In the No. 8 slot is a redshirt senior who both bulks up his position group and is at the forefront of solving SU’s rushing defense woes of 2020. Josh Black stands at 6-foot-3 with a 290-pound frame that many O-lines have trouble containing.
His athleticism is what stands out though, as he’s most known for this viral video:
Unfortunately, garnering recognition from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson isn’t good enough to guarantee an open lane to the quarterback.
Why Syracuse Needs Him
The obvious answer is experience. He has been around since 2016 and alongside fellow 5th years McKinley Williams and Kingsley Jonathan, that unit brings back a lot of top-level ACC reps. It’s quite the opposite to a young secondary. Names like Jahad Carter, Garrett Williams, Duce Chestnut and Rob Hanna are all underclassmen who can benefit from strong leadership in a season where most expect the Orange to repeat last season’s decline.
But where Black needs to assert himself is in the run defense department. The Illinois native led Syracuse’s defensive line in total tackles last season with 38; however, SU was still awful in stopping the ground game. The Orange surrendered 209 yards per game off the run. Whether Black lines up as a defensive end, defensive tackle or nose tackle, the sentiment is the same, prevent gaps anywhere beyond the line of scrimmage.
It’s easier said than done as SU has given up over 200 yards per game in its last two losing seasons. To say that Black is pivotal to Syracuse’s success is an understatement. In all likelihood, the defensive line’s prowess will determine a lot about whether the Orange can keep up offensively and hold pat defensively.
Best Case Scenario
Black’s 2019 campaign was the best of his tenure. He tallied six tackles for loss, 39 total tackles, four sacks and a fumble recovery, all of which are career-bests. If the experienced lineman is able to replicate that performance, he’s done his part.
It is then about his leadership on the line. Syracuse went a combined 14-11 in ’17 and ’18 when allowing less than 200 yards per game on the ground. Conversely, SU compiled a 6-17 record in ’19 and ’20 giving up over 200. Black can make a world of a difference if he both excels in his role, and makes a positive impact on the rest of the defense.
Worst Case Scenario
Black’s health is not much of an issue. He’s only missed two games in the last three seasons.
Where he could struggle is in regards to his versatility. That might sound odd, but Black’s exceptional talent can be thwarted if he’s unable to establish himself in a specific role. There aren’t many players able to make a seamless switch from nose tackle, to tackle to end without some sort of drop-off or learning curve. In college, that’s multiplied tenfold due to the minimal amount of games.
An example on the opposite side is O-lineman Matthew Bergeron switching from right tackle to left tackle last season. Black had his best year at nose tackle, so keep him there.
Be sure to check back in here at the Fizz on Sunday for No. 7 on our top 10 most important players list.
Monday, August 16 – #10 Garrett Shrader
Wednesday, August 18 – #9 Matthew Bergeron
Friday, August 20 – #8 Josh Black
Sunday, August 22 – #7 ?
Tuesday, August 24 – #6 ?
Thursday, August 26 – #5 ?
Saturday, August 28 – #4 ?
Monday, August 30 – #3 ?
Wednesday, September 1 – #2 ?
Friday, September 3 – #1 ?