Syracuse has major depth concerns at defensive tackle. So the coaching staff has gotten creative this spring.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough and defensive line coach Tim Daoust decided to start cross-training their defensive ends to play defensive tackle, hoping that a few play well enough inside to be even more valuable in 2014.
Call it a tryout of sorts.
"We told the defensive linemen, 'You have to know every position,'" Bullough said in a recent phone interview. "We only have four defensive tackles right now. You’d hate to go through spring ball and one gets nicked up and God forbid, two get nicked up and then you can’t practice. So they all have been rotating in, and it also helps them, too, helps toughen them up because there is a lot more pounding in there with a tackle and guard on you. We have been pleased with that. They’ve been picking it up. The benefits of them going in there and getting toughened up outweigh the negatives."
Losing starting tackle Jay Bromley leaves a gaping hole inside, but depth concerns have compounded his departure. John Raymon, who severely injured his knee last year against Georgia Tech, remains out. Bullough said Raymon may not be able to play at all in 2014.
Wayne Williams, whose arrival at Syracuse has been years in the making, is too overweight to contribute meaningfully right now. Bullough said Williams arrived on campus weighing 350 pounds and is now down to 340, but needs to shed even more to get a spot in the rotation.
"He gets tired so fast," Bullough said. "He is doing everything he can. It’s probably not going to happen during spring ball, so he will have to use the rest of the spring and summer to cut that weight."
Right now, Syracuse has returning starter Eric Crume at one tackle spot and Marcus Coleman and Ryan Sloan competing to win the spot Bromley left behind. Bullough said he may have to rely on the two freshmen the Orange just signed in February once they arrive on campus.
The cross-training idea makes perfect sense, especially since the Orange do have some depth at end.
"The thought is to get them in there now to see how they progress," Bullough said. "Micah Robinson is the first guy who comes to mind. He’s a big, tough kid. Right now, we’ll work them all, but in the end we will know, ‘OK these two defensive ends, or this one, can help us inside but the other ends don’t have to.' I have never been in this situation, where you are so low at one position. Freshmen have a hard time to come in and play, especially at the beginning. So we said, 'Let’s figure out now what end we’ll have to put in there if somebody gets hurt.'"