first_img 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 protected] | @ChrisLibonatilast_img read more