By Savie Maneen
We continue today with our “Orange Reasons for Optimism/Causes for Concern,” as SU prepares for the second half of its season.
Yesterday we looked at how wide open the Big East Conference is, but also how tough a match-up West Virginia will be for Syracuse on October 21st.
Today, yet another reason for Orange fans to get excited, and another reason for folks to worry, both of which go hand-in-hand.
Reason to Get Excited
2) DE Chandler Jones is coming back
SU currently ranks 111th nationally out of 120 FBS teams in pass defense. Part of that can be attributed to the Orange’s dismal pass rush.
Now Syracuse gets back its best pass rusher for the second half of the season, who also happens to be its best player.
Since becoming a starter in 2009, the 6’5, 265 lb. redshirt junior has racked up 20.0 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, and forced 3 fumbles. This year he was projected as an all-conference player.
The Orange defense is already breaking in six new starters, so any influx of veteran experience can only help. Jones has proven to work well opposite senior DE Mikhail Marinovich, and his presence will force offenses to account for him, taking pressure off other Orange defenders.
Cause for Concern
2) SU’s defense has struggled against the pass
As previously mentioned, the Orange is 111th out of 120 FBS teams in pass defense. On average, Syracuse gives up 293 yards per game through the air. Four teams have already thrown for over 300 yards against Syracuse (and Rutgers threw for 297 yards).
The Orange has faced some good QB’s (Wake Forest’s Tanner Price, USC’s Matt Barkley) and been exposed. They’ve also been taken advantage of by some less talented quarterbacks (Austin Dantin of Toledo and Ryan Griffin of Tulane).
SU still has to face the likes of Cincy’s Zach Collaros (63.2 comp. % this year, 295 yds and 4 TD in 2009 win at the Carrier Dome), USF’s B.J. Daniels (62.5 comp.%, 8 TD, INT in 2011), and Pitt’s Tino Sunseri (281 yds, 4 TD in blowout win vs. SU last year).
Syracuse will get a big boost to its pass rush in the second half of the season, when star DE Chandler Jones returns to action (he’s been out the past five games with injury). Still, the Orange is breaking in new starters at six defensive positions, including both corner spots. Of the 15 defensive backs listed on SU’s roster, five are freshmen, four are sophomores, four are juniors, and just two are seniors. Only starting safeties Phillip Thomas and Shamarko Thomas (no relation) were starters in 2010. Both Phillip and Shamarko have battled injury this season, as have DB’s Keon Lyn, Ri’Shard Anderson and Olando Fisher.