Syracuse adds depth, talent at linebacker

Scott Shafer loves linebackers and the Orange landed four in the 2014 class. CuseNation.com examines the haul inside.

When Scott Shafer took the starting job at Syracuse, he helped close out the 2013 class. On signing day last year, he mentioned that he was not pleased with the depth numbers at linebacker. That was a key focus in the 2014 class as they added four three-star prospects with skill, athleticism and speed.

Jonathan Thomas out of Suwanee (Ga.) was added to the class just three days before signing day. A once coveted prospect of Oklahoma, and received late flirtations from Georgia and Miami. Thomas played at a very high level of Georgia High School football. He was a very productive player at that level as an outside backer.

Thomas will play strongside linebacker at Syracuse, where he can use his speed and strong tackling technique to make plays against the run. He also has the ability to run with tight-ends down the field.

Parris Bennett comes to Syracuse from Detroit (Mich.). He chose the Orange over Pittsburgh for a solid recruiting win. Bennett plays fast and is very athletic. He has to spend time in the strength and conditioning program to bulk up in order to handle the physicality of the college level, but the upside is certainly there.

Colton Moskal is the lone pure middle linebacker in this class. He has a very impressive film with the ability to contribute early. A couple of years in the strength and conditioning program, along with his raw skill set give him maybe the most upside of any defensive player in this class.

Moskal has great instincts with strong gap discipline. He tackles well using solid technique and is physical at the point of attack. He is a pure middle linebacker wither better speed than you'd think.

Zaire Franklin rounds out the linebacker class for Syracuse. The Orange should be thankful that he is loyal and stuck with Syracuse. He received overtures from several other programs, including the home-town Penn State Nittany Lions. He passed on them and stuck with Syracuse.

In Franklin, Syracuse is getting a versatile linebacker who can play inside or out. He is strong, has good instincts and has nice lateral quickness. On film, Franklin looks just a half a step slow, which likely hurt his ranking. Other than that, he has everything you look for in a linebacker.

Syracuse certainly improved their depth at linebacker with speed and skill. Each has the ability to contribute on special teams right away, while developing into a strong starting caliber player. The Orange have to be happy with their efforts here.


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