Facebook Twitter Google+ Daivon Ellison pointed his chin toward the ground, stared at his feet and wracked his brain. For about 10 seconds, he flipped through his rolodex of tackles this season. At the time, there were 37 to go through, the third most for a Syracuse player.He tried to find one that stood out. Last season, this would have been an easy exercise. Former head coach Scott Shafer handed his players freedom to light up opponents. But with Shafer’s departure, Syracuse’s high-risk, high-reward system that cut Ellison and other hitters loose departed, too.Dino Babers introduced the Tampa 2, which was supposed to reign in players’ aggression, hoping to limit big plays. Ellison has adjusted better than most, scaling back his armless, launching tackles. Now, he wraps up and drives through players for power.“Honestly, last year, I was a ‘take a shot’ type of guy, but with the new system our coaches put in, it’s like a lot safer,” Ellison said. “We hit with our shoulders now. It’s a lot more accurate.”Ellison has always been a big hitter. Mixed in with his high school highlight tapes is a 36-second YouTube video titled “Don Bosco DB Daivon Ellison lays a huge hit to cause fumble.” In limited action on special teams last season, he finished tied for second in special teams tackles with four and forced one fumble.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAfter starting safety Antwan Cordy went down during Syracuse’s matchup with Louisville, the Orange has needed Ellison to step up along with Rodney Williams. Safety Kielan Whitner also missed two weeks, forcing Ellison into increased action against South Florida and Connecticut. Since, Ellison has rotated in with Williams and Whitner. He led Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) in tackles, with 11, in the Orange’s upset over then-No. 17 Virginia Tech.“Daivon was our defensive player of the game (against VT),” Babers said. “… You see the way he throws his body around on the football field absolutely unselfishly with no regard toward his own well-being.”The 5-foot-8 safety showcased his hitting against Pittsburgh last season. After Syracuse grabbed a 10-3 lead over the Panthers, SU kicked off to Pitt wide receiver Tyler Boyd. Ellison started on the left side of the kickoff formation and drifted to the right hash. As Boyd cut back to the middle of the field, Ellison sped up and bore down on Boyd.Ellison launched head first. Boyd’s body twirled a few yards above the ground and the ball popped in the air. It took two seconds to tumble down.Despite his hitting ability, Ellison came in as a 168-pound freshman. This offseason, Ellison wanted to up his weight to 180 pounds. He reached that number by the time summer practices started, but he got bronchitis and lost some of the weight he had put on. Instead of missing a few sessions, he played through the sickness. Now, he’s settled at 177 pounds.Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo EditorEllison says his speed and strength both feel good with the added weight, which has made him more solid on tackles. In the last five weeks, he’s racked up 47 of his 48 tackles on the season. In addition to packing on nine pounds, he reigned in his tackles. He used practices to pull back his aggressiveness.“Every tackle isn’t meant for taking a shot,” Ellison said. “It’s OK to just secure the tackle.”Syracuse’s matchup with South Florida started the stretch for Ellison and was the first full game Cordy and Whitner sat out. In the first quarter, when SU had a 14-0 lead, USF ran a sweep with receiver Rodney Adams. He turned the corner before being tripped up and then held up by a Zaire Franklin arm tackle.Kiran Ramsey | Digital Design EditorEllison, who had been shaded between the numbers and hashes on the wide side of the field about 15 yards off the ball, measured out his approach until Adams was stopped by Franklin. The safety accelerated and wrapped up Adams. As Ellison reached his hands around the receiver, he punched the ball loose.Changing his approach has been key to getting playing time. SU players have had to rid themselves of Shafer’s defensive mindset. The Tampa 2 is typically meant to bend and not break. Players biting on play fakes and making aggressive plays has cost SU this season, especially against Louisville and Notre Dame, when the defense gave up 10 total touchdowns of 30 or more yards. Tackling is one slice of that adjustment and wrapping up is the physical tweak that can help SU players.In SU’s matchup against Wake Forest, running back Cade Carney rumbled for 14 yards with Ellison as the last line of defense. The two sized each other up, Carney dropped his shoulder and Ellison dipped low.Carney’s 5-foot-11, 215-pound frame looked as if it would steamroll Ellison, but the SU safety wrapped up and prevented the WFU running back from advancing any further.On Tuesday, after the safety had thought out which tackle stood out to him, he smiled, chuckled and said, “I’m not even sure.”Maybe that’s a good thing. Comments Published on October 18, 2016 at 11:05 pm Contact Chris: email@example.com | @ChrisLibonati
