Kielan Whitner prepares for potential starter’s role as sophomore

first_imgKielan Whitner may not appear a typical Syracuse football player. He avoids wearing team gear around campus and adopting the macho brand of college athlete, classifying himself as “personable” rather than a head-hunting ballhawk that typically personifies a safety.In recent chatter with linebacker Zaire Franklin during training camp, Whitner, a sophomore, conceded that without tangible results to back up who he is, people wouldn’t guess he’s SU’s current starting safety.“There’s no way they think I play safety in the ACC the way I act off the field,” he said.Reserved tendencies off the gridiron have given way to on-field productivity that has spoken volumes with both the old and new coaching staffs. Whitner played in all 12 games last season, recording a freshman-high 33 tackles and landing atop the post-spring depth chart, ahead of last year’s starting strong safety Rodney Williams. In the offseason, he shadowed safety Antwan Cordy, who had a breakout sophomore season in 2015. Whitner is aiming to replicate Cordy’s success ahead of his own first shot in the spotlight.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textDaily Orange File Photo“He wanna do what I do,” Cordy said. “He growing up a lot now. He wanna have the same sophomore season that I had last year.”Whitner first gained attention after a game-changing late hit penalty in an eventual 42-24 loss to 1-3 South Florida for SU’s first defeat. The miscue masked an earlier gaffe, when Whitner had a punt hit his back en route to a USF recovery. He took to Twitter following the game, offering an apology and shouldering full blame for his mistakes. Published on August 17, 2016 at 2:15 pm Contact Matt: [email protected] | @matt_schneidman Facebook Twitter Google+ Related Stories Kielan Whitner learns from mistakes to grow as freshman safetySyracuse football training camp blog: Devin Butler switches numbers, Kenneth Ruff catches passes again and moreSyracuse football position battle to watch, No. 5: Rodney Williams vs. Kielan WhitnerSyracuse football stock watch after loss to South Florida The gesture seemed advanced for a true freshman, and Whitner went on to receive ample playing time from former head coach Scott Shafer and company on special teams and in the secondary. This year, Whitner has ditched the fill-in role and embraced what could be a second year of sizable playing time. Only this time, it’ll be magnified to a starter’s role.“I was young, but that’s no excuse for making mistakes,” Whitner said. “You don’t always expect playing as a true freshman.”For more coverage, visit our training camp blog with daily updates from training campSecondary coach Nick Monroe has preached for every defensive back to do their “one-11th” or their “one-fourth.” Whitner constantly harped on the mantras, symbolizing a player’s need to be responsible for his individual piece of the 11-man defense or the four-man secondary. Among the defensive backs, the saying “We all we got, we all we need” fosters cohesiveness among the unit.It’s a unit without seniors following Julian Whigham’s departure and one that can only go up after a lackluster 2015 in which it ranked last in the ACC in pass defense. Whitner embodies the theme of this year’s defense — young and relatively unproven. He stresses his own need to improve his tackling, focusing on leverage heading into a hit. He also points out multiple reasons why this secondary can be better: Monroe and defensive coordinator Brian Ward have infused optimism into the unit and Cordy’s potential to build on a standout year.Whitner still has Williams, a third-year safety, in his rearview with just over two weeks until Syracuse opens the regular season against Colgate. He calls the battle between the two “more us trying to get each other better” rather than a competition. Even so, Whitner will have to hold off his elder to occupy his one-fourth in a defensive backfield hoping to flip its fortunes.“I want to be great in everything I do on the field, off the field,” Whitner said. “We’re both gonna play and ball out this season.” Commentslast_img

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