Travis Tannahill (80) of the Kansas State Wildcats is tackled by Thomas Shamarko (21) of the Syracuse Orange during the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on December 30 2010 in New York New York. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Entering the 2011-12 season, the Syracuse University football program has a lot of question marks on the defensive side of the ball. There's a lot of potential, but as previewed earlier last week, the defensive line is talented, but small; while, the linebacking corps is fast, but very inexperienced. This year, it seems that the SU secondary, which has a handful of players who saw playing time last season, is the one aspect of the Orange D that the fan base isn't too concerned about.
The veteran of the group is cornerback Kevyn Scott, who is coming off a injury plagued 2010-11 season that featured him playing in just six games. When healthy, Scott has proving to be a solid starter. Competing for the other starting corner spot will be sophomore Keon Lyn, who as a true freshman played in nine games last season, and junior Ri'Shard Anderson, who missed all of last year with a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, true freshman Brandon Reddish has been impressing coaches during training camp.
"I’m excited about his ability and skill sets as well," defensive coordinator Scott Shafer told ESPN's Andrea Adelson last week. "You can compare him to Eskridge in that he's ahead of the learning curve compared to most freshmen. I’m looking forward to seeing more of what he can do."
Others who might see playing time this year are: Freshman Ritchy Desire, who Syracuse Post-Standard blogger Brent Axe said "was all over the field" during Saturday's Ernie Davis scrimmage, and sophomore Joe Nassib.
At safety, juniors Phillip Thomas and Shamarko Thomas will anchor the starting spots. Last season, Phillip Thomas played in all 13 games and made 7.1 tackles per game, while Shamarko Thomas had a total of 38 solo tackles and two sacks. Both players, who have both missed time in training camp because of injuries -- Phillip broke his jaw, while Shamarko suffered a concussion -- are solid starters that won't be taken out of the lineup unless there's an injury.
If there's an injury to Phillip Thomas, sophomore Jeremi Wilkes, who as a freshman saw action in all 13 games, seems to be the next option. Meanwhile, true freshman Durell Eskridge look like he could be a secondary star in the making.
"He has all the skill sets we look for at safety," Shafer said. "He’s got the ability to play at a lot of positions, but we’re going to try to keep him at free safety so the learning curve isn't too heavy on him. He's done good things, but he flashes like most freshmen. He’s a great kid, works hard and is hungry to be a good player."
The SU secondary will need to anchor this young and inexperienced defense. While, the interior of the DL tries to figure out a productive rotation and the line backers grow into their rolls, it's the 'Cuse DBs that will need to keep the bleeding to a minimum. There's a lot of talent in this group and it's nice to know that there should at least one consistent aspect of the Orange defense.
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