Syracuse fired their defensive coordinator a few weeks ago and the defense put together it’s best performance since 2014 in their first game without him. So it looks like Dino Babers made the right choice. The Orange were coming off a game where they gave up 496 rushing yards to Boston College. BC ran the same play over and over again and The Orange couldn’t stop it. Against Duke, they were opportunistic and they played much faster than they looked previously. It might be just a one game flash against a bad offense but it was a good sign for this group.
Syracuse has an extremely veteran defense and it starts up front with a defensive line that starts four 4th year players. Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman are two of the better defensive ends in the ACC and as a combo you could argue that Syracuse has one of the best duos in the country. Robinson and Coleman haven’t been as productive as they were last year but they do have 16.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks between them. Brandon Berry has been a player that has added some value this year. He leads the team in sacks as a rotation guy. As good as this pass rush can be, they are averaging less than two sacks per game against power five teams this year. They’ve feasted on some cupcakes so far.
In the interior, Josh Black is a solid nose tackle who has made some plays this year. I can’t help but think that the issues the Orange have had against the run are due to their line being a bit undersized and also more of the type of guys that are looking to make plays as opposed to eating up blocks. They’ve had some strong games this year but overall, these guys have been pushed around a bit. I’m not sure if it would actually be helpful that they look to make plays with UofL’s zone scheme but they’re allowing 5.46 yards per carry against power five team. That’s not a great sign for this group.
Syracuse had to replace Their starting linebackers from last year but they’e gotten nice production from the two seniors that are starting for them. Lakiem Williams leads the team with 91 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. The middle linebacker spot in this defense always seems to put up crazy numbers and Williams has been no different. Andrew Armstrong played a lot last year and he stepped into the starting spot well. Armstrong is second on the team in tackles and has 7 tackles for loss and an interception. Louisville worked hard to take advantage of NC State’s youth at linebacker last week. I think they’ll look to make these guys cover as well. They’re not the best in that area.
The secondary for Syracuse returned a bunch of guys from last year but the numbers haven’t been all that good for the group. Christopher Fredrick is the veteran of the group at corner and he leads the team with 6 PBUs on the year. Ifeatu Melifonwu starts on the other side and rotates some with Antwon Cordy. Cordy is the only player that should be allowed to be mentioned in a “that guy has been there forever” joke. He’s been there for 6 years and he’s a guy that seems to always be around the ball. Cordy will play inside and outside and can also play safety. He’s one of the few guys that might actually be able to hang with Tutu Atwell or Dez Fitzpatrick in the middle of the field.
Safety is a solid spot for the Orange. Andre Cisco was a freshman All-American last year when he had 7 picks and he had a pick-six last weekend. Evan Foster lines up at the other safety spot and they make a nice combination with Foster being more of a blunt object type of safety who likes to come up and make plays in run support. Both of these guys can make plays that can change a game. They also have great versatility with Trill Williams as a good nickel guy. That allows Cordy to play in other spots and get more speed on the field.