This offseason, Dino Babers switched both coordinators in an attempt to rejuvenate both sides of the ball. On defense, it was clear Babers wanted to run the 3-3-5. First, SU signed Zach Arnett, before he spurned the Orange for Mississippi State. Then, Syracuse announced Tony White as its defensive coordinator.
It makes sense for Syracuse to run the 3-3-5 given the talent at SU, and where football is heading as a whole. Syracuse’s best defensive players are in its secondary. Andre Cisco is the best player on the team, and could be a first round NFL Draft pick next spring. And while Cisco is the star of the show, there’s plenty of talent around him.
Iffy Melifonwu and Trill Williams are both lanky, experienced starters outside. Last season Melifonwu was one of the top corners in the ACC with 10 passes defended and a couple of interceptions.
Williams is listed as a cornerback, giving the impression that SU intends to play him outside as well. At 6-foot-2, he certainly has the length. Last season, the Orange used Williams in the nickel and outside. It is possible that Williams sticks with one receiver throughout a game, whether in the slot or outside. Generally, cornerbacks cover one side, rather than following a player. But Williams’ versatility gives White more flexibility with his defense.
With so much talent in the secondary – to go along with a linebacker group that was terrible last year – it’s understandable that Babers wants to get that talent on the field.
As football becomes more and more vertical, defenses are molding to cram more defensive backs on the field. On offense, Syracuse has certainly embraced the passing attack. That forces opponents to keep up on offense, which can often turn into a shoot-out. It’s not a coincidence that most Syracuse games last around four hours.
With both sides chucking the ball deep all game long, Syracuse needed a defensive style to match. The 3-3-5 fits that mold. Throughout Babers’ tenure, he’s dared opponents to keep up on offense. Now, fitted with a defense that is designed to prevent passing attacks, that becomes harder to do.