The big news coming out of Friday morning’s practice on the first day of two-a-days is one that should have Syracuse University fans at least a little concerned, as defensive end Ron Thompson is out approximately two weeks with an undisclosed lower body injury. Scott Shafer broke the news in his press conference following the early morning practice.
Thompson, a 6-foot-3, 257 pound junior from Michigan, is the most talented player on the defensive line, starting all 12 games last season and recording 32 tackles, including 7.0 for loss with 3.0 sacks while splitting time between defensive end and defensive tackle – which was done purely out of necessity last season. Now that he’s moved back to the edge, Thompson is expected to become a breakout star and potential early entry into the NFL Draft next April.
Kickoff against Rhode Island is exactly three weeks away, so losing Thompson for two of those three weeks is tough. Hopefully, he’ll be able to get going and have a full week of practice leading up to the season opener. Without Thompson on the line, and with John Raymon also sidelined with an injury, there are no returning starters working in the front four for the foreseeable future. On the one hand, it’s not a good thing to be without the two most important defensive linemen for an extended period, but on the other, “silver lining” hand, it gives the younger, very talented redshirt freshmen and true freshmen a chance to show what they can do.
Don’t be surprised to hear a lot about how Jake Pickard and Amir Ealey, in particular, are doing over the next two weeks in Thompson’s absence. The same could be said for Qaadir Sheppard, the third of the talented true freshman defensive ends (I’m putting Kenny Carter as a “tweener” on the line, since I think he’ll ultimately wind up playing on the interior).