The Syracuse Orange linebacking corp stands as the deepest and most experience unit for the SU defense entering into the 2016 season.
However, despite the return of expected starters at middle and weak-side linebacker with juniors Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett, the starter at the strong-side linebacker position has yet to be determined in preseason camp.
One unexpected candidate who has emerged for playing time is freshman Andrew Armstrong.
The freshman from Ohio has taken advantage of his opportunities in preseason camp, working his way up to the third-string spot at the strong-side position, behind junior Jonathan Thomas and senior Ted Taylor.
In the process, he’s impressed his defensive captain and fellow linebacker Zaire Franklin, who recently had strong praise for Armstrong, per an article by Stephen Bailey of Syracuse.com:
“Just the way he’s able to move,” Franklin said. “He’s very fluid with the things he does on the field.”
Franklin also said that Armstrong has been able to avoid the “stupid mistakes” that plague most freshmen.
Starting weak-side linebacker Parris Bennett also had praise for Armstrong’s early performances in camp.
“He’s just a real athletic player. He’s one of those guys who comes in and can move really well. That’s something you need as a linebacker so it’ll definitely make his transition to college easier.”
Bennett also had good things to say about Thomas and Taylor, the two players ahead of Armstrong right now. Overall, Bennett described the battle for the starting spot as a “real good competition”.
How much closer Armstrong can get himself to consistent playing time remains to be determined by the rest of preseason camp, but in the meantime, Franklin gave this final assessment of the strong-side linebackers:
“...they’re all playing really well right now. I think they’re all going to have the possibility to contribute.”
That’s a good thing given the uphill battle the unit may face transitioning to a coverage-heavy Tampa-2 scheme this year.
Syracuse opens it’s season against Colgate on September 2 at 7 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.