ACC: Alryk Perry

Syracuse loses two of its best defensive players from a year ago in linebacker Marquis Spruill and defensive tackle Jay Bromley, bringing up an intriguing question:

[+] EnlargeEric Crume
G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty ImagesSyracuse hopes senior Eric Crume will step up and help replace the productivity of DT Jay Bromley.
Who will be more difficult to replace?

Bromley manned the interior of the front, leading the team with 10 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Spruill manned the middle of the field, matching Bromley with 14.5 tackles for loss, finished second with 5.5 sacks and ranked third on the team with 66 tackles. Not only does Syracuse lose their production, it also loses the veteran leadership both provided at their respective positions. The two combined to play in 101 career games, with 82 career starts.

You understand why coach Scott Shafer and defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough could not choose between them when posed with the question. Both players will be difficult to replace for separate reasons. But it may be a bit more difficult to replace Bromley based on depth questions at his position. Syracuse spent the spring cross-training ends to play inside and were pleased with how Micah Robinson and Ron Thompson responded to the challenge. The Orange may have to play true freshmen to help out on the line once they arrived for fall practice.

Still, Shafer said he does not want to have to rely on the young players. He expects Marcus Coleman, Eric Crume, Ryan Sloan and Wayne Williams to step it up during the offseason. Crume and Sloan are seniors and Coleman is a junior; while Williams is the most intriguing possibility. Overweight when he arrived on campus, Williams has done a good job slimming down but still has a ways to go.

"We've got to get to Phase 2, being summer conditioning and summer preparation and working your butt off when the coaches aren't around, and then when we get into that August mode, I look forward to seeing a new and improved Wayne Williams, and I'm very confident that we will," Shafer said.

As for replacing Spruill -- who started 49 of the 51 games he played in for the Orange -- Bullough and Shafer were pleased with the job Marqez Hodge did this spring. Hodge played as a true freshman a year ago, so he does not bring nearly the same amount of experience to the position. Bullough has challenged him to know the ins and outs of the defense before training camp begins. But Hodge is a quick study and has put in extra time in the film room, oftentimes watching completely alone.

"Spruill and Bromley, they were veterans and leaders. That’s the big part you’re missing," Bullough said. "Now new guys have to start leading. That is never something us coaches can do. They have to take it themselves, and that comes with a lot of things. When you look around them, out of defensive line, well Micah’s a year older, Robbie [Welsh] is a year old, Crume, all those guys are a year older so they should be a lot better than they were this past year. Hopefully with all that group being better makes up for Jay Bromley.

"Same thing on the linebackers. Dyshawn [Davis] is older, Cam [Lynch] is older, so you hope those guys, [Josh] Kirkland, [Alryk] Perry, them being a little better makes up for a little bit of Spruill not being there."

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