Filling the gaps: Syracuse defense hinges on trio of linebackers, each with something to prove

first_imgThere’s no question: The linebackers are the crux of Syracuse’s defense.With turnover in front and behind, senior Marquis Spruill and juniors Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch will be relied on to keep the team competitive as a newcomer in the Atlantic Coast Conference without a proven quarterback. Yet, a quick glance at the trio of Orange veterans reveals clear deficiencies.Spruill was charged with disorderly conduct and second-degree harassment after a dispute with police officers Dec. 2. Davis has only played the position for two years. Lynch is undersized (5-foot-11) and inexperienced (three career starts).But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Each has undergone a transformation of sorts, starting last spring. Where they were weak, they are now strong.And they could be the best linebacking corps since Doug Hogue, Derrell Smith and then-freshman Spruill powered the Orange in 2010.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBeing a LeaderMarquis Spruill’s transformation is just as much perception as reality.How could he shed the details from that Saturday night in December? The ones that jumped off the police report and into the headlines as Syracuse prepared to face West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl.Pulling an officer off of teammate Steve Rene. Kicking the inside of a police van so hard that it swung open and nearly struck an officer. And all before the biggest game of his career.Spruill and Rene have remained steadfast that the outline in that report is not exactly how they remember it. Still, it’s what Spruill had to accept when he pled guilty to the second-degree harassment charge, wrote an apology letter and participated in team counseling.“The incident that night basically happened because I tried to be a leader,” Spruill said. “I tried to go stop something from happening and it didn’t look that way. I had good intentions, it just didn’t look that way.”Teammates and coaches understand what happened that night. They know “‘Quis” best. He’s the guy who tries to keep teammates out of trouble off the field, Dyshawn Davis said. That might be why no-nonsense head coach Doug Marrone allowed Spruill to play in the Pinstripe Bowl.“He’s just one of those guys always looking to protect his teammates, his brothers,” Davis said. “That particular night, when things went wrong, as a team we and the coaches all know that’s not him. He’s a great kid, he’s a great guy and he’s a great leader.”For Spruill, swallowing his pride for the success of his future wasn’t new.After receiving no offers out of Hillside (N.J.) High School, he attended Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. There, he hated shining shoes — and boots, which were harder to clean since they had bigger pores. He hated taking orders from 10th-grade kids just because they outranked him.“The culture of military life, I didn’t really like it at all,” Spruill said, “but I accepted it because I knew I was trying to do something. I was trying to find a school to go to for football, so if I had to bite my tongue and do what they said, I would do it.”It’s the same way he handled the situation this past winter. And with that maturity, he grew in the eyes of his teammates and coaches.Davis saw the difference in the way Spruill handled the court hearings and media backlash. Spruill’s roommate of more than a year, Davis watched him work through the everyday grind of redefining his reputation as a player and leader going into his final collegiate season.“He just changed into a different person,” Davis said.Head coach Scott Shafer saw the difference in the way Spruill ran defensive practices this summer. Spruill held more sessions than the team has run any summer since he got here.“He took that defense and they damn near practiced on their own three days a week,” Shafer said. “I was so proud of him.”It was only two years ago that Shafer remembers Spruill shying away from that role. “Coach, I don’t feel comfortable being a leader,” Shafer recalls Spruill telling him.Now the whole team looks up to Spruill, a four-year starter and established signal caller for the defense.For Spruill, the incident in December is in the past. He doesn’t let it define him.Sliding back into his natural middle linebacker slot this season, he has the support of all his teammates and coaches.“We needed a little leadership, and he’s the guy,” linebackers coach Clark Lea said. “They all look to him. They all look to him and they know he can do it.”Rounding Out His GameStanding in the back-left corner of the end zone, Dyshawn Davis turned away from the Carrier Dome stands and back at what he dreaded most.The ball was in Demetrius Fields’ hands. It had soared over Davis a second earlier. Davis ripped the chinstraps off the side of his helmet and jump-twisted in frustration.Northwestern scored with 44 seconds left to spoil Syracuse’s season opener 42-41 last year.“Dyshawn Davis is still learning to play the position,” first-year linebackers coach Clark Lea said. “He spent a better part of his first two seasons being a runner on the field. We want him to do that because that’s a strength of his, but if we can just work on the finer points of his game to be a complete player.”Davis might be the most physically gifted player on the team. Six feet 2 inches, 220 pounds. Strong. Fast. Explosive. That’s what got him the starting job as a freshman, and what’s gotten him into the backfield more than any other SU player these last two seasons.Davis leads the team with 24.5 tackles for loss in that span, but dropping in coverage or filling space in the box has been sometimes problematic. Like when Davis failed to hold contain on an end-around and a reverse in a loss to Southern California last season.After missing the spring season with offseason shoulder surgery, Davis began working with Lea on rounding out his game in the summer. Footwork in the box, dropping in coverage and coming out of breaks. Using his hands to control tight ends at the line of scrimmage.