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NCAA Football

Syracuse Orange Smart To Recruit Linebackers For 2014

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Scott Shafer

Rich Barnes – USATODAY Sports

Under new head coach Scott Shafer, and a coaching staff that’s almost entirely new to the program, the Syracuse Orange are off to a great start recruiting for the class of 2014. Shafer and his staff have already earned six verbal commitments, which is the most commitments Syracuse has had by the month of July in more than a decade.

What stands about Syracuse’s recruiting class is that three of the six players are linebackers. Zaire Franklin, Parris Bennett and Colton Moskal have all made verbal pledges to the Orange, with Bennett and Franklin being the most sought after and highly rated at the linebacker position. With three of six commits playing the same position, clearly, linebacker is a point emphasis for the Orange in this class, which is a smart move by Shafer and his staff.

Syracuse will enter the 2013 season the top six linebackers on its depth chart being either juniors or seniors. Senior Marquis Spruill and juniors Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch will be the starters, while senior Lewellyn Coker is a backup, as well as a key player on special teams. To help Syracuse in its inaugural season in the ACC, Shafer brought in junior college transfers Luke Arciniega and Josh Kirkland as part of the 2013 recruiting class to sure up the depth at linebacker for the upcoming season.

Of course, using junior college players means short-term gain and long-term risk for Syracuse. Since the Orange will be relying solely on upper-classmen at linebacker this season, and likely next season as well, there is less time available for their young players to gain experience, which will become a problem down the road.

Spruill and Coker will be out of eligibility following the 2013 season, while Davis, Lynch, Arciniega and Kirkland will complete their college careers after the 2014 season, at which point the Orange will have a profound lack of experience at linebacker after losing six key players in a span of two years.

Therein lies the importance of recruiting linebackers in the class of 2014, specifically linebackers that will be talented enough to play early in their careers. It seems like a long way away now, but by the time the 2015 season rolls around, Syracuse won’t have a lot of experience at the linebacker position, in part because they are using scholarships and playing time on junior college players this season, to assure their move to the ACC is as smooth as possible.

Thus far, Shafer and his staff have done well, but the work they’ve done to recruit linebackers probably isn’t over just yet. It may seem like a small matter now, but it will be important later on, and that foresight and execution is emblematic of the progress they have made on the recruiting front since taking over at Syracuse.


Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at  He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer.  Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him to your network on Google+.

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Duke-Syracuse Game Preview, Prediction

Starting the season outside of the Top 25, the Duke Blue Devils were playing with a chip on their shoulder. Now that they are 7-1 on the year, no one is overlooking the darkhorse favorites to dethrone Florida State for an ACC title. The Syracuse Orange started the season 2-0, but have since lost six of seven to lead to a 3-6 record. While they aren’t a threat for the conference title, the Orange can still play spoiler.

Senior quarterback Anthony Boone has been the spark that has gotten the Blue Devils going this season. Boone has passed for 1,628 yards, 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions while rushing for another 243 yards and four touchdowns. Jamison Crowder is clearly the team’s top receiving weapon, catching 49 passes for 636 yards and four touchdowns. Max McCaffrey and Issac Blakeney have been basically equal in the receiving department, both catching 26 passes for three scores apiece while McCaffrey has 261 yards and Blakeney has 259 yards. Freshman running back Shaun Wilson has been a main reason for the team’s run success, rushing for 528 yards and four touchdowns.

Syracuse had been led by a dual-threat quarterback of its own in Terrel Hunt who had 983 passing yards and a touchdowns as well as 292 yards and six rushing scores before his injury. He hasn’t returned yet, paving way for freshman quarterback AJ Long to get the nod as the starter. Long hasn’t been very impressive, however, passing for 727 yards and four touchdowns with six interceptions. Jarrod West doesn’t care who’s behind center as he has been effective either way, catching 40 passes for 610 yards. Steve Ishmael has been the second-best wide out on the team, catching 20 passes for 311 yards and three scores. Prince-Tyson Gulley has been solid this season in the run game, leading the team with 526 yards and a touchdown while also catches 20 passes out of the backfield for 107 yards.

Defensively, the Orange have been a bit above average this season, ranking 38th in total yards allowed as well as 43rd in points allowed per contest. In their three wins this season, Syracuse has given up an average of 12 points. Before last week, Duke had done a solid job of keeping opponents out of the end zone. On the year, the Blue Devils rank 13th in points against and a lowly 81st nationally in total yards allowed.

Duke will travel to Syracuse to take on the Orange at 12:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, Nov. 8. The game will be broadcasted on GamePlan/ESPN 3.

PREDICTION: Duke 23, Syracuse 21

Want to see the Blue Devils take on the Orange in week 11? Check out ScoreBig for tickets.

Connor Muldowney is a columnist for Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at

Duke will travel to Syracuse to take on the Orange in week 11. Who will come out on top?

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