Syracuse may be down three NFL-caliber defensive backs, but its secondary has no shortage of confidence. Freshman All-American defensive back Garrett Williams spoke with the media on Tuesday. He made it very clear he's not intimidated by the shadows left by Andre Cisco, Trill Williams, and Ifeatu Melifonwu.
When asked how much pressure he felt to fill the gap left by three surefire NFL Draft picks, Williams said, "I don't think there's any pressure."
"Obviously, we're losing a lot of really great players, but I think we got guys who are ready to step in and fill those roles accordingly. And it's going to be my job to lead them. And I'm ready for that role."
Williams was ready last year when former Orange safety and turnover juggernaut Andre Cisco went down with a freak ACL injury moments before the third game of the season. His responsibilities were ratcheted up again after fellow DB Trill Williams declared for the draft and opted out of the final four games.
With reinforcements in short supply, Williams turned in 54 tackles, 12 passes defended, and two interceptions. One of those picks he took to the house: the first pick-six of Trevor Lawrence's career.
At one point last season, Williams and former Orange DB Ifeatu Melifonwu had the most targets among cornerbacks without allowing a touchdown.
According to Williams, those numbers didn't come cheaply. His baptism by fire has him hardened, battle-tested, and ready to lead a new era in the Syracuse secondary.
"I saw my fair share a number one receivers as it is," Williams said. "I don't really see any pressure. I just see it as an opportunity to get better and showcase myself."
The new corps is marked by youth but not inexperience. Williams is joined by 2020 true freshmen standouts Ja'Had Carter and Rob Hanna, who finished first and third on the team in tackles last season. Aman Greenwood, Ben Labrosse, and Adrian Cole will also be back after seeing a good amount of the field a year ago.
Last season didn't pan out the way anyone hoped it would, but the strain inflicted by injury brought out the best of this young Syracuse secondary. Williams believes that, like him, they'll be playing beyond their age.
"I think we have a really talented back end, even though we're young. We're all working hard every single day. Everybody is really dedicated to getting better each and every day. I feel like as a unit, the cohesiveness is going to be really nice. I think it's going to show regardless of who we play."