first_imgLOS ANGELES — The dagger play came down to two true freshmen. Syracuse cornerback Brandon Reddish was in one-on-one coverage with Southern California wide receiver Marqise Lee.Lee won easily. He was faster than Reddish — blowing past the SU backup and running a crisp route to catch a 43-yard touchdown pass in stride, putting USC up by three scores late in the third quarter.And the play didn’t just mean a lot on the field. It exercised, in terms anyone can read, the big difference in the progression of USC’s young players compared to Syracuse’s young players.‘We did have some young guys out there and moving guys in and out, but we were ready for that,’ SU head coach Doug Marrone said. ‘And again, I think I have to do a better job that we protect some of these kids when they get into the game on a quick turnaround.’The youth movement on Syracuse’s defense backfired in the worst way possible Saturday, as SU couldn’t stop quarterback Matt Barkley and any of his intended targets. Half of Syracuse’s starting secondary — safety Shamarko Thomas and cornerback Keon Lyn — got hurt in the third quarter and didn’t return.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textLike Marrone said after the game, he needs to do a better job with some of the younger kids, getting them ready to enter when a starter goes down. But it’s Marrone’s wording that is curious.Protect. Syracuse needs to try and hide some of its young, raw defensive players when they are in the game.With that, the lack of depth and experience on the Orange defense was exposed. It’s a scary thought because Syracuse’s secondary was one of its supposed strengths entering the season.Instead, the SU pass defense is ranked 101st in the country after Barkley and Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price each had their way with it.And with each injury, the Orange’s lack of depth became more and more painfully visible.Reddish didn’t belong. There was miscommunication on defense when the subs went in. And Barkley ran them off the field.‘It was difficult, but that’s the sport of football,’ cornerback Kevyn Scott said. ‘Some guys are going to go down, that’s why you’ve got to have a two-deep at certain positions. So those guys got to be ready because we tell those guys, the backups, you’re an ankle away from getting in.’Making matters worse is the manner in which USC disassembled Syracuse’s pass defense. Star receiver Robert Woods made some plays, but not as many as he usually makes.Instead, Barkley found the USC freshmen, who played with the presence of veterans.The two longest touchdown passes of the game went to tight end Randall Telfer and Lee, two freshmen. Another freshman tight end, Xavier Grimble, caught Barkley’s fifth touchdown pass.USC head coach Lane Kiffin was pleased with how prepared his freshmen were — the opposite of Marrone’s sentiments.‘Randall Telfer, Christian Thomas and Marqise Lee all came up big for us tonight, and I’m proud of the improvement they showed,’ Kiffin said. ‘Guys are going to make mistakes starting out so for them to contribute for us tonight really gives us something to build on.’Syracuse needs to start seeing more progression from its young players each week. These players got time against Wake Forest due to injuries, and SU rotated a lot of players in and out against Rhode Island.Yet they made mistakes — mental and physical — Saturday. There are two weeks until Syracuse opens Big East play against Rutgers, and the Orange defense is well behind where it should be.This defense cannot hold onto last year’s numbers. It isn’t that team. The 2011 Syracuse defense is ranked 84th in the nation through three weeks — 77 spots lower than last year.There was no word Saturday on Thomas’ condition, but if he and defensive end Chandler Jones are both out for any period of time, the Orange defense, at its current state, will struggle mightily.Syracuse has played three games, but the defense still feels like an unknown. They seem to have talented athletes and players who could be good.But will they figure it out in time?‘We got caught up in some bad matchups and bad coverages,’ Marrone said. ‘They had some good route combinations, and we weren’t in a position we wanted to be in.‘We have some young players, but in the long run it will help those kids.’For now, that’s just a hope. Because it’s only helping SU’s opponents in the short run.Mark Cooper is an asst. sports editor for The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @M_Coops_Cuse. Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Mark: [email protected] | @mark_cooperjrcenter_img Commentslast_img

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