Second-year linebacker for Syracuse, Siriki Diabate, has been asked to take a big step this season as the team's middle linebacker. At that position, Diabate is essentially the quarterback of the defense, standing at its center, surrounded by his teammates.
The linebacker core is tasked with attacking the run and also providing coverage in the passing game.
With these tasks, Diabate has done well, translating from Spring and Fall practices into gameplay an upgrade to the linebacker unit and the defense as a whole. Diabate has been fast to the ball, hitting hard, and getting his hand in on pass attempts, disrupting opponents' offensive drives.
In two games, Diabate has 12 total tackles, nine unassisted and three assisted, to go with one pass breakup.
Against USC, Diabate struck early, especially against the run, preventing the Trojans from big gains during the initial drives of the game.
"We just came out, executed the plan, and just kept on working the calls; just tried to make the best of every call," said Diabate.
"The second half, we [were] doing the same thing, but they've got some good athletes," Diabate continued. "Credit to them. They just came out and executed better than we did."
Diabate and the defense struggled with the speed of USC as they became more and more comfortable while the Orange defense, according to head coach Doug Marrone, was concentrating on the pass and trying to rally on running plays.
But, despite getting beat for substantial gains, Diabate saw fight in the defensive unit.
"We've got good athletes, too," Diabate expressed. "We hit it fast off the first initial thing that we see, and once he reversed field, we rallied back to that, and credit to him. He's a pretty good player, and he just took it up the field, but we didn't give up. We just kept on chasing."
Diabate, like the defense as a whole, is a work in progress. Helping him to progress forward is new linebackers' coach Steve Morrison
"He (Morrison) made me a smarter linebacker and see things better…and understand what's going on with formations and what to expect out of certain formations."
Thought the team is 0-2, the Syracuse defense has kept the offense in games. The interception by Diabate's teammate, strong safety Shamarko Thomas, intercepted the ball after a scoring drive to help start another scoring drive while silencing the USC offense. More talent at every defensive position has brought about the ability to rotate to provide different layers to the Orange defense.
"We just take what we can take out of it," said Diabate of the loss. "We did everything we're supposed to do and at the end, you want to win, but we lost, so you just kinda look into the good things that you did and the bad things that you need to improve on and get ready for the next game."
Syracuse's next match-up, against Stonybrook, will take place on September 15th at 4pm Eastern at the Carrier Dome, as the Orange fight for their first win of the young season.