ACC: Deon Goggins

Weak and strong: Syracuse

June, 20, 2013
We move on in our series looking at the weakest and strongest positions on each team in the ACC with Syracuse:

Strongest position: Running backs

The linebackers were also considered for the biggest strength, but the Orange has a great mix of talented youth and experience at running back. Offensive coordinator George McDonald raved this spring about rising stars George Morris and Devante McFarlane, and lauded the previous staff for its recruiting efforts at the position and on the offensive line. Syracuse also returns the ACC’s only 1,000-yard rusher in Jerome Smith, and Prince-Tyson Gulley, who started three games last year and was named the MVP of the Pinstripe Bowl. He racked up a career-high 213 rushing yards, and had two touchdowns on 24 carries, and also added five receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown against West Virginia. Smith started 12 games last year and finished the season with 1,341 yards and four touchdowns on 264 carries.

Weakest position: Defensive line

This group lost three starters from a year ago in DEs Markus Pierce-Brewster and Brandon Sharpe and DT Deon Goggins. That doesn’t bode well for a defense that also lost its top two tacklers from 2012. The good news is that nose tackle Jay Bromley returns, and he could play either inside position. There are also several players competing for playing time in senior Zian Jones, sophomore Ryan Sloan and Eric Crume. At defensive end, juniors Micah Robinson and Rob Welsh, and redshirt freshman Josh Manley and John Raymon will battle for the starting job. Donnie Simmons will miss the season with an injury he suffered this past spring. The coaching staff is looking for an eight-man rotation up front, so building depth this summer will be key.

More in this series here.

Syracuse Orange spring wrap

May, 7, 2013

2012 record: 8-5
2012 conference record: 5-2 Big East (tied for first)
Returning starters: Offense: 5; Defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners: C Macky MacPherson, TE Beckett Wales, RB Jerome Smith, NT Jay Bromley, LB Marquis Spruill, LB Dyshawn Davis, CB Keon Lyn, CB Ri’Shard Anderson, FS Jeremi Wilkes, PK Ross Krautman, P Jonathan Fisher

Key losses: WR Marcus Sales, WR Alec Lemon, QB Ryan Nassib, LG Zack Chibane, LT Justin Pugh, DE Markus Pierce-Brewster, DE Brandon Sharpe, DT Deon Goggins, LB Siriki Diabete, SS Shamarko Thomas

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Smith* (1,171 yards)
Passing: Nassib (3,749)
Receiving: Lemon (1,070)
Tackles: Thomas (84)
Sacks: Sharpe (7)
Interceptions: Lyn* (3)

Spring answers:

1. Deep stable of running backs. Offensive coordinator George McDonald compared this group to the talent he saw while an assistant at Miami. It’s a good mix of experience, with a 1,000-yard rusher in Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley (617 yds), and youth, sophomores George Morris III, Ashton Broyld and Devante McFarlane.

2. Replacing Thomas by committee. It will take more than one player to compensate for the loss of the first-team All-Big East safety and team’s leading tackler. The good news is three starters return to the secondary, and there are plenty of options to see playing time, including juniors Ritchy Desir and Durell Eskridge at safety.

3. Familiarity on staff eased transition. Scott Shafer was Syracuse’s defensive coordinator for four years before he was promoted to head coach, and he surrounded himself with a staff that had worked together before at previous stops. Their familiarity with each other and their philosophies and personalities transferred to the players as everyone adjusted.

Fall questions:

1. Quarterbacks. The transfer of former Oklahoma quarterback Drew Allen added even more competition to an already-wide open race for the top job. While some think Allen is the Answer, the position is still a question, as Charley Loeb, Terrel Hunt and John Kinder have more experience in the system and went through the spring in it.

2. Replacing receivers. Cuse lost the Big East’s best receiver in Alec Lemon, and veteran Macus Sales also has to be replaced. Senior Jarrod West (43 catches) had a good spring and leads a group of candidates including seniors Chris Clark and Adrian Flemming, juniors Keenan Hale, Jeremiah Kobena and Arkansas transfer Quinta Funderburk. “Yeah, Jarrod West had a good spring game and had a good spring,” Shafer said. “He did a nice job. Then we have a handful of kids that are in a fight. It's a good fight.”

