Football

Countdown to Camp: Players will clash for chances in the secondary

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

The SU secondary struggled mightily in 2016, as SU’s defense ranked 118th out of 128 FBS teams in passing defense (276.1 passing yards allowed per game).

Syracuse football’s training camp begins July 30. Every day leading up to camp, The Daily Orange’s football beat writers will take a look at some of the upcoming season’s most pressing storylines, players and position battles. Read more on the Countdown to Camp here.

A recurring scene last fall involved tripped-up Syracuse defensive backs in the secondary, sometimes unsure of their zone coverage or unable to keep up with complex receiver routes. It wasn’t just the deep ball, it wasn’t just crossing routes, and it wasn’t just zone reads. Nor was it confined to the red zone.

The SU secondary struggled mightily in 2016, as SU’s defense ranked 118th out of 128 FBS teams in passing defense (276.1 passing yards allowed per game). Up for grabs headed into camp Sunday are the defensive back positions that the SU defense needs to slow down opponent passing attacks, with several players in contention for a variety of spots.

If there’s one constant, it’s that Syracuse now has some experience within the group. Maybe the most it’s had there since 2014. Early in the 2016 season, Syracuse lost safety Antwan Cordy and cornerback Juwan Dowels to injury. The Orange will get both players and nearly all of its starting secondary back for next season.

There are seven non-freshman cornerbacks with Division I experience, including graduate transfers Devin Butler and Jordan Martin, who should slot in from the get-go.

Butler, who arrived at Notre Dame as a four-star recruit out of a Washington, D.C. high school, was expected to start for the Irish in 2016, but he fractured his foot just before Notre Dame’s bowl game the season prior and then again later in the offseason.

Martin, 6-foot-3, will join the Orange as a graduate transfer and have one season of eligibility. In three seasons at Toledo, Martin tallied 74 tackles, 4.5 for loss, 11 pass deflections, two forced fumbles and an interception. He entered 2016, his senior year, listed as co-No. 1 at cornerback in the preseason depth chart.

“I feel like I’ve got a lot of experience under my belt,” Martin told The Daily Orange shortly after committing. “I can come in and be a Day 1 impact player.”

Scoop Bradshaw and Chris Fredrick are first-team corners. Dowels, who tore his ACL in Week 2 last year, comes in right behind them. Cordell Hudson, who has 10 starts on his resume, and Carl Jones, a reserve, will look for more time in 2017 as well. And at safety, redshirt junior Cordy should lessen the threat of deep balls after sustaining a season-ending injury in Week 2 last year.

Syracuse will look for the whole package to come together as players fight for spots in the coming weeks. The secondary will be under the close eye of the coaching staff, especially considering the group’s struggles last season.

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