Yesterday, we covered Syracuse's run oriented offense and coach Scott Shafer. Now we'll delve into the Syracus defense and special teams.
Coach Shafer's defense philosophy is no secret, it's attack. Last season the Orange had 9 players with at least 4.5 tackles for loss, seven of those players will be returning. Luckily for the rest of the ACC, Syracuse lost stud tackle Jay Bromley who had a ridiculous 13.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. Though the Orange lose a large contributor in the pass rush, they should still be solid against the run. In 2013, they ranked 21st in Stuff Rate and 36th in Power Success Rate.
As far as linebacker is concerned it starts and ends with outside linebacker Cameron Lynch. Lynch lead the linebacker corp in tackles (61), interceptions (2), and also contributed 4 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. The Orange will need to replace their top middle linebacker Marquis Spruill. In the secondary, safety Durell Eskridge has made a name for himself with 4 interceptions and 65 tackles last season. Syracuse's weakness on the defensive side of the ball appears to be at corner as they lose their top two corners from last season in Keon Lyn and Ri'Shard Anderson. Brandon Reddish and Julian Whigham appear to be the top two options for next season. Whigham made only 10 tackles last season but broke up 3 passes and picked off another 3.
Riley Dixon will be the Orange's top punter, last season he punted 75 times for an average of 42.1 yards. Ryan Norton will resume his kickoff and place kicking duties. In 2013, Norton made 7-9 field goals from 0-39 and 2-5 field goals from 40+ yards. When it comes to returners, the Orange used a few but George Morris II and Ritchy Desir were the primary guys and will both return in the fall. Overall, Syracuse is up and down on special teams, their best category being Punt Return Efficiency where they were ranked 12th and worst being field goal efficiency where they ranked 105th nationally.
I really like Wake's chances at home. I believe the strategy will be to load of the box and make Hunt beat Noel, Johnson, and company through the air. I am unsure how the Deacs will throw up points on this solid defense but in the end I think a excellent defensive and special teams effort grabs a home win. Wake Forest 19 - Syracuse 17.