“I feel like I’ve had a tremendous amount of improvement being outside the box and covering the pass,” Davis said. “Being active on the play, driving to the ball after the ball is thrown.”Lea said Davis’ experience playing wide receiver at Woodbury (N.J.) High School shows in his ability to use his hips to change direction and his catching ability. It’s his height, Lea said, that makes perfecting the backpedaling and crossovers difficult.“With a guy that long, that’s the first thing that usually goes,” Lea said. “It’s hard for those guys, but that’s something he’s been concentrating on and studying.”While Davis is only in his third season playing linebacker, he started in limited formation as a freshman and full-time last year. Experience playing in the secondary at Woodbury and safety at Milford (N.Y.) Academy helped, but to become a multi-dimensional linebacker, he’ll need to continue to work on the intricacies of coverage.“I hope as we move forward that he just starts rounding out his game so that he can still run and hit and do those things well,” Lea said, “but the finer points of coverage or playing in the box when he needs to and getting his body under control to make a play in space, those are things we’ve spent a good amount of time on in camp drilling.”Finding the StrengthZiniu Chen | Staff PhotographerCam Lynch’s Scout.com page reads like so:The No. 54 outside linebacker in the Class of 2011. Three stars. Five feet 11 inches. Two hundred and fifteen pounds. Strengths: instincts, lateral movement, tackling technique.Areas for improvement: size.Three years after choosing Syracuse, Lynch has added 15 pounds of muscle. He’s still 5 feet 11 inches, easily the shortest of the three starting linebackers, but senior defensive tackle Jay Bromley called him the strongest.The Shamarko Thomas of linebackers, Bromley said.“He can probably jump about 35 (inches), bench about 450 (pounds), if not more, and squat about 5(00) something,” Bromley said. “… He’s like a bowling ball of just speed.”Even at Brookwood High School in Snellville, Ga., Lynch was strong. Now entering his junior year with the Orange, he’ll be a first-year starter playing against some of the fastest running backs in the country. Yet with only three career starts, Lynch’s lack of height or experience doesn’t seem to worry any of the Orange coaches or players.Nor should it.He was a rotation player in each of the last two seasons, starting once as a freshman and twice as a sophomore. Last year, he notched a career-high nine tackles against Missouri on Nov. 17, and added four tackles, half a sack and a forced fumble against West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29.This spring, he manned the starting strong linebacker spot when Davis sat out after offseason shoulder surgery.“He spent a lot of time this summer becoming a student of the game and really trying to absorb a lot of information from a football standpoint,” linebackers coach Clark Lea said. “It made this transition to fall camp a lot smoother.”His performance through camp has been inconsistent at times, Lea said, but the high points have been eye-popping.Last Monday, Lynch trifled through the line on back-to-back plays in a 7-on-7 drill. First, he beat tackle Sean Hickey around the outside before tagging quarterbacking offensive line coach Pat Perles for the sack.On the next play, he ran a twist stunt with Spruill and sped past Hickey up the middle for another sack.Lynch’s strength and speed allow him to exploit the smallest of crevices in an offensive front. Now he’s working on going through offensive linemen, as well.“I want to sharpen up being physical at the line,” Lynch said. “I’m good at that, but being physical at the line and just working on that. Everything else is solid.”For a guy who scored a 1435 on his SAT, according to Rivals.com, and received a scholarship offer from Harvard, identifying and understanding the quickest way into the backfield shouldn’t be a problem – especially considering he grew up in Georgia and knows the Atlantic Coast Conference brand of football well.While Lynch can’t do anything to get taller, he’s done everything in his power to prove his size and strength is far from an area of improvement.Bromley said Lynch turns heads in the weight room. Now he’s knocking them backward on the practice field, too.“This guy is limitless,” Bromley said. “There’s really not much he can’t do.”Three linebackers. Three questions. If Syracuse is to stay afloat in the ACC this year, it’ll need all three to carry its defensive weight.Davis remembers idolizing Hogue and Smith when he watched games at Milford Academy. He remembers getting to Syracuse and sitting down with Spruill. They talked about a dream.“I knew in the future that we had a chance to be better than Doug and Derrell,” Davis said. “That kind of went by quick filling in the footsteps and the shoes of those guys. Now we’re trying to be the best that we can be and try to be better than them.”With Lynch beside them, the three form a more complete group than that of 2010. A group with arguably more pressure, but as Davis said, a group that knows how crucial it is to the team’s success.They’re the heart and soul of the defense.“We’re just the three soldiers,” Davis said, “sticking together, holding the team together.” Commentslast_img read more

