So often Syracuse is referred to as defensive back U. Rightfully so. Trill Williams, Iffy Melifonwu, and Andre Cisco were the anchors of the Syracuse defense when healthy last year. But when the secondary was banged up, which ended up being most of the year, one player’s production remained a common denominator.
Mikel Jones led the team with tackles and interceptions with four last year. That earned him a spot on the Dick Butkus Award Watch List for National Linebacker of the Year. The sophomore doesn’t get nearly enough credit for what he provides the defense.
Last week against Rutgers, it was a team best 11 tackles. He also made sure to add 2.5 tackles for loss, a career best. Granted, Rutgers only scored when Garrett Williams left with an apparent injury. But the fact that SU only gave up 17 points to a team that scored 61 the week before without 30 minutes of Williams speaks to the unit as a whole. Mikel Jones, as always is in the thick of it.
Then again, why wouldn’t he be the go-to name and face to the defense? He’s one of the most senior members of the unit, dating back to his true freshman season when he made four starts and played in all 12 games. Last offseason, as a sophomore, he was very vocal about being a leader. That was tested when the first depth chart came out and Jones was not set to start. Jones changed Dino Babers’ mind very quickly. There is no defense without Mikel Jones. With Jones at the second level, Rutgers’ run production was slashed to less than a quarter of what it was in Week 1.
All signs point to Jones being the next member of the Orange to turn pro. Ever since he arrive don campus, it seems like that’s been his trajectory on and off the field. But while he’s here, it’s important for Syracuse fans not to take him for granted in the periphery of DB-U.