ACC: Josh Kirkland

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."

ACC spring games recap

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21
Georgia Tech and Syracuse finished spring practice this past weekend. Let's see how their respective spring games went:

Georgia Tech: Despite heavy rain, the Jackets went ahead with their spring game Friday night. But they did so without quarterback Justin Thomas, who sat as a precaution because of a sore shoulder. Without him, junior quarterback Tim Byerly took the headlines, rushing for 101 yards and a touchdown and passing for 69 yards to lead the White team past the Gold team 20-12. B-back Zach Laskey rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown for the White, which featured the first-team offense. Isaiah Johnson and Demond Smith scored defensive touchdowns on fumble returns for the Gold team, which featured the first-team defense. Redshirt freshman quarterback Ty Griffin, who started for the Gold team, rushed 15 times for 75 yards and completed one pass.

Syracuse: One day after coach Scott Shafer named him MVP of the 2013 season, quarterback Terrel Hunt took all the snaps with the first-team offense in the first half of the spring game and made it clear he is the unquestioned starter going into the fall. Hunt went 12-of-15 for 95 yards, though he did not lead a scoring drive. He and three other quarterbacks threw for 413 yards as the offense beat the defense 34-27. Ashton Broyld, looking for a role on the offense, led all receivers with eight catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Jeremiah Kobena also added two touchdown catches. Safety Chauncey Scissum and linebacker Josh Kirkland led the defensive effort with seven tackles each. Kirkland had two tackles for loss and one sack. Ritchy Desir, Cameron Lynch and Ron Thompson each made six tackles.