This the second part of my interview with Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone. You can read the first part here.
Let's talk about the defense, starting up front. You lost a great player in the middle in Arthur Jones but you have both starting defensive ends back. How do you see that position this spring?
Doug Marrone: At the ends we have Mikhail Marinovich and Chandler Jones, and they have a lot of experience playing. Chandler Jones is a very talented player and Marinovich, he's a long kid with good speed, good leverage, a very quick kid. Torrey Ball came over from junior college last year and added some depth. Jarred Kimmel is not participating in the spring but he's played a lot and he'll come back in the fall. So those players have some experience.
On the inside, Andrew Lewis played a lot for us. Bud Tribbey stepped up and played well. It's hard to replace a player like Arthur Jones, though. Anthony Perkins played some and we have some junior college kids coming in and some freshmen who should add depth to the inside position. Ollie Haney played for us in short-yardage situations, and we'll see if he can play more in normal downs. So we have some players there and we have some coming in. But you don't want to be sitting here saying, we've got a kid coming in here, a kid coming in there and then you're banking on that. You go to that well too many times and it's hard to run a program that way.
At linebacker, you have two of your best playmakers back in Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue. You must feel pretty good about that spot.
DM: I do. Having Derrell Smith back in the middle and the year he had was very good for us. It's interesting because a year ago at this time when we started spring, he made the move from outside to inside and, really, he struggled early on in the spring. And really of all of sudden, for lack of a better term, the light goes off for him and he really excelled within the structure of the defense. He really had a solid year with some postseason honors, and we expect the same from him this year. Doug Hogue, he was the third or fourth team running back when we first got here. And he broke the tackles for loss in a game record held by Dwight Freeney, which is pretty darn good. And he's another big kid who can run.
So they've had a year in our system to develop, and that will help them. Ryan Gillum is at the other outside position, and we'll see what he can do. And we've got kids coming in and kids here now who'll come in and compete at those positions.
What about the secondary? You had a lot of young kids get experience there a year ago and now it seems like you have some pretty good depth there.
DM: Yeah, we do. Phillip Thomas as a freshman, he played quite a bit, and he can play safety or corner for us. Mike Holmes has been a solid player for us in the secondary along with Max Suter. Then, obviously, Shamarko Thomas had a great year for us back there. Da'Mon Merkerson played the other corner and Kevyn Scott is there at corner. So it's a good competition back there. I think the competition can really help them. We'll be able to have some versatility because there are about three or four players who can play the nickel position, too.
You talked earlier about the seven mid-year enrollees. How many do you think will have a chance to make an immediate impact
DM: The kids who came from high school, it's a little bit tougher for them. But they'll have the experience of going through spring and our six-week program as far as weight lifting and running. The junior college guys are physically ready; it's a matter of how they compete and how they handle it. Michael Hay can help us on the offensive line. Olando Fisher, whether its at linebacker, defensive back or on special teams, can help us right away. Then there are the two kids from Hofstra. I mentioned Aaron Weaver. Jose Cruz also came in and can help us at tight end.
Do you anticipate any position changes, like Mike Jones or Doug Hogue pulled off last year?
DM: Not right now. Right now, we're pretty much set as far as where guys are playing, whether it's the offensive line or the secondary or things like that. We just want to see them compete and then we're trying to play the best player. We might have three good corners and one is better than the starting safety, so you've got to make a decision to get the kid on the field somehow. It's no different than the offensive line. If your third or fourth best lineman is a backup right tackle, you've got to get him on the field somehow. We have to have some type of diversity to play those players, and that's what we'll look out when we start practice.