others. Overall Kinsler had 28 offers, according to 247sports.