Syracuse football: Spring position battles to watch on defense

Mar 20, 2023 - 3:00 PM
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Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange football team is starting spring practice today. This is a good time to look at some position battles we’ll be watching over the next month.

We started with the offense and today we look at the defense that new DC Rocky Long will be working with this spring.

Defensive Line

The position that was the thinnest in 2022 might be the deepest for the Orange defense this fall. Syracuse will return several key contributors from last season along with Alabama transfer Braylen Ingraham. They should also be welcoming back young defensive ends Denis Jaquez, Jr. and Francois Nolton to help replace the pressure provided by departed transfer Steve Linton.

Ingraham could add size to the NT position where Kevon Darton, Terry Lockett and Elijah Fuentes-Cundiff were often battling players with 40-50 pound weight advantages. Having several experienced players could help Syracuse shore up the issues they faced against the run as they got deeper into ACC play, but can Ingraham live up to his high school ranking after limited run at Bama?

On the edge Caleb Okechukwu will be back. He led the Orange last season with 7 of the 32 sacks Syracuse recorded. On the other side, the younger ends: Jaquez Jr, Nolton, Jatius Geer, Kevin Jobity and Chase Simmons could emerge as difference-makers and this spring they will be all battling to make a case to land on top of the depth chart.

Syracuse v Clemson Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images


Marlowe Wax will likely slide inside to take over the MLB spot from Mikel Jones. Wax had 91 tackles, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2022. Determining which players will flank Wax is going to be something to watch this spring. While we wait to hear about Stefon Thompson’s status, Derek McDonald, Anwar Sparrow, Leon Lowery and Kadin Bailey should be the first group of players to get the opportunity to snag those outside linebacker spots. Where will JUCO transfer Lonnie Rice fit in- keep an eye out to see if he stays here or potentially moves to safety.


This was the strength of the Syracuse defense last year, but right now it’s the biggest question-mark. How will the Orange recover from losing three starters? Can incoming transfers Jaeden Gould and Jayden Bellamy help fill the holes left by outgoing transfers Duce Chestnut and Ja’Had Carter? Syracuse does have the benefit of returning a lot of players who saw the field in 2022. Justin Barron, Jason Simmons, Alijah Clark, Isaiah Johnson and Jeremiah Wilson all played significant snaps so competition for those starting spots should play out through the spring and fall camp.

Syracuse v Clemson Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

Which players on defense are you keeping an eye out for this spring? Let us know as we look to get some player interviews over the next month.

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