Position Preview: Linebacker

CuseNation.com previews the linebackers entering the 2014 season.

Depth Chart

Starters: Dyshawn Davis, Marqez Hodge, Cameron Lynch
Reserves: Josh Kirkland, Luke Arciniega, Zaire Franklin, Parris Bennett, Jonathan Thomas, Oliver Vigille, Colton Moskal, Alryk Perry

2013 Statistics

Lynch: 69 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
Davis: 49 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
Kirkland: 30 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks
Hodge: 23 tackles
Arciniega: 18 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, 1 interception Vigille: 5 tackles

What We Know

The linebacking corps for Syracuse has gotten better and better each year since Doug Marrone took over. Scott Shafer has put a premium on the position and recruited it well over the past two cycles. The starting group has experience speed, aggressiveness, talent and playmaking ability.

Davis and Lynch are skilled blitzers who routinely make plays in the backfield. Hodge is a tackling machine who showed promise as a freshman. The combination of these three should give them one of the better groups in the conference.

The depth features experience and youth with talent. Josh Kirkland and Luke Arciniega are junior college products that are entering their senior seasons. Each contributed last season and give Syracuse quality backups. Kirkland flies around the field and makes plays while Arciniega is a steady, traditional interior linebacker who plays between the tackles.

True freshmen Zaire Franklin, Parris Bennett, Jonathan Thomas and Colton Moskal all provide size, speed and athleticism. They have tremendous upside but may have the biggest impact on special teams this season. If needed any could play without a major drop off production.

Biggest Question

How will Hodge react to being the fulltime starter? Having opposing teams game plan against you is a completely different animal than coming in as a rotational reserve as a true freshman. If Hodge plays well, it will help solidify the back seven which features a lot of seasoned veterans.

In high school, he showed strong tackling technique and solid speed for an inside linebacker. Last year, Hodge emerged as a quality player who the Orange could not keep off the field. His role is greatly expanded this season and you never know how a player will respond to those circumstances.

Even though there is a question mark surrounding him because this will be his first time as a full-time starter, Hodge could be a breakout star in 2014. He has all the necessary tools to be a really good ACC linebacker.

Season Outlook

A unit with talent, experience and known quantities, the Syracuse linebackers are expected to shine in 2014. Those expectations are well earned. Each season, Cam Lynch and Dyshawn Davis have improved. More improvement from them combined with the growth of Hodge should give Syracuse three very good linebackers. The quality depth behind them makes this a versatile group this season.

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