Syracuse shifts players to try and find answers at defensive line

September 16, 2020 | |Post a Comment

first_img Published on April 1, 2016 at 2:05 am Contact Paul: | @pschweds Trey Dunkelberger sprinted so fast he could keep up with running backs. He spent the offseason until that point slimming down to 225 pounds to become an effective offensive weapon. A week before the first official spring practices, he caught the attention of Syracuse’s new coaching staff. The junior tight end didn’t have many opportunities in 2015 and was looking for ways to get more.He didn’t expect them to come at an entirely new position.Dunkelberger was asked if he’d be interested in moving to defensive end, a position he’s only played twice in high school before. He was interested in the increased opportunities he’d have: Two defensive ends are in on every play. Sometimes the tight end doesn’t go in at all.Add Dunkelberger to the list of players that have converted to defensive end since head coach Dino Babers took over. Now he has to bulk back up by eating ground turkey and ground chicken.Seven of the Orange’s eight defensive ends last season will not be returning in 2016. Syracuse’s only returning defensive end, Jake Pickard, didn’t play in a single game as he spent his freshman season redshirting. So to fill the void, SU’s coaching staff has already converted Dunkelberger along with linebackers Hernz Laguerre, a senior walk-on, and Kenneth Ruff, a freshman early enrollee, to the position.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThroughout spring practice, which concludes with the annual spring game on Saturday at 11 a.m., Babers has been searching for players and answers at the Orange’s thinnest position.“Someone who’s a pass rusher,” Babers said. “Someone’s got the ability to come off the edge for us and make a play for us in the ACC. That’s something we’re looking for.”Syracuse’s carousel at defensive end came as a result of Luke Arciniega ending his career with a year left of eligibility, Ron Thompson declaring for the NFL Draft as a junior and freshmen Kenny Carter, Qaadir Sheppard and Amir Ealey being dismissed from the program.Between Pickard, Dunkelberger, Laguerre and Ruff, none have played defensive end in a collegiate game before.“The best thing about that is I don’t have any tendencies from before since I never played the position,” Dunkelberger said. “So it’s perfect because I’m learning exactly what they want me to learn.”But Babers recognizes that Syracuse needs more depth. Junior college transfer Gabriel Sherrod has already committed to SU. Defensive end signees Jaquwan Nelson, McKinley Williams, Joshua Black and Kendall Coleman are all a part of Syracuse’s 2016 recruiting class. On Signing Day, Babers joked that he’ll need to reach out to fraternity brothers to fill the spots.In the meantime, the Orange’s four defensive ends have gotten ample opportunities as they’ve quickly rotated through drills. Without much experience to draw from, it’s allowed for extra practice reps for the group to improve, which will be a valuable head start before the newcomers arrive later on.And it’s even more valuable considering the Tampa 2, the new scheme brought by Babers and defensive coordinator Brian Ward, places a greater importance on the defensive line than Scott Shafer and Chuck Bullough’s prior scheme.“We blitzed a lot last year. This year we’re not blitzing that much,” defensive lineman Steven Clark said. “It really relies on the D-line to stop the run and to actually get a good pass rush. So that’s a big difference from last year.”Babers said it becomes difficult to succeed in the Tampa 2 if the front four isn’t getting pressure on the quarterback.For several players on the defensive line, the plays are simpler than they were in the past. More often than not, SU just needs its linemen to get the quarterback. But the next step is performing on the field, something this group hasn’t done a lot of.“Now it’s your job to learn the playbook because it’s your ass on the line,” Pickard said. “You can’t look to my senior guy who’s been doing this for three or four years. Now everybody’s starting in the same spot. Everybody’s starting on ground zero.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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