By Sean Fernandez
Next up (and second-to-last) on our ‘Orange Outlook’ series is the secondary, a unit that struggled last season and is now faced with the task of replacing its leading tackler and current Philadelphia Eagle Phillip Thomas.
With the exception of PT, the unit will consist of mostly the same faces on the field. On the sidelines, though, they welcome defensive mastermind and former NFL assistant Donnie Henderson to give some pointers. He was named Doug Marrone’s Defensive Backs Coach in February. Shamarko Thomas
is the starting strong safety and is undoubtedly the best player in the secondary. As a senior, he is expected to lead this group and garner some national attention in the process. He was third on the team in tackles last year with 67, a few of which probably left some nasty bruises. He hits hard, is fast, and is always around the ball. Orange fans and NFL draft scouts alike are looking forward to seeing big things from Shamarko this year.
Across from Thomas is Jeremi Wilkes
, your starting free safety. He is a 5’9” junior that started 5 games for the often-injured Orange secondary last season. Notable stats included his 41 tackles and a lone interception in the glorious victory over West Virginia.
Summarizing his game, he is what you would call a ball-hawk. He roams around the field and flocks to the ball whenever it comes anywhere near him.
After playing in all 12 games as a freshman last year, sophomore Brandon Reddish
is currently listed as a starting CB for the Orange. It’s expected that Keon Lyn will take over when he gets back from injury, but Reddish won’t back down without a fight.
If I was a betting man, which I probably would be if I still lived in New Jersey (New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Takes On Four Major Pro Leagues and NCAA In Bitter Bight Over Garden State Sports Betting
--You Go, Govnaaa!), I’d say that Reddish is the member of this group most likely to exceed expectations and have a breakout year. Keon Lyn
is currently listed as a reserve at cornerback, but if healthy, chances are that he’ll be starting in no time. He is a junior that had 23 tackles, 1 sack, and a FF in the 11 games that he played last year.
Although Lyn is talented, he’s had a few hiccups recently. He was suspended for the Pittsburgh game last year for what Marrone called ‘conduct detrimental to the team’, and is coming off a shoulder surgery that caused him to miss a few months of the oh-so-important offseason.
Lyn has all the athletic tools to become a dynamic cornerback for this unit; it’s just a matter of honing those skills and staying on the field. As we said in our LB’s Outlook
, Marrone has been clear that injured players will have to earn their playing time back. Reddish is above him on the depth chart, but again, that will likely change. Ri’Shard Anderson
is projected to be the other starting cornerback for the Orange secondary. He is a junior that appeared in 11 games in ’11. Throughout the course of the year, he tallied 22 tackles, but struggled to keep WR’s in front of him. Another year of experience may help Anderson, who has some potential and a high-speed motor.
One of the gems of Doug Marrone’s 2012 recruiting class was Wayne Morgan
, an All-American DB from Erasmus Hall in NYC. As an incoming freshman that will have to prove himself over multiple upperclassmen, playing time this year might be limited for Morgan. With that being said, he is definitely someone to keep an eye on.
Forgive me if I overuse the “P” word, but Morgan is loaded with potential. He did it all in high school, and has a bright career ahead of him as a member of this secondary.
When opposing offenses go to 4 and 5 WR sets, the Orange D will obviously bring more defensive backs on to the field. Sophomores Durell Eskridge
, Ritchy Dessir
, and Jaston George
, and junior Joe Nassib
(Cousin of Ryan) will battle it out for playing time in nickel and dime sets.
Like much of the defense last year, the secondary caught a case of the injury bug and had issues stopping their opponents. There is a lot of work to be done with this unit, but with some familiar faces and a new DB’s Coach, there is hope for improvement.