This week, the Syracuse Orange added two linebacker recruits for 2018 -- Ja’Quirius Smith and Juan Wallace. Both are three stars, seem to fit SU’s scheme and most of all, seem like they’ll actually stay at the position.
That last part’s a bit of a concern because unbeknownst to us, Syracuse has actually become a bit shorthanded at the Tampa-2’s most critical position, linebacker. It’s one that has been a strength for quite some time (over a decade now), and has the potential to fall into disarray after 2017.
The stress here, is potential. There’s still some room to fix it.
But think about the linebacker corps. since the 2015 season. Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett have been stalwarts as starters. The third spot’s largely been occupied by a mix of Jonathan Thomas (now a senior), Ted Taylor (since graduated) and Marquez Hodge (graduated as well).
I mean, take a look at the 2014-17 classes.
2017: Nadarius Fagan, Tyrell Richards (maybe a safety), Ryan Guthrie (JUCO)
2016: Andrew Armstrong, Tim Walton (possible DE), Kenneth Ruff (switched to DE)
2015: Troy Henderson, Shyheim Cullen, Qaadir Sheppard (transferred), Ted Taylor (JUCO, graduated)
2014: Parris Bennett (senior), Zaire Franklin (senior), Jonathan Thomas (senior), Colton Moskal (transferred)
Beyond the seniors, that leaves four remaining four-year linebackers on the roster and one JUCO (Guthrie). All of those players could potentially be starting caliber. But that does sort of leave little room for error in this group.
Dino Babers and the rest of the staff don’t discuss targets all that publicly (or this early in the recruiting cycle), but based on what we’ve seen so far, this could end up being a linebacker-heavy class.
Or, perhaps it won’t.
In 2014, seniors Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch seemed irreplaceable. Sophomore Marquez Hodge seemed like the future. We worried about what the position would look like in the coming years. The 2015 preview on this very site (by this very writer) wondered aloud if Franklin, Bennett et al could live up quickly or if it would take some time.
Things worked out. Pretty fast, actually. But the depth that article mentioned also never really developed beyond the names on that page (and actually, the names on that page ended up shrinking over time). It lacked many known quantities beyond the top players on the depth chart. Sort of like now.
When the current seniors graduate, we’ll inherit the same questions we did in 2015. And in 2010/11. And 2006/07 too.
All of those linebacker groups turned out pretty well. Even if the defenses and teams they were all attached to may have varied. Babers and Brian Ward walked into/drove more of a shortage at linebacker. But for the time being, we’ll trust that this what they’re doing right now with the 2018 class -- and have been with the 2016 and 2017 classes — will work out just fine.
(but just in case, hey, we’ll take a couple more linebackers)