Many of Syracuse football’s true freshmen have received recognition from coaches and media for their performances in practice and scrimmages. For Zaire Franklin, the leader of the Orange defense, a few have continually stood out and caught his attention.
”(Jordan) Fredericks,” Franklin said. “Fredericks is really good. Dungey, I love Dungey. Dungey’s really good. Tae Strickland is really good too. Defensively, I’m going to go with Steven Clark.”
Clark is a freshman defensive tackle who has made a strong case to join the rotation despite being in his first year. Part of that is opportunity, as Syracuse lacked experience depth at the position. But also, Clark has taken advantage of that opportunity.
According to Franklin, it is easy to see why.
”First of all it’s his work ethic,” Franklin said. “The first couple days, the young guys were struggling heavily with our blitzes. We have a lot of blitzes. A lot of different combinations, especially our Okie package. They were struggling.
”I remember the next day, we came in and coach Lea was talking to me. He was like, ‘yeah, you know Steven Clark was in here an hour early in the film room.’ He was on of the dudes that when he went with the ones, it was no drop off between him and Kayton and Chris, or John Raymon for that matter. He works really hard and he’s a humble dude.”
On the offensive side of the ball, while Franklin likes what he sees from freshman quarterback Eric Dungey, he has been very impressed by a pair of freshman running backs. Dontae Strickland and Jordan Fredericks have both continued to make plays during scrimmage, including against the first team defense.
Franklin has seen each take their natural ability and develop it during training camp. For that reason, the flashes they have shown in practice could translate to game day and help an Orange offense that needs playmakers.
”It was definitely the scrimmage at Fort Drum,” Franklin said. “Both of them, their vision and their cut backs and footwork were just what you don’t expect for true freshmen. When the twos are in there, we’re going to beat them up a little bit. You could just tell it clicked for them at Fort Drum. Especially in that scrimmage, because in that scrimmage, you could see Jordan just making moves.
”He’s out here breaking 40-yard runs on us. We’re looking around like, ‘hold up. Come on, we’ve got to get this boy now.’ Same thing for Tae Strickland. He didn’t get to play at Fan Fest, but when he gets his opportunities out there, he plays hard.”