How Andre Cisco became an All-American as a freshman

first_img Published on December 20, 2018 at 11:14 pm Contact Andrew: [email protected] | @A_E_Graham Andre Cisco wanted to be a freshman All-American. He wrote it down, as one of his team and individual goals, on a sheet given out to players prior to the season.In the months that followed, Cisco rose from three-star early enrollee to SU’s first defensive All-American since Dwight Freeney. He totaled seven interceptions and 41 solo tackles in his first 12 collegiate games, relying on his elite high school background and a refinement of his catching skills. As No. 20 Syracuse (9-3, 6-2 Atlantic Coast) prepares to face No. 16 West Virginia (8-3, 6-3 Big 12) in the Camping World Bowl, Cisco hopes to punctuate his historic first season.“There’s been some surprises here and there,” he said, “I’ll be honest. But either way it’s just hard work and I’m glad I was able to benefit from all that work.”When Cisco and fellow freshman and IMG Academy graduate Juan Wallace enrolled at SU this January, a semester early to try and play sooner, they weren’t sure what to expect. The two had expectations of the intensity, the way practice would be run. They knew it would be different from IMG, but not how much.At IMG, they had state of the art technology and facilities, including a weight room that rivals some Division I setups, multiple turf fields to practice and play on and even a STRIVR virtual reality system, similar to the one SU employs.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe conditioning, in particular, hit hard. It was at a new level.“The first spring practice, oh my God,” Wallace said.To go through the transition in the spring, rather than summer, was key. Cisco slotted in as the starting free safety — a position with no clear incumbent — in spring ball while other incoming freshman were still waiting to graduate high school. SU operated in a 4-3 and nickel defense that IMG ran. He steadily picked up the new lingo and by practice No. 15 he felt comfortable in the defense.Susie Teuscher | Digital Design EditorBetween spring football and fall camp, Cisco stayed in Syracuse, frequently going to Ensley Fieldhouse with Wallace and other players who were around. They worked on everything — footwork, speed drills, agility — and lifted weights and conditioned.Cisco wanted to work on his hands, in particular. As a free safety his senior year at IMG, he only had one interception. He played cornerback the year prior, focusing heavily on coverage, before the free safety spot opened and he shifted into the safety-valve role, eyeing tackles more than interceptions.He knew he could nab more than one interception a season, though, so he and Wallace used a Jugs machine, which simulates a thrown ball from a quarterback. Wallace fed footballs while Cisco practiced. He’d stand all over, trying different catching angles. A popular repetition was putting his hands within inches of the launch point, trying to secure the ball the moment it shot out from the machine.In Syracuse’s first game, at Western Michigan on Aug. 31, all of Cisco’s work in the spring, summer and camp worked. On the fifth play of his college career, he nabbed an interception off a deflection from a wide receiver’s foot. He ran off the field with the ball clutched in both hands. In the moment where all the work in the spring, summer and camp needed to work, it did.“I’d say it helped me settle in,” Cisco said of the interception. “Made me feel like, I’m one of them. It’s not me being out there being a freshman.”Later that week, Cisco attributed his early playing time and starting job to his early enrollment and to IMG, for being a closer surrogate to college football than maybe any other program in the country.Josh Shub-Seltzer | Staff PhotographerOne weakness did keep popping up early on: tackling. He didn’t struggle wrapping opponents up and taking them down, but as a free safety — frequently the furthest player downfield — he was too often out of position.Early in the season, he was lining up too close to the line of scrimmage, relying on speed that worked in high school. But it didn’t work against college wide receivers. By midseason, he sat back more, dictated largely by SU’s frequent Cover 1 defense. Still, Cisco occasionally overran a play or took a poor angle.Against Pittsburgh on Oct. 6, the Panthers ran power to the left, sending running back Qadree Ollison behind a fullback, who took linebacker Kielan Whitner out of the play. Cisco had a shot at Ollison, but came too close to the line of scrimmage and missed Ollison entirely.But as the weeks rolled by, Cisco studied the film. Each gamemade him feel more comfortable, more confident. Cisco started taking better angles and making more tackles. His name popped up on year-end awards lists. In the first half of the season, Cisco had 15 solo tackles. He racked up 26 in SU’s final six games. On Dec. 6, he was announced as a Walter Camp Football Foundation second-team All-American.He enrolled early with the goal to start and he did. He not only bolstered a thin safety group, but also excelled at the back end of the defense. Cisco hasn’t always played perfectly, but he tied for the national lead in interceptions, broke up a team-high 11 passes and was one of two SU players with All-American honors.Cisco didn’t just do what he wrote down before the season. He did better. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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