Syracuse senior Jay Bromley is entering his third season as the team’s starting nose tackle. He started 10 games in each of the past two seasons and this year will be the anchor of a line that has to replace three starters. I caught up with Bromley recently to get his take on the defense this spring under first-year coordinator Chuck Bullough. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
With a new coach, new coordinator, and new conference, there have been plenty of changes this spring at Syracuse. How has it gone so far?
Jay Bromley: It’s been a transition, but one that’s been pretty smooth for the most part in that Coach Shafer is our leader now. We’re real familiar with him. He knows us as individuals. Some of the coaches we have to get to know on a personal level and on the field, but for the most part, Coach Shafer has made it a great transition. It’s been different because you have to learn a lot of new schemes and different terminology, but I think everybody is coming along pretty well. Everyone has learned a lot. Now we’re just focusing on the fundamentals, and making sure we shine everything up.
How much different is the defense going to look, and what are you guys doing differently?
JB: We’re just running a lot of multiple fronts, multiple defenses, multiple packages, just trying to make sure we keep people guessing and we make the most out of the personnel we have.
What’s it been like to have the guy who has paid such close attention to the defense now run the entire show?
JB: It’s interesting because at heart Coach Shafer is a defensive guy, and he wants to destroy offenses. It’s kind of fun to watch him try to amp up the offense or even take their side because at heart you know he wants to be with us, you know he wants to come watch film with us. You know he wants to tell us to take their heads off. It’s been a fun thing to listen to, but he’s doing what most head coaches do. He’s a lot more interactive than maybe [Doug] Marrone was because he knows us a lot more, he is a players’ coach. He’s hard-nosed, and he’s going to make sure we do things right, but he’s going to make sure we understand why we’re doing things.
You guys have to replace three starters. Who are some of the guys this spring who have been stepping into those roles?
JB: This spring has been a big spring for our defensive front because replacing Deon Goggins, Brandon Sharpe and Markus Pierce-Brewster, those are the three guys who really put up a lot of good numbers in 2012, and helped our defense a lot. We have Micah Robinson stepping up, he played a lot last year as a backup stepping up as a starter and helping out a lot. We’ve got Rob Welsh at the other end doing a lot of good things to help us out and on the inside we have a good battle.
From your perspective what do you think is the main priority of what you guys need to get done as a defensive line before you kick off against Penn State?
JB: Really being aggressive and physical. Making sure we know our fundamentals, with our eyes and our feet and our hands, using them every single snap consistently and being aggressive and physical. As far as playing defensive tackle, it’s a very physical position, but the defensive line is kind of a gritty position. Once you realize that and cope with that and learn to love it, it’s nothing to you. We have a lot of first-time starters, a lot of first-time people actually playing a lot of snaps beside myself, so just trying to help them ease into it and understand that this is going to be gritty: You might get your butt kicked once or twice in a game, but it’s about how you come back and make sure you give it to that person across from you every single snap so you can’t relax. That’s what it’s about.
How is your role going to change this season? How much are these guys looking to you for leadership?
JB: A lot. I’ve always been the type to help people out as much as I can, whether they need advice about how to do things, how to work on their hands. Coach is always pointing out to watch me because I do a lot of things well, and there are a lot of things I need to work on, but I tell them that didn’t happen overnight. I’m about to be a four-year player here, a senior. I’ve worked on things for four years now and I still have a ways to go. Them looking up to me is something a little new. You look around the room now, I used to look around and have somebody to look up to. Now there’s nobody to look up to. Now I’m the person everybody looks up to. It’s very unique. It’s a different transition. I’m going to do the best to verbally lead as much as possible, but more than anything lead by example. I figure if my play is at a high level, they’ll see that and they’ll want to play at a high level.