4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SYRACUSE DEFENSE
– The Orange defense brought the funk last year – finishing sixth in the nation in sacks – and it’s going to keep on grooving with one of the nation’s most dangerous 1-2 defensive end punches. Seniors Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman combined for 20 sacks and 29 tackles for loss, and there’s more talent behind them. They’ve got size, burst, and the help from the tackles to keep the heat off.
The loss of Chris Slayton on the inside hurts, but Josh Black and McKinley Williams are active veterans who’ll be just fine. The line will be terrific, and it needs to rock because …
– The linebacking corps isn’t starting over, but it loses 207 tackles of production from Ryan Guthrie and Kielan Whitner. There’s enough veteran talent returning to be okay – Andre Armstrong came up with 45 tackles last season – but the real fun should come from the two best players in the latest recruiting class. Lee Kpogba and Mikel Jones are build like safeties, but they can fly.
– The secondary is experienced, but the stops have to come. Even with the amazing pass rush applying the constant heat, the pass defense allowed 264 yards per game. All four starters return, starting with all-star pickoff artist Andre Cisco at one safety spot and big-tackling Evan Foster at the other. The corners can tackle, and they’ll win their share of battles, but they have to be tighter.