Syracuse unfazed by uncertainty in secondary

first_img Published on August 14, 2015 at 5:16 pm Contact Jesse: jcdoug01@syr.edu | @dougherty_jesse Da’Mon Merkerson’s career statistics don’t exactly place him in Syracuse football lore. He played on both sides of the ball throughout his time from 2007–10, catching 14 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns as a wide receiver, and collecting 59 total tackles and two interceptions as a cornerback.But in the Orange’s last two training camps, Merkerson’s been used as a precedent. Last August, SU head coach Scott Shafer used the story of moving Merkerson to defense to express excitement for the same transition for now-sophomore cornerback Corey Winfield.On Friday, Shafer used Merkerson to illustrate confidence in a secondary with eight moving parts but no definitive starters six days into training camp.“We got (Merkerson) to play in a week and he did OK,” Shafer said. “And these kids have been playing a lot longer than a week, and I like them.”With the Orange’s opener against Rhode Island three weeks away, Shafer and defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough aren’t in any rush to name starters, or even front runners, in the secondary. Bullough said Tuesday that SU is looking at five cornerbacks and three safeties, all returners he’s confident in. He also said the defense will need a fourth safety by the end of camp, which he expects will be one of three freshmen at the position.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textOn the preseason depth chart, seniors Julian Whigham and Wayne Morgan are listed as the first-team cornerbacks, and are backed up by Winfield, and redshirt freshmen Cordell Hudson and Juwan Dowels. Sophomore Antwan Cordy is listed as the first-team strong safety, and sophomore Chauncey Scissum and redshirt freshman Rodney Williams are each listed at first-team free safety.The mix has players coming off major injuries (Morgan and Williams), with no in-game college experience (Hudson and Dowels), and who are unproven after switching positions in college (Winfield, Cordy and Scissum). That leaves Whigham, but even he hasn’t secured a spot coming off an unconvincing junior season.Syracuse takes to the SU Soccer Stadium for its annual FanFast scrimmage at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday, which could offer a clearer look at the secondary.“Well shoot I’d like to have a couple All-Americans coming back that have been around for a few years,” Shafer said Friday. “But we don’t. And to be honest with you, I’m kind of used to that on defense.”If Shafer has fast tracked young defensive backs in past years, 2014 wasn’t one of them. The Orange started senior Brandon Reddish and Whigham at corner, junior Durell Eskridge at free safety and senior Ritchy Desir at strong safety. SU also had senior Darius Kelly as a third safety and he played the “star” position in the defense’s Okie package.Whigham’s the only holdover who saw significant snaps last season, and with the return of Morgan — who was a strong safety for two seasons before he was shifted to cornerback — Shafer and Bullough seem pleased with the depth and development at corner.At safety, Shafer said there’s a bigger learning curve because there’s “a lot going on in the middle.” Bullough isn’t tying any of the safeties to one spot and is teaching the whole group both inside positions.The ultimate approach is to have enough players ready so the secondary can combat any situation with depth. But depth needs to be headlined by the best of the group, and Syracuse is still figuring out who that is.“It’s not like we’re like, ‘Hey this guy is way ahead of this guy and this guy is way ahead of this guy,’” said Bullough, discussing the cornerbacks. “It’s, ‘Hey, we got five guys, who’s going to rise to the top in this camp?’ But we feel comfortable with the next guy going in.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img