Now that Syracuse is without Andre Cisco – due to his injury and subsequent decision to turn pro – and Tommy DeVito after he was injured against Duke, there’s not much positive news. Sure Trill Williams is having a fantastic season, and has emerged as a lockdown defensive back. Besides Williams, the secondary still has Iffy Melifonwu and is seemingly restocking with Garrett Williams, Rob Hanna and Ja’Had Carter. But linebacker Mikel Jones, more so than anyone else on the roster, has emerged as a star this season.
Besides currently ranking second on the team with 29 tackles, Jones leads the team in quarterback hurries with four. While some of this is due to Jones being one of the most talented playmakers on defense, defensive coordinator Tony White’s 3-3-5 defensive scheme also frees Jones up on blitzes.
Syracuse defensive linemen are used to close up holes on run defense, and to occupy offensive linemen on passing downs. Ideally, this allows linebackers to blitz through gaps and get to the quarterback. While Jones has yet to record a sack this season, he has pressured opposing quarterbacks all year long.
He’s also been great in coverage, as he leads the Orange with three interceptions so far. Jones often seems to read quarterbacks eyes over the middle of the field and react as soon as the ball is thrown. That’s what he did against Duke in the third quarter, as Chase Brice and the Blue Devils marched into the red zone. On 2nd and 9, Jones picked off his third pass of the season, giving the Orange a chance, down just 27-21.
Besides his interceptions, Jones has broken up a pass and recovered a fumble. He’s been all over the field for Syracuse, making plays in the backfield, or in coverage. And as the defense begins to transition stars, Jones seems like the next man up to lead SU. Filling Cisco’s shoes will be almost impossible to do. But it seems like Syracuse has found a new playmaker – and leader – for the future of its defense.