3. Depth on the defensive line. Syracuse has to replace three of its starting front four, but it is also looking for an eight-man rotation up front. Competition for those will continue this summer to see who gets the most reps.
Syracuse senior Jay Bromley is entering his third season as the team’s starting nose tackle. He started 10 games in each of the past two seasons and this year will be the anchor of a line that has to replace three starters. I caught up with Bromley recently to get his take on the defense this spring under first-year coordinator Chuck Bullough. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

With a new coach, new coordinator, and new conference, there have been plenty of changes this spring at Syracuse. How has it gone so far?

Jay Bromley: It’s been a transition, but one that’s been pretty smooth for the most part in that Coach Shafer is our leader now. We’re real familiar with him. He knows us as individuals. Some of the coaches we have to get to know on a personal level and on the field, but for the most part, Coach Shafer has made it a great transition. It’s been different because you have to learn a lot of new schemes and different terminology, but I think everybody is coming along pretty well. Everyone has learned a lot. Now we’re just focusing on the fundamentals, and making sure we shine everything up.

How much different is the defense going to look, and what are you guys doing differently?

JB: We’re just running a lot of multiple fronts, multiple defenses, multiple packages, just trying to make sure we keep people guessing and we make the most out of the personnel we have.

What’s it been like to have the guy who has paid such close attention to the defense now run the entire show?

JB: It’s interesting because at heart Coach Shafer is a defensive guy, and he wants to destroy offenses. It’s kind of fun to watch him try to amp up the offense or even take their side because at heart you know he wants to be with us, you know he wants to come watch film with us. You know he wants to tell us to take their heads off. It’s been a fun thing to listen to, but he’s doing what most head coaches do. He’s a lot more interactive than maybe [Doug] Marrone was because he knows us a lot more, he is a players’ coach. He’s hard-nosed, and he’s going to make sure we do things right, but he’s going to make sure we understand why we’re doing things.

You guys have to replace three starters. Who are some of the guys this spring who have been stepping into those roles?

JB: This spring has been a big spring for our defensive front because replacing Deon Goggins, Brandon Sharpe and Markus Pierce-Brewster, those are the three guys who really put up a lot of good numbers in 2012, and helped our defense a lot. We have Micah Robinson stepping up, he played a lot last year as a backup stepping up as a starter and helping out a lot. We’ve got Rob Welsh at the other end doing a lot of good things to help us out and on the inside we have a good battle.

From your perspective what do you think is the main priority of what you guys need to get done as a defensive line before you kick off against Penn State?

JB: Really being aggressive and physical. Making sure we know our fundamentals, with our eyes and our feet and our hands, using them every single snap consistently and being aggressive and physical. As far as playing defensive tackle, it’s a very physical position, but the defensive line is kind of a gritty position. Once you realize that and cope with that and learn to love it, it’s nothing to you. We have a lot of first-time starters, a lot of first-time people actually playing a lot of snaps beside myself, so just trying to help them ease into it and understand that this is going to be gritty: You might get your butt kicked once or twice in a game, but it’s about how you come back and make sure you give it to that person across from you every single snap so you can’t relax. That’s what it’s about.

How is your role going to change this season? How much are these guys looking to you for leadership?

JB: A lot. I’ve always been the type to help people out as much as I can, whether they need advice about how to do things, how to work on their hands. Coach is always pointing out to watch me because I do a lot of things well, and there are a lot of things I need to work on, but I tell them that didn’t happen overnight. I’m about to be a four-year player here, a senior. I’ve worked on things for four years now and I still have a ways to go. Them looking up to me is something a little new. You look around the room now, I used to look around and have somebody to look up to. Now there’s nobody to look up to. Now I’m the person everybody looks up to. It’s very unique. It’s a different transition. I’m going to do the best to verbally lead as much as possible, but more than anything lead by example. I figure if my play is at a high level, they’ll see that and they’ll want to play at a high level.



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