USC rejects gift from Harvey Weinstein

first_imgDaily Trojan file photoUSC will not accept Harvey Weinstein’s $5 million pledge to the School of Cinematic Arts, according to a statement issued by the University on Tuesday.“In light of the admitted behavior by Mr. Weinstein and the subsequent reports there is no way the school would move forward,” SCA spokeswoman Kristin Borella told NBC4 on Tuesday. “This was a pledge and no funding had begun.”Last Thursday, The New York Times published a report revealing decades of sexual harassment allegations against the film executive, detailing various monetary negotiations with his alleged  victims.Weinstein was consequently fired from The Weinstein Company on Sunday, after board members cited his violations of the company’s code of conduct, The Times reported.Following the report, Weinstein published a public statement expressing regret for his actions and announced a $5 million pledge for a foundation to support female filmmakers at SCA. USC later confirmed that the University had been in talks with Weinstein about his foundation for a year.The University did not immediately decline Weinstein’s pledge following the statements.Weinstein also previously had ties with USC. In February 2015, Weinstein visited the School of Cinematic Arts as a speaker to discuss his career in the film industry.last_img read more

L.A. Rams’ Fearsome Foursome member Lundy is dead at 71

first_img“He really was the stabilizing force, Mr. Consistency,” Olsen said. “He was an incredibly important part of that equation.” Lundy was the first black football player to receive a scholarship at Purdue, the school said. He led Richmond High School to unbeaten football seasons in 1952 and 1953 and to the state’s Final Four in basketball in 1953. He was selected to the 1959 Pro Bowl team and led the Rams in sacks, an unofficial statistic in those days, in 1961. A knee injury he sustained in 1967 led to his retirement from football. Funeral arrangements were pending. Lundy spent his entire 13-year career with the Rams (1957-69). He teamed with Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones – both Pro Football Hall of Famers – and Roosevelt Grier to form a mighty defensive line. In 1968, the defense featuring the four set an NFL record for the fewest yards allowed during a 14-game season. Olsen called Lundy, 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds, the anchor of the line. Broncos running back dies: Damien Nash, a backup running back for the Denver Broncos, collapsed and died after a charity basketball game in St. Louis, his agent, David Canter, said. Nash was 24. Circumstances surrounding his death weren’t immediately available. Signed as a free agent in August, Nash played in threegames for the Broncos last season and finished with 18 carries for 66 yards. He started as a rookie in 2005 with Tennessee, which drafted him in the fifth round. The death was the second to strike the Broncos in less than two months. Cornerback Darrent Williams, 24, was shot and killed Jan. 1 while riding in a limousine after leaving a nightclub in Denver, just hours after the Broncos’ season ended. Also: Atlanta Falcons defensive end Patrick Kerney voided his contract, and potentially lucrative free-agent options could make it difficult for the team to re-sign its top pass rusher. … Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens needs more surgery on his injured right ring finger and might not be 100 percent until training camp. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!center_img Lamar Lundy, a member of the Fearsome Foursome defensive line for the Los Angeles Rams in the 1960s, died Saturday. He was 71. He died after a long illness in his hometown of Richmond, Ind., the Community Family Funeral Home said. last_img read more

Exclusive – Sterling should be playing for the England Under-21s, claims Pearce

first_imgStuart Pearce believes England Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate should get his pick of talent for the crunch Euro 2015 play-off clash against Croatia.The Young Lions face back-to-back clashes against the European side in the coming weeks, as they look to book their spot in the Czech Republic next summer.Southgate has already seen Arsenal defender Calum Chambers called up to the national squad, following John Stones’ injury, and has injury doubts regarding Manchester United’s Luke Shaw.And ex-Under-21 chief Pearce believes, with the senior side set to face San Marino and Estonia in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, players like Raheem Sterling should be representing the younger team.“What should happen is that the senior manager should say to the Under-21 boss, ‘you pick anyone age appropriate that you need and, after that, I’ll take whatever I’ve got’.“The senior manager will be thinking, ‘I’m going to win these two games [against San Marino and Estonia] and I’ve won away in Switzerland’.“That includes Sterling. It’s for the greater good of England.“As I’ve said before, unless we start winning things at youth level, it won’t replicate itself at senior level.“We’re trying to fix the roof before the foundations.”last_img read more

