ACC: Durell Eskridge

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June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
The Spurs are just something else.
Syracuse got a taste of life without top safety Durell Eskridge in December's Texas Bowl, and coach Scott Shafer found some young players ready to step up at the position. With Eskridge still recovering from offseason finger and hip surgeries, Shafer said those reserves will get another extended opportunity to win jobs when the Orange kick off spring practice next week.

Eskridge, a third-team All-ACC safety who led the Orange in tackles in 2013, is likely to sit out most of the spring, Shafer said. But as Syracuse looks to identify depth in the secondary, that might not be a bad thing.

[+] EnlargeRitchy Desir
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskySyracuse safety Ritchy Desir had 47 tackles and an interception last season.
“We’re going to be real smart with [Eskridge] this spring and see what these other guys can do,” Shafer said.

That starts with Darius Kelly and Ritchy Desir, who split time filling in for Eskridge in Syracuse’s 21-17 Texas Bowl win over Minnesota. Desir finished 2013 with 47 tackles and an interception, while Kelly had 44 tackles last season.

Perhaps the most intriguing option, however, might be Chauncey Scissum, a redshirt freshman Shafer said made the most of his season on the sidelines in 2013.

“He’s a kid that’s kind of like (receiver Corey) Winfield on offense, a kid we were really excited about but we felt it was in our best interests to put a redshirt on him,” Shafer said. “He’s gotten bigger and faster and stronger.”

Shafer said he expects some strong competition at the position with Eskridge sidelined, but he also thinks the downtime can benefit his established veteran.

“He’ll probably wear a coach’s hat more than anything else this spring and spend a lot of time in the film room and help coach those guys that are playing safety,” Shafer said. “I think there’s a lot to be said when a kid’s injured, if you handle it right, they get an opportunity to see it from the other side of the fence and put the coach’s hat on a little bit and learn a lot about themselves when they’re teaching their teammates. I’ve seen that a lot over the years, and that’s how we’re going to approach it with Durell this spring.”

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
One week without college football down. Thirty-three more to go.
  • Until proven otherwise, the narrative at Louisville will be that Bobby Petrino is a changed man. The Louisville Courier-Journal has its doubts.
  • Clemson’s Dabo Swinney expects offensive coordinator Chad Morris to be back next year, and he could be running a two-QB system, writes the Post and Courier.
  • Heisman finalist Andre Williams will skip the Senior Bowl because of injury concerns, notes BC Interruption.
  • As early enrollees arrive on campus, the Al Golden saga at Penn State appears to be at an end, writes the Sun-Sentinel.
  • Florida State will hold its championship celebration in Tallahassee on Jan. 18. The Tallahassee Democrat has details.
  • Could FSU offensive lineman Ira Denson be transferring? Tomahawk Nation reads the tea leaves, which certainly point to a departure.
  • Notre Dame transfer Lo Wood won’t be coming to Georgia Tech, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Defensive tackle Luther Maddy will be returning to Virginia Tech for the 2014 season, writes the Roanoke Times.
  • Still, Virginia Tech ranks among Athlon’s top five teams on the decline for 2014.
  • Durell Eskridge proved to be a nice surprise in Syracuse’s developing secondary last season, writes The Post-Standard.
  • Athlon ranks just one ACC player among its most likely Heisman candidates for 2014. We’ll give you one guess who it is.

Freeman, Eskridge are bonded brothers

November, 14, 2013
Freeman/EskridgeGetty Images,AP PhotoWhen Florida State RB Devonta Freeman breaks through the line on Saturday, there's a good chance his best friend, Syracuse S Durell Eskridge, will be there to meet him.
In their neighborhood, sneakers were status, so Devonta Freeman and Durell Eskridge took their shoes seriously.

A new pair of Air Jordans might gobble up most of a week's pay from their mommas' pocketbooks, if this was one of the weeks they were working, so eventually Freeman and Eskridge found ways to pay for shoes on their own. They hung around the gas station, pumping gas in hopes of a tip. They carried bags for customers at the nearby Winn-Dixie, pocketing loose change for their efforts. They would visit Coach Luke -- former member of the rap group 2 Live Crew and neighborhood mentor Luther Campbell -- and clean his pool or mow his lawn for a few bucks.

Eskridge is nearly six inches taller than Freeman, but when they would scrape together enough for a shopping trip, they were careful to buy clothes and shoes that fit them both. They had different classes, so no one noticed when they would swap sneakers or T-shirts, doubling their wardrobe to keep a clean look on a tight budget.

After school, they would join pickup football games in an open field at the Miami housing project where they lived. They played in socks, bare feet or an old set of cleats to keep their shoes from getting scuffed. In a place where violence was around every corner, few things in Freeman and Eskridge's lives were so devoutly protected as those sneakers.

"Don't step on our shoes," Freeman said. "We didn't play about that."

Freeman and Eskridge shared shoes, meals and, for several years, a bedroom. They also shared a dream and the struggle to make it a reality. They pushed each other to work when drugs and gangs offered simpler options. They protected each other when their neighborhood felt more like a war zone than a home. They made promises to each other to escape their surroundings and rescue their families from poverty.

Growing up, they had almost nothing, but they had each other. In their neighborhood, that made them rich.

"How we carry ourselves, we always kept each other up," Freeman said. "We were going to make sure our shoes were clean, our clothes ironed. A lot of people think we weren't going through stuff. But they don't know half of it."

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ACC lunchtime links

November, 13, 2013
Not a bad Tuesday night of hoops, huh?

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November, 12, 2013
Cannot wait for this 30 for 30.

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August, 9, 2013
Enjoy the weekend!

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.

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 3, 2013
Have a great weekend!