Now that the dust has settled on the 2014 NFL Draft, it’s clear just what the Syracuse Orange are losing from last season. The good news is that the Orange only lost five players who were drafted or signed by NFL teams. Jay Bromley went in the third round to the New York Giants, Marquis Spruill was taken by the Atlanta Falcons in the fifth round and Jerome Smith, Keon Lyn and Ri’Shard Anderson signed free agent deals with the Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans, respectively.
The Orange are not losing a whole lot. Given what they bring back, Syracuse should see an improved team when the season begins.
Bromley is undeniably a huge loss, particularly with other questions surrounding the defensive line. But there are plenty of bodies there, and many of those linemen have shown tremendous potential. The buzz in spring camp was all about sophomore defensive end Ron Thompson, who probably brings more athleticism to the line than Bromley did. Thompson came to SU as a tight end but was moved when it became clear that his size, speed and athleticism were ideal for a pass-rushing defensive end. Incoming junior college transfer Wayne Williams is another interior lineman to keep an eye on.
Spruill, the only other player to have his name called in the NFL Draft, leaves a corp of linebackers that remains one of the best in their conference. The other two starters, Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch, are both capable of playing All-ACC caliber football and could be hearing their own names called during the NFL Draft in the near future. Luke Arciniega and Marqez Hodge are both rising stars and could step into Spruill’s spot as the starting middle linebacker.
The Orange secondary will have to replace Lyn and Anderson, who both started at cornerback last season. The two seniors depart from a unit that allowed big play after big play last season. Part of that is Scott Shafer‘s system, which relies on bringing heavy pressure while frequently leaving corners in one-on-one coverage. It’s a system that has proven to be very effective against the run in recent years, but it can lead to a lot of long pass plays. And while both Lyn and Anderson were both decent (Lyn, especially, was actually very solid), both gave up their share of big plays in the last few years. The defense might benefit from an infusion of new talent. Brandon Reddish, Wayne Morgan and Julian Whigham have all shown great potential and will likely get a chance to prove themselves as starters this year.
The only player from the offense to land in an NFL training camp so far is Smith. Based on his productivity, this looks like a huge loss. Smith ran for 2,055 yards and 15 touchdowns in his two years as the starting running back. But he had another year of eligibility and gave it up only to go undrafted. His decision could have been impacted by the full stable of backs ready to go behind him and the likelihood that they would take some of his carries this season. Prince-Tyson Gully, the lightning to Smith’s thunder the past two seasons, returns and should step into the starting role. But George Morris II and Devante McFarlane both emerged as dynamic backs last season and could challenge Gully for the starting position.
With the vast majority of the starters returning, the offense’s production should more than make up for any backward steps the defense might take this season. While the offense had an up-and-down season last year, it was starting mostly underclassmen in the first season under Shafer and offensive coordinator George McDonald. Quarterback Terrel Hunt took a leap forward near the end of the season and returns for his junior year as the unquestioned starter. Four starters on the offensive line are returning, along with dynamic receivers Ashton Broyld and Brisly Estime (who is listed at H-back).
Playing in the tough Atlantic division of the ACC with the Florida State Seminoles, the Clemson Tigers and now the Louisville Cardinals, the Orange aren’t likely to make an appearance in the ACC title game. But expect the Orange to remain competitive with the rest of the conference and maybe even put a scare into someone they shouldn’t.