Returning from injury, Graham fighting for spot in secondary

first_img Comments Published on April 12, 2010 at 12:00 pm Defensive line rebuildsTo some, Art Jones left a gaping hole in the defensive line when he finished his collegiate career at Syracuse last fall. With the star nose tackle’s departure, conventional wisdom suggested the returning defensive linemen would have some big shoes to fill. It wasn’t a stretch to assume the defensive line that spearheaded such a stout defense against the run would possibly take a step back.But if there is an alleged dropoff, Bailey, a rising junior running back, hasn’t seen it this spring.‘It’s kind of like that younger son when the older brother leaves for college,’ Bailey said. ‘All eyes are on you now — and those guys are really trying to show what they can do. They’re definitely showing up this year.’Though Bailey admits that they have some giant shoes to fill, he said this isn’t a group that is looking into the past. And he believes less-heralded defensive linemen such as ‘Perk,’ (Anthony Perkins) ‘Bud,’ (Bud Tribbey) and ‘Lewis’ (Andrew Lewis) are more than capable of filling those shoes, with a collective effort.This year — the unit’s second in the current defensive scheme — Tribbey is hoping that collective experience pays dividends. He said that the experience of playing in defensive coordinator Scott Shafer’s system has clearly helped.But until the season starts, there will always be the questions. Can the unit deliver without Jones? Tribbey said with the unit’s understanding of the scheme and knowledge of the playbook, he’s confident it can. As opposed to the rest of the defense, Shafer has been especially vocal with the defensive line this spring. He’s been on top of the unit for nearly every mistake, even riding it for slacking in conditioning drills.For Tribbey, it’s not just about filling Jones’ shoes — it’s just Shafer’s way of showing ‘tough love.’‘As a defense, our No. 1 goal is to stop the run,’ Tribbey said. ‘And (Shafer) knows that it all starts with us, so he pushes us hard because he knows that we’re the foundation of the defense. It’s his own brand of tough love more than anything.’ After missing the entirety of the 2009 season with a shoulder injury, it’s ‘just football’ again for Dorian Graham. It’s football every time he lines up in the defensive backfield for Syracuse as a rising sophomore. It was ‘just football’ when Graham sacked quarterback Ryan Nassib Friday to conclude SU’s first-team segment of the two-minute drill. It was back to football when he held his stomach and limped off the field in the second week of practice after running back Averin Collier plowed Graham into the ground during full-team drills.And Monday, as he was pinned down as wide receiver Aaron Weaver threw punches at him during a mid-practice fight, it was ‘just football’ yet again.‘We were just getting after it,’ Graham said of the fight. ‘It was in the moment.’No matter what the situation — whether dishing out the hits or receiving them — Graham claims he is merely glad to be back. He’s happy it’s ‘just football’ yet again.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textComing off a true freshman 2008 season in which he played in every game for the Orange, Graham was expected to fill a starting role at the cornerback position for the 2009 season. But after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury on Aug. 19, the former Rivals.com All-Freshman Big East selection was shelved for the season. ‘It’s tough to sit out one or two days or one or two weeks,’ SU running back Antwon Bailey said. ‘But he had to sit out a whole year. It’s tough. I can just imagine what he went though last season watching us.’Graham claims to be ‘practically fully recovered now’ from the injury, but he still receives one hour’s worth of treatment — 30 minutes before practice and 30 minutes afterward — every day for the shoulder. He is no longer the favorite to start at cornerback for SU as a result of the injury. He has still been getting first-team reps at cornerback and safety at times this spring, but Graham has been one of the highlights for SU in special teams play.The speedy native of Plantation, Fla., attributes that ability to get back on the field to the time he has put in the weight room with No. 1 running back Delone Carter. Graham — who works out with Carter every day — claims that the transition was facilitated by the flexibility workouts he does with Carter. Because of the 5-foot-10, 215-pound Carter’s size, the running back doesn’t touch heavy weights when working out. And the recovering Graham has been an unexpected benefactor. Workouts such as Carter’s one-legged squats, where the running back is held in place with rubber bands by SU strength and conditioning coach Will Hicks, have helped Graham as well.It’s all part of the process for Graham. He has equated the spring into one word — a ‘refresher.’ And there perhaps was no bigger refresher of what football really is for the defensive back than the time he looked up from the ground during that scuffle with Weaver.Said Graham: ‘I can’t explain it. It was just football.’center_img aolivero@syr.edualjohn@syr.edu Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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