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 RantSports.com. 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+.