Offseason spotlight: Syracuse

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
9:00
AM ET
Time to feature a position group in the spotlight this spring.

Spotlight: Defensive line.

2013 summary: The Syracuse defensive front deserves credit for the way it performed this past season. Despite early concerns about depth across the line, the Orange ended the season ranked in the top 25 in the nation against the run and in the top 10 in total sacks. A huge reason why was the stellar play of defensive tackle Jay Bromley, who turned in the best season of his career.

Bromley anchored the unit, picking up 10 sacks to rank No. 5 in the ACC. He had four career sacks going into the season. In all, Bromley had 42 total tackles to lead all Syracuse defensive linemen and had 14.5 tackles for loss, ranking in the top 10 on the school's single-season record list. His play was good enough to get him selected to the coaches' and media All-ACC third-team. And he was not alone. Eric Crume turned in a solid season next to him, with 28 tackles and two sacks.

Robert Welsh emerged at defensive end with 32 tackles -- seven for loss and four sacks. And the Orange were able to begin developing younger players such as Ron Thompson and Isaiah Johnson. Even after the devastating injury to John Raymon, this defensive line stuck together. It should be noted that Syracuse -- despite some lopsided losses -- was the only FBS school in the nation that did not allow a 100-yard rusher in 2013.

The skinny: The biggest question this spring -- perhaps on the entire team -- is who will fill Bromley's shoes? Syracuse does not have much in the way of depth at the defensive tackle spot. Zian Jones, who was the primary backup to both Crume and Bromley at the end of last season, was a senior. Raymon was injured last October, and it is unknown whether he will be ready for the start of the 2014 season.

That leads us to early enrollee Wayne Williams, a huge wild card. Williams committed back in 2012 but spent the last two years at junior college working on his grades. He did not play football last year, so the real question is whether the 6-foot-4, 310-pound Williams is in shape to not only contribute right away, but win a starting job. The Orange could end up relying on the crop of freshmen they just signed once fall camp rolls around.

The good news is three starters on the line do return in Welsh, Crume and defensive end Micah Robinson. Defensive end Donnie Simmons is expected to return from an injury after missing all of last season. Thomspon and Robinson are another year older. The two biggest issues here are depth at tackle and leadership. Bromley was the heart and soul of the line and made big promises during ACC media day last year about having the season of his life. He knew what he wanted to do, and he went out and showed it to everybody.

There is probably no way for one player to make up for Bromley's loss. The veterans in this group are going to need to collectively step up.

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