As bad as the Syracuse offense has been, the Syracuse defense has been just as bad. While they did hold Boston College to just 16 points, they have given up 30+ points five times already. Things won't be getting any easier for the defense this week.
The Notre Dame offense has continued to roll after a strong win over North Carolina. Ian Book has been playing the best football of his career and the run game has been strong despite the offensive line uncertainty. Syracuse will need some big plays and a whole lot of luck to pull off the upset and slow down the Notre Dame offense. Here are three players to watch on the Syracuse defense:
#36 JA'HAD CARTER, SAFETY
2020 stats: 60 tackles, 3 passes defended, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1FR
Carter is a freshman safety for the Orange defense, but he spent some time at prep school in between high school and college. Carter was the No. 2 overall player out of prep school in his class.
Similar to the production Syracuse is getting from a young running back, Carter has excelled during his short time in college. He is second on the team in total tackles and has emerged as one of the best defenders on the field.
The biggest benefit Syracuse gets from Carter is his football IQ. Multiple coaches have given Carter credit for his coach-like approach and ability to help coach other defensive backs this season. He will likely be needed all over the field and involved in plenty of plays Saturday.
#14 GARRETT WILLIAMS, CORNERBACK
2020 stats: 56 tackles, 7 passes defended, 2 INTs, 1 TD
Williams falls right into the Syracuse mold of small-time recruit developing past expectations. Williams was ranked No. 1,766 overall in his class. Despite this, the sophomore has been highly productive all season long.
Williams is proving himself as a do it all player as he pads the stat book in multiple categories. His best game this season came against Clemson when Syracuse had the Tigers on upset alert for a minute. He finished that game with eight total tackles and an interception return for a touchdown.
As I have mentioned previously, the only way Syracuse can try and upset Notre Dame will be with turnovers and causing chaos. Williams will need to be a major part of that with making plays in the secondary and causing turnovers.
#13 MIKEL JONES, LINEBACKER
2020 stats: 67 tackles, 4 INTs, 2 FFs, 2 FRs
Jones is a true threat to the Notre Dame offense and has been impressive most of the season. The Sophomore is also one of the few players that were higher than the rest of the roster with his recruiting rankings out of high school.
Jones was the 437th overall recruit in the 2019 class and the #24 OLB. He has quickly lived up to his billing. The top tackler for Syracuse has also caused plenty of problems for opposing offenses in the passing game. His four interceptions are also the best on the team.
Jones is the best player on the Syracuse defense and a strong defensive performance starts with him. He started the season hot with three interceptions over four games but has only had one since then. He has also shown an ability to play well against top teams, however, he will need to have the game of his life Saturday. He is the leader of the defense and a strong performance could help rally those around him.
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