Monday, April 13, 2015

The Daily Orange’s unofficial position breakdown: No. 8: The defensive line

Jay Bromley read that the Syracuse defensive line is listed by some as the weakest position on the team.

That’s motivated Bromley, a senior defensive tackle and staple of that line, to prove the doubters wrong.

“We take that to heart,” Bromley said, “because we’ve been working really hard this summer to improve on our pass rush, our stances, all the fundamentals.”

If the Orange’s front four wants to really make its case as a strength of the team, it’ll need Bromley to shine.  He anchors the Orange’s defensive line, represented Syracuse at the ACC Football Kickoff in Greensboro, N.C., and is entering his fourth varsity season as a 6-foot-4, 285-pound beast on the field.

Syracuse’s other three starters are currently juniors Robert Welsh, Eric Crume and Micah Robinson. All three players have two years of varsity experience.

Getting productivity from Welsh and Robinson will be key as the defensive line tries to move on without Brandon Sharpe and Deon Goggins.

Key returning players

Bromley is one of the defense’s most dominant players and will likely be one of the best linemen in the Atlantic Coast Conference. His size makes him tough to motor around, his tackling ability is terrific and he has solid hands for a lineman.

He finished with 39 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season. Syracuse has had current New England Patriot Chandler Jones and Sharpe the past two seasons. Now it’s Bromley’s turn to establish himself as the leader of the defensive line.

Looking at Crume, you would never think he weighs 305 pounds. Though his arms and legs are tree-like, he doesn’t carry much extra weight – just muscle. That’s one reason he matches up with Bromley during drills. It’s also why he’s arguably Syracuse’s second most reliable option on its defensive line.

SU’s starting nose tackle, Crume is strong, has great technique and has the pleasure of learning from and challenging Bromley every day in practice.

Zian Jones is currently listed as Crume’s backup. Jones, a senior, played in 12 games last year and made eight total tackles.

Reasons for optimism

One of the most intriguing players on Syracuse’s defensive line is defensive tackle John Raymon. The 6-foot-5, 323-pound Raymon has only played three games in the last two years – all of those games coming in high school.

After an injury derailed his senior season of high school, Raymon enrolled at Iowa. He didn’t play any games there, so he transferred to Syracuse in 2012. He could be a valuable backup to Bromley.

“He’s a funny guy. He’s a giant,” said the 6-foot-4, 285-pound Bromley of Raymon, “so you don’t ever know what to expect from him. He’s a guy that likes to have fun and enjoy life.”

Another reason for optimism is defensive end Isaiah Johnson. Johnson, a 6-foot-5, 291-pound freshman from Delaware, has impressed early on in training camp.

He recovered a fumble on Friday and has received praise from defensive line coach Tim Daoust. Daoust doesn’t dish out compliments too often, but he’s given his fair share to Johnson so far.

Reasons for concern

Welsh and Robinson are question marks heading into the season. That’s not to say they won’t be successful; in fact, there’s a good chance they will. It just means that they’re the x-factors for Syracuse’s defensive line.

They have a total of one start between them. Robinson is the more experienced of the two.

Redshirt freshman Ron Thompson originally came to SU as the 13th best tight end in the country, according to Now he’s switched his number from 81 to 17 and is listed as a defensive end. He made the move after spring practice and will serve as competition for Welsh and Robinson.

Though he’ll push Welsh and Robinson, Thompson doesn’t have much experience at defensive end himself, never playing in a college game. He’s listed as both of their backups on Syracuse’s depth chart.

The verdict

It will be intriguing to see how much Welsh and Robinson step up. Both players are talented and have seen time on the field; they just don’t have experience starting. Neither player has had so much weight on his shoulders the past two years.

Syracuse’s defensive line is solid, and with Daoust grilling the players each day they’re sure to get better from now until Syracuse’s season opener against Penn State on Aug. 31.

Said Bromley: “I’m more excited about this training camp than I’ve ever been.”

Grade: B

Come back to on Saturday to find out which position comes in at No. 7.

Published on August 11, 2013 at 6:18 pm
Contact Trevor: | @TrevorHass

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