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Mullins returns from injury, uses versatility to anchor Syracuse defense

first_img Published on February 18, 2014 at 11:55 pm Contact Josh: [email protected] Syracuse had turned the ball over, and Virginia was on a quick fastbreak the other way. SU long stick midfielder Brandon Mullins sprinted back from the box to try to cut off the Cavaliers attack as he charged toward the goal.The attack cut back in the opposite direction Mullins was going, and their knees collided. “It felt like a hyperextension at first, so there was a little bit of hope that I didn’t tear anything,” Mullins said. “But after they did some of the tests and after the MRI they knew it was a torn ACL. I had completely reconstructive surgery.” Now, after sitting out all but three games last season with a torn right ACL and two torn meniscuses, the SU defender is back and primed for success this season. After wearing No. 20 last season, Mullins currently dons No. 11 — a number that has become a defensive version of the program’s famed No. 22. “If you want to be the best, you have to play the best,” said Brian Megill, who wore No. 11 as a senior last season. “And Brandon Mullins certainly has that type of mentality where he knows he could come out and be one of the best college defenseman to come through Syracuse.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe 6-foot-2, 212-pound close defender has the footwork to keep pace with small, shifty attacks and the size and strength to bully around bigger opponents. He has a knack for picking up ground balls and is capable of bringing the ball forward on offense and playing a wing position on faceoffs. Mullins also has experienced playing against star players — something his résumé highlights. In Mullins’ freshman year against Cornell, he and Megill held Big Red star attack Steve Mock — one of the most dangerous players in the Ivy League — scoreless in a losing effort. And before injuring his knee in the fourth quarter against Virginia, Mullins held UVA attack Nick O’Reilly — the team’s point leader — to zero points. On Sunday against Albany, Mullins was tasked with covering Lyle Thompson, the Inside Lacrosse Preseason Division I Player of the Year. Though Lyle scored a goal and dished five assists, Mullins stuck with him the entire night. During one possession late in the second quarter, Mullins slashed him repeatedly four or five times. “He’s going to win at everything he does, that’s just how he approaches everything, especially his one-on-one matchups,” Megill said. “He’s going to make sure that, no matter what it takes, he’s going to shut that guy down. He just doesn’t seem to have an off button.”After the injury, Mullins said he now feels 100 percent physically, which is something he didn’t expect. Syracuse head coach John Desko said that if someone told him before last season he’d lose Mullins and Nicky Galasso for the entire season, he would have thought the chances of reaching the national championship game would be slim. But the team did, and Mullins was forced to watch from the sideline. “Knowing I couldn’t do anything about it or contribute at all, that’s a horrible feeling,” Mullins said. “I’m glad that’s behind me, but it definitely gave me motivation for my rehab.”This season, Mullins is paired on SU’s first defensive unit with Sean Young and Bobby Tait. “He’s still the same player he was before the injury,” defender Ryan Palasek said. “He handled it the right way and he’s back to being 100 percent.”With the heightened expectations and increased leadership responsibilities comes the esteemed number. Mullins said it was a huge honor for Megill to give him the number even after he missed much of last season. But it wasn’t such a hard decision for Megill to make.“He’s got the full package,” Megill said. “He’ll do tremendous things with that number and hopefully he’ll take it to new heights.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more