(Photo Courtesy of Gettysburg Athletics)
While the Syracuse Orange have had a tremendous offseason, thus far, on the offensive end with their entire midfield unit – which was the most productive in DI this past season – returning, the Orange faithful haven’t had as much to cheer about as far as defense is concerned. The Orange will get goalie Drake Porter back for an extra season, but lose their top defender in Nick Mellen to the pros and LSM Jared Fernandez entered the NCAA Transfer Portal and is now on his way to rival Johns Hopkins.
But the Orange got some big news on the defensive side this weekend, as Gettysburg defenseman Mitch Wykoff announced that he will be heading to Syracuse for his fifth and final year of college lacrosse.
Projecting how much of an impact a player that is jumping up from a good DIII program to a major DI program is never easy. But Wykoff, who Inside Lacrosse’s Dan Kaplan called “a plug-in defenseman at any level,” looks to have the skills to make that transition and find similar success.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenseman started 64 games during his career at Gettysburg, recording a career total of 57 caused turnovers, 274 ground balls, and 13 points (11G/2A). He helped lead the Bullets to three Centennial Conference title games, two NCAA tournament appearances, including a berth in the semifinals during the 2018 season.
Watching Wykoff play, the first thing about his game that pops out is his versatility. Not only is he able to make an impact on the back end as an elite cover guy, but he also makes significant contributions with his wing play on faceoffs. Additionally, he knows how to run the field and make an impact in the transition game, which includes weaving through defenders as a one-man clearing machine and scoring.
— Gettysburg College Bullets (@gburgbullets) March 3, 2019
Outside of the versatility that he possesses as a pole that can make plays all over the field, Wykoff is an elite defender. One of the better defensemen in DIII over the past few seasons, Wykoff regularly drew the opposition’s top dodger and was able to be a thorn in their side for the majority of the game. He also proved to be a pretty reliable ground ball magnet at Gettysburg, as well, almost always being or working his way into the right spot to get possession and help initiate the clear.
At Syracuse, Wykoff could be a very viable option in a multitude of ways. The Orange could use him in the same exact way as he was used at Gettysburg: playing on the faceoff wings and close defense. Also, it is plausible to suggest that Syracuse may use him solely as a close defenseman or an LSM. If they do put him at close, that could mean a move back to LSM for Brett Kennedy.
Really, there are a plethora of ways that Wykoff could make a significant impact for the Orange next season as they look to be one of the early, heavy favorites to be there on Championship Weekend.