The Syracuse Orangemen's football season is one third of the way through and the defense has been responding in a big way. Last season Syracuse's passing defense left much to be desired and it was the rushing defense that kept the Orangemen in the game. This season with a year of experience and a few fresh faces both areas of the defense have seen improvements and the early season results are in.
We are all very aware that SU has played two FCS opponents and Akron, however after enduring years of losing and humiliation at the hands of college football's bottom feeders, it feels good to win the games you EXPECT to win. Now Syracuse has to carry these good vibes and winning ways into the conference schedule. A conference schedule packed with mediocre teams.
FBS Defensive Standings:
Points per game - 16.3 - 23rd overall
Rushing yards - 526 - T-29th overall
Rushing yards per attempt - 3.7 - T-41st overall
Passing yards - 678 - 16th overall
Passing yards per game - 169.5 - 23rd overall
Total Yards per game - 301.0 - 25th overall
Individually Syracuse has gotten big performances out of Derrell Smith, Chandler Jones and true freshman Marquis Spruill. Smith is currently the team's leading tackler with 39 total tackles in 4 games, 23 of them unassisted, 3 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles. Phillip Thomas is second on the team in tackles with 32 total and Spruill is third with 24 tackles, 12 of them solo and 3 tackles for a loss.
Chandler Jones has 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles to go along with 20 tackles. He is clearly one of the leaders on the defense along with Derrell Smith, and his huge frame has helped him to knock down 3 passes thus far this season. Jones also has 2.5 tackles for a loss. If the junior can continue to put up big numbers once the conference schedule gets underway, Syracuse fans might be watching Jones on Sunday.
Syracuse's rushing defense has done a great job except in the case of Nate Eachus. Eachus, Colgate University's lone offensive threat, was able to rack up 147 yards on 35 carries in the Dome. This is worrisome considering the quality of opponent, however Syracuse has been decent at limiting the rush, holding opponents to just 3.7 yards per attempt. Syracuse fans will just have to hope that it was Eachus' unique rushing ability and relentless drive that enabled him to attain those totals.
The secondary has done a much better job not giving up big plays outside of the game at Washington. Da'Mon Merkerson and Mike Holmes have one interception a piece, and internet sensation slash heavy hitter Shamarko Thomas has 18 tackles. The true test for this group will be once the conference schedule gets underway. The first match up against USF will be the second strong QB the team will see on the road so far this season.
BJ Daniels, starting quarterback for the Bulls, was 14/19 for 155 yards and a TD pass this past Saturday against Florida Atlantic. Daniels is also a threat to run the ball, and as we have seen so far this season Syracuse is very susceptible to the ball fake. He will be a tremendous challenge for Syracuse's defense. Last season, Daniels came into the Dome as a freshman and walked out having completed 12 of 20 passes for 208 yards and 2 TDs including 32 rushing yards leading the Bulls to a 34-20 victory.
Derrell Smith & Co. will need a huge all around effort to keep Syracuse atop the Big East standings. If Syracuse intends to go bowling this season, the defense will need to be the group driving the bus.
photo courtesy of syracuse.com