2022 Syracuse Football Preview: Defensive Backs

Syracuse Football’s defensive backs were a bit mixed in 2021. The Orange only allowed 204.3 passing yards per game, good for 2nd place in the ACC behind Boston College. On the other hand, SU only intercepted 4 passes last year. Georgia Tech was the only conference opponent with fewer. However, the unit is very experienced. The Orange brings back six players from last year’s secondary school, all of whom bring a lot to the table. Let’s get to know them.

DUCE CHESTNUT

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The true newcomer stormed onto the stage last year and made an immediate impression. Chestnut had three of SU’s four interceptions last year and was second among defenders in tackles. Now that he’s a year older and adjusted to Dino Babers’ system, why can’t Chestnut develop into one of the best cornerbacks in the conference? Why not even the potential Thorpe Award nominee? Chestnut was very excited when he got into the 315. If he improves his interception game a little bit, he can reach the potential that so many fans believe he can reach.

GARRETT WILLIAMS

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Williams is one of the most experienced defenders in the squad. He is entering his fourth year in the program and has a Freshman All-American selection and an All-ACC selection to his name. Williams has led the ACC in pass breakups for two straight seasons and was second in the ACC in passes defended per game last year. If there’s one weakness in Williams’ game, it’s in interceptions. He only had two in 2020 and couldn’t muster one last season. Williams doesn’t get enough recognition among ACC stars, let alone SU stars. If he can pick up more passes this year, he’ll get that recognition.

JASON SIMMONS

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Simmons has been a bit overshadowed behind some of the bigger names on defense, which is a shame because he did a little bit of everything last year. His 42 total tackles ranked eighth overall in the roster, but he also recorded an interception, forced a fumble, and averaged 1.5 tackles to a loss. His numbers aren’t amazing, but Simmons can do all the little things that make a defense exponentially better.

ROB HANNA

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Used as a true freshman following Andre Cisco’s injury at the end of the 2020 season, Hanna did not disappoint. His 55 total tackles was fifth best on the team, and he also added an INT to that campaign. Last year was a small step backwards. Only 30 tackles in another game played. With a deeper unity this season, Hanna will have to fight to keep his place. The question is, will the pressure improve his numbers or handicap him to the point where he’s unplayable?

Justin Barron

Barron is the man in this unit with so much untapped potential. The up-and-coming third-grader is emerging from his first full season as DB, and he’s been flashing brilliantly. He finished third on the team in

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Passes defended only behind Chestnut and Williams. Now that he’s had a full year of experience at the position, those numbers could go up in no time. Barron’s continued growth could be the X-factor of this defensive defender unit.

ERIC COLEY

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Nobody in this unit defines a veteran like Coley. Fayetteville-Manlius High School’s product is entering its sixth season with the Orange. It’s unfair to expect startling numbers from him (just 1 interception and 6 passes defended in his career), but Coley needs to be the soothing voice of the group, almost like a coach on the field. Few players know the system as well as Coley, and using his knowledge to his full advantage will boost his peers’ football IQs a bit.

This group could be the strongest in the Babers squad. The experience is there. The talent is there. The untapped potential is there. If Chestnut, Williams and company can reach that untapped potential, the sky could be the limit for Syracuse Football’s defensive backs.

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