Redshirt sophomore running back Vavae Malepeai is on track to surpass his 2017 season rushing yard total. (Tucker Judkins | Daily Trojan)USC took the practice field Wednesday ahead of Saturday’s matchup with No. 19 Colorado with two Buffaloes in mind: junior quarterback Steven Montez and sophomore wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr.Montez is a model of efficiency, as proven by his 11:2 touchdown to interception ratio this season. He has completed 75.2 percent of his passes, good for second in the nation despite attempting more passes than anyone else in the top five. The third-year starter doesn’t only rely on short passes either; his 9.3 yards per attempt ranks 14th in the FBS.“Now he’s been in the system for a little bit, you can really see his maturity within the offense,” defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said. “He can make all the throws, and he makes a lot of plays with his feet as well.”Unlike Montez, Shenault came into 2018 as a relatively unknown player, but he’s made a name for himself early this season. He ranks third in the country in both receptions and yards — 51 and 708, respectively — and has added six receiving touchdowns. Shenault is a multifaceted threat, reflected in his four rushing touchdowns in just five games. His 749 total yards from scrimmage rank 11th in the nation, partially a result of a creative Colorado offense.“They line him up in a lot of different spots, they do a really nice job of covering him up,” Pendergast said. “I think the most impressive thing offensively that they do is multiplicity within their formations, and he’s a big part of that.”Coming off a 13-reception, 127-yard performance against Arizona State that featured four total touchdowns and earned him Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week, the Trojans will be hard-pressed to limit Shenault.Part of the Buffaloes’ offensive creativity comes from their use of trick plays and wildcat formations. Trick plays have burned the Trojans at times this year, most notably on a 71-yard touchdown run from UNLV during Week 1.“We just have to play with good eye discipline and control, and play them when they come,” Pendergast said. “They’ve got a really good package of trick plays, and they use multiple people in [them].”Although the calls may seem like a gimmick, players have full confidence in their coaches’ play-calling.“It’s a lot of eye candy no doubt, but coach [Pendergast] just says ‘keep your eyes on your luggage,’” freshman safety Talanoa Hufanga said. “We need to see where our guy goes, and make sure that we follow up. When the ball crosses the line of scrimmage, that’s when we know we have to attack.” Wednesday’s practice featured an emphasis on third down, which Helton said would be crucial against a talented offense like Colorado’s, especially with Montez’s ability to create outside the pocket at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds.“You look at what he’s doing right now, escaping and creating, and not only running the ball and pulling it down, but actually finding his receivers,” Helton said. “We’re going to need to contain him and get off the field.”That also applied to the other side of the ball; Helton said that Colorado brings a variety of pressures on third down, and that protecting freshman quarterback JT Daniels could be a deciding factor.After a sloppy start to the season, the Trojans are looking to prove themselves in a matchup with a ranked team under the Coliseum lights.“We’re trying to get back to that Pac-12 Championship [game],” redshirt senior cornerback Ajene Harris said. “Every game is important, and we’re all aware of that. We’re just ready to compete.”Injury updateSophomore running back Stephen Carr did not attend practice due to a stomach illness. The staff held out redshirt senior center Toa Lobendahn with back spasms. Senior linebacker Porter Gustin is expected to be at full strength Saturday after recovering from an ankle injury.Senior linebacker Cam Smith left practice early with a tight hamstring. Helton said it was nothing serious, just a preventative measure. The staff also pulled Brandon Pili after the sophomore defensive lineman had his toe stepped on. Helton said they would get an X-ray as a precaution.