New pill shows early promise for blocking many strains of flu

first_img James Cavallini/Science Source The flu season is at its height in the Northern Hemisphere, but—as many are discovering—seasonal flu vaccines don’t always provide complete protection, because unexpected flu strains show up unannounced. Now, researchers report they’ve developed an experimental oral medicine that protects mice from a wide range of influenza viruses. If it works in humans, it could lead to a new pill to fight one of the deadliest infections humanity faces.Every year, influenza causes a severe illness in some 3 million to 5 million people worldwide and kills up to 650,000, according to the World Health Organization. Medicine’s primary defense against the flu is the seasonal flu vaccine, an injected cocktail of killed viruses designed to prod the immune system to produce antibodies. Those antibodies disable the flu strains deemed most likely to circulate that season. But sometimes unforeseen strains end up spreading instead, rendering the vaccine less effective.Normally, antibodies target an individual strain of flu. But in 2008, researchers discovered a class of so-called broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) in humans that can bind to and disable multiple flu strains at once. Detailed studies of one the best of these bnAbs, called CR6261, showed it binds to the stem portion of a mushroom-shaped hemagglutinin (HA) protein on the surface of the virus. This portion of the protein is virtually identical in multiple flu strains and is essential for enabling the virus to fuse with the membranes of cells it infects. 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ServiceMar. 7, 2019 , 2:00 PM An electron microscope image of a flu viruscenter_img Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Email Close-up images of CR6261 bound to the HA stem revealed the antibody binds by holding on to five tiny indentations in the stem, much as a rock climber uses minute toe and finger holds to hang onto an otherwise sheer granite cliff face. “CR6261 targets all five pockets up and down the stem,” says Ian Wilson, a structural biologist at Scripps Research in San Diego, California.In 2011 and 2012, researchers led by Wilson and David Baker at the University of Washington in Seattle used computer design techniques to create a much smaller protein called HB80.4 that binds to HA’s stem using the same holds and blocks viral fusion. But proteins typically don’t work as oral medicines because digestive enzymes break them down in the stomach.Now, Wilson, Maria van Dongen, a drug discovery expert at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson in Leiden, The Netherlands, and their colleagues have used the previous discovery of HB80.4 to help them find small molecules that do the same thing. Van Dongen and her team created a lab test in which they first bound HB80.4 to the flu virus’s HA stem. They then screened 500,000 small molecules from the company’s proprietary library to see whether any bound to the same site so tightly that they essentially pushed HB80.4 out of the way.They initially got some 9000 hits, which they whittled down to a top binder. They tweaked this compound further to create JNJ4796, a molecule containing six rings in a line, which not only binds better than HB80.4 to the HA stem’s indentations but has improved properties for acting as a drug, such as increased solubility in blood.Van Dongen’s team showed the would-be drug blocks a group of flu viruses from infecting mouse and human cells in a petri dish. And studies in mice given the drug orally showed it prevented animals from getting sick after being exposed to lethal doses of multiple strains of the flu, the researchers report today in Science.“It’s a beautiful story,” showing how scientists have steadily progressed toward coming up with a new antiflu drug, says Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. If the drug proves safe and effective in humans, it would join two approved oral medications—Tamiflu and Xofluza—that can help fight the flu. Unlike JNJ4796, which blocks viruses from entering cells, the approved drugs block viruses from spreading once they have already infected cells. But viruses have already shown signs of developing resistance to the current drugs. “It’s important to have drugs against different targets,” Kawaoka says.That said, JNJ4796 doesn’t work against all flu viruses. The compound blocks influenza A group 1 viruses, which includes the H1N1 virus that accounts for nearly half of flu infections this season. But it doesn’t block two other classes—influenza A group 2 or influenza B viruses—that account for the rest of this year’s infections.Nevertheless, Florian Krammer, a virologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, says the “elegant” screening approach Van Dongen’s team used to identify the initial HA binder could also help find drug leads that bind the other viral classes. The same strategy could even work for finding novel drugs to block other viral diseases, such as Ebola, he says. “This is just the start.”last_img read more