In the Trenches
The Irish run game certainly came alive last weekend, running all over the Seminoles to the tune of 365 yards and 7.3 yards per carry. Dexter Williams shouldered most of the workload as he added a career-high 202 rushing yards to the stat sheet. The most promising takeaway from the performance up front was the ability to open up running lanes between the tackles and dominate one of the better run defenses in the country. The Irish were so dominant, they didn’t give up a single play that resulted in a loss of yards vs. the Seminoles.
Since Book is back, the running game won’t be as relied upon to make this offense successful this weekend, but we still need a running game nonetheless. Additionally, the Irish will need to bring their A-game when it comes to pass protection. As mentioned earlier, Syracuse has 33 sacks coming into the contest, with 16 of those coming from their defensive ends.
This Syracuse defensive line is an experienced bunch that returns most of their contributors from 2017. Across the board they have athletes that can cause problems. Much like FSU, this position group is the strength of their defense.
At defensive end are juniors Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman. These guys are a two-man wrecking crew who can both get to the quarterback. Robinson enters the game with nine sacks and 15 tackles for loss, while Coleman has added seven sacks and nine tackles for loss himself.
Facing two solid pass rushers this weekend might yield more tight end or running back help to limit their impact. But, you can’t have help on both players every play, and tackles Liam Eichenberg and Robert Hainsey will need to deliver solid performances to keep Robinson and Coleman from disrupting the offense.
In the middle, the interior of the Irish line will need to handle defensive tackles Chris Slayton and McKinley Williams. Slayton is a redshirt senior who enters the game with 29.5 career tackles for loss and seven this season. He is one of Syracuse’s best run stoppers who has NFL talent and will be a great matchup for Mustipher, Banks, and Kraemer/Ruhland.
Junior McKinley Williams is a natural athlete that had four tackles for loss in 2017. He’s had a much quieter 2018 campaign, registering just 14 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. If the Irish had a matchup they preferred up front, it would be running to wherever Williams is. He isn’t a liability for Syracuse, but he is not the same caliber-player as Slayton.
Similar to last week’s defensive front, Syracuse has athletes on the edge, run suffers in the middle, and experience across the board. I gave FSU the slight advantage in this matchup a week ago, and I was very clearly (and gladly) proved wrong. This will be a key matchup for both teams Saturday and as usual, whoever controls the line of scrimmage will win.