Syracuse football has a lot of work to do ahead of next fall. Last season’s 1-10 mark still shouldn’t sit right with anyone, but there are caveats to what was a brutal year. It’s probably hard to find a team that was more stricken by injuries and COVID opt-outs than Syracuse, and the youth the team displayed was a big positive.
For example, Sean Tucker’s emergence from unknown backup to probable starter at running back was a great development, and JaCobian Morgan showed some flashes at quarterback to supply some much-needed depth at that position. On the defensive side of the ball, one name sticks out among the rest: cornerback Garrett Williams.
How important is Williams to this season and SU’s secondary?
In a word, very. Williams’ freshman 2020 season was dynamite any way you slice it. The North Carolinian led SU in solo tackles with 54, picked off two passes, led the ACC in passes defended with 12, and played at a high enough level to earn an All-ACC Honorable Mention. Heck, his first career interception was a pick-six against Clemson and the NFL’s 2021 number-one overall pick Trevor Lawrence.
Williams’ role in the secondary now transitions from an exciting newcomer to more of a leading role, despite his youth. Last year’s DB trio of Andre Cisco, Ifeatu Melifonwu, and Trill Williams have all moved on to the NFL. At corner, Williams is the only predictable starter. Freshman Chase Atkinson and highly-touted four-star recruit Duce Chestnut (class of ‘25) are in the mix at corner as well, but they’ve played a combined 0 career games. At safety, it’s more of the same with redshirt freshmen Aman Greenwood (started the last seven games of 2020) and Adrian Cole (five games played in 2020).
With that in mind, Garrett Williams is the de-facto ‘veteran’ of that group. His leadership and continued strong play would be a boon to Dino Babers’ efforts to turn around the program once again and put a fresh spin on what has been a perennially strong SU pass defense.