Syracuse Football 2013 Position Preview: Linebackers

Jeff Zelevansky

Despite losing 2012 standout Siriki Diabate, Syracuse's linebacker corps may still very well be a strength for the Orange defense in 2013.

Back in July, we touched on some experience issues with the Syracuse defensive line, and why that may be a cause of concern. Luckily, the same isn't true of the SU linebackers at all. Though admittedly, the Orange lose Siriki Diabate, they've still got plenty of talent at all three spots -- so long as everyone stays healthy, that is.

Below, we run down the depth chart, highlighting Syracuse's linebackers. Some you may already be familiar with. For others, consider this your formal introduction.

Dyshawn Davis, OLB

The Orange's top linebacker claimed the team would "shock the world" upon joining the ACC, so there's certainly some additional pressure on him to deliver this season. But I doubt it'll faze the confident junior, who should be one of the conference's best at his position. Davis isn't the heaviest linebacker (212 220 pounds), but he makes up for it with real speed on the outside, putting pressure on opposing passers and helping stop the run with equal proficiency. He'll get some extra attention this season without Diabate in the lineup, but Davis should be able to improve upon his 71 tackles from last season, and get further involved in blitz schemes as the team figures things out on the line.

Marquis Spruill, MLB

A four-year starter, Spruill would love to add an exclamation point on his career in Orange -- and lucky for him, SU may have the coaching staff to help him do just that. New defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough is a former linebacker himself, and one who should be able to help Spruill (and the rest of the LBs) realize his full potential. He's obviously one of the leaders of the defense and is another player who will be heavily involved in backing up the defensive line when it comes to stopping the run. As the year winds down, he'll probably be positioning himself for a future in the pros, which could have both positive and negative effects, depending on his focus.

Cameron Lynch, OLB

Lynch is intriguing, as he's a bit undersized in terms of height (5'11"), but at 234 pounds, has the power to make stops just the same. Last year, Lynch thrived as part of the linebacker rotation, recording 4.5 sacks and also forcing two fumbles. Now as a starter, he'll need to bring the same type of intensity on an every-down basis. Of the three starters, he's likely the one who'll be allowed to roam a bit more freely, and more involved in blitzes as well. It won't be as easy for him to get around ACC linemen as it was in the Big East, but Lynch is firmly entrenched in his role and could be one of the team's bigger surprises.

Lewellyn Coker, OLB

Coker played well in his stints on both sides of the ball last year, and that effort's earned him a no. 2-spot on the depth chart and a sure place in the Syracuse linebacker rotation. It's still unknown if he'll be jumping back into the tank package fray offensively, but defensively, expect him to serve much of the same role as Lynch. Coker's height (6'1") allows him to get into passing lanes a bit more than Lynch too, which is good if he finds himself staying at home on most plays.

Luke Arciniega, MLB

The JUCO transfer out of Nevada may appear out of his element in CNY at first, but it ends up he felt right at home when arriving at Syracuse. Following a very strong campaign last year -- 87 tackles, including 20 (!!) TFLs -- he'll have ample opportunities to see the field for Syracuse, and I'm excited to see what he'll bring to the table at the FBS level. At 6'2" and 245 pounds, he's an absolute tank who's also looking to position himself as the heir-apparent to Spruill at MLB.

Josh Kirkland, OLB

Yet another JUCO, Kirkland comes to us from the state of Kansas, and while his numbers (66 tackles, 3 FFs) may not be as gaudy as Arciniega's, I'm buying on him as a key role player on the defense. At 6'2", he's got a big enough frame to get a hand on passes in the middle of the field, and has a knack for quick reads. Nate Mink's spring game notes mention him as a name to watch this fall, and I believe it, especially considering the hits he delivered during that scrimmage (though calm down, son, they're your teammates).

Oliver Vigille, OLB

The sophomore saw limited action last season, and despite the "or" between him and Kirkland for who gets to directly back up Cam Lynch, I think we may be waiting another year for Vigille to arrive as a primary contributor. But don't get me wrong -- he has exactly what we're looking out of a linebacker: size and speed to own his corner of the field. Just seems that for right now, there's a good deal of talent sitting in front of him.

Marquez Hodge, OLB

To quote Bob Stoops: "HELLO!" Marquez Hodge is just a freshman (actually received three stars from everybody but ESPN), but I the kid can hit people, which is always a plus. I wouldn't doubt him getting red-shirted this year, though if the team starts dealing with some injuries at linebacker (please, no!), he may take the field. Keep an eye on him for the future, obviously. He'll likely be one of the faces of the defense in a couple years.

James Washington, MLB

The redshirt freshman from Florida didn't play at all last season, and there's a fair chance his main role is on special teams for 2013. Back in high school, Washington was a pretty aggressive pass-rusher from the linebacker spot, however, notching 25 sacks combined in his sophomore and junior seasons. Curious if we'll ever get a glimpse of that ability at SU...

Alryk Perry, OLB

I don't know why, but based on this Syracuse.com feature, I really like this kid already. He'll be red-shirting this season, but once he bulks up a bit, there appears to be a good deal of potential here. A solid pass-rusher off the edge in high school, he'll be slotted into a similar role with SU come 2014/2015. Hey, maybe we change to a base 3-4 by then, which may actually suit his skill set better?

Zach McCarrell, OLB

Another Florida product, the walk-on linebacker is unlikely to find the regular rotation and will spend most of his time on special teams. He's yet to record a tackle for the Orange, though he did record a punt last year. One of his larger contributions could be giving SU defenders the run-down on Northwestern QB and friend Trevor Siemian, though I'm unsure if the two are still as close as they once were.

Femi Aliyu, MLB

You'll find everything you need/want to know about the senior linebacker in Dan's "Get to Know..." piece on him from last week. But the long and short of it: he's a senior and despite never really playing (except the occasional special teams spot), he seems well-liked around the program. Wouldn't expect him to see much if any time at MLB this year.

Hernz Laguerre, OLB

He's a recent walk-on addition, so we don't have a whole lot on him. But Hernz at least fits the physical mold (6'0" and 200 pounds) of most of Syracuse's other outside linebackers. I'm not sure he even sees the field on special teams this year, but perhaps the potential's there for the future.

***

So, what do you think? Obviously the starters are rock solid, but is the rest of the linebacking corps mostly just potential right now? Anyone else that should be here, or any additional thoughts on the names that are listed? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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