My 2022 SU Football Preview - Part 7: The Linebackers | Syracusefan.com

My 2022 SU Football Preview - Part 7: The Linebackers

SWC75

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LINEBACKERS
Seniors: None
Juniors: #3 Mikel Jones 6-1 224, #31 Yasuke Sugano 5-10 212
Sophomores: #7 Stefon Thompson 6-1 250 (was 235), #2 Marlowe Wax 6-0 239
Freshmen: #46 Kadin Bailey 6-2 217, #33 Ryan Dolan 6-0 222, #16 Leon Lowery 6-4 225, #13 Mekhi Mason 6-2 221, #81 Derek McDonald 6-4 225 (was 230) #48 John O’Connor 6-1 218, #42 Austin Roon 6-3 228, #12 Anwar Sparrow 6-1 219 (was 225)
Gone:
Geoff Cantin-Arku: Last year I said: “Cantin-Arku is a big, strong but mobile middle linebacker who has a chance to be remembered as one of our best.” Not now. Syracuse.com: “Cantin-Arku was seeing regular playing time for Syracuse as the team’s fourth linebacker and a key special teams contributor when he left the Orange last season, but his way to a starting spot was blocked by a strong group of young players at his position, all of whom are expected to return to the Orange next season.” He’s at Memphis.
Malik Matthew Was a 3 star recruit who redshirted and didn’t play. He announced he was entering the transfer portal in June and I could not find any updates.

Mikel Jones: Sean Tucker is our All-America candidate on offense. On defense, it’s Mikel Jones. He came here from Miami, a blue-chipper at #437/#24 as an outside linebacker, although he’s played inside more for SU. He’s the captain of the defense and could have jumped to the pros but elected to come back for a fourth year. He’s a ball-hawk with “218 career tackles (113 solo), 17.0 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in his career.” (Cuse.com) Nunes: “This is where Mikel wants to put it all together - and why can’t he? If he can combine some of his coverage from 2020 with his improved QB pressure of last season, then it will be a stellar year for the veteran leader. Jones is on watch lists for the Butkus Award (top LB), Nagurski Trophy (most outstanding defensive player), and the Bednarik Award (national defensive player of the year).” Jones: ““My mentality is to play aggressive, to play physical and with the most effort,” Jones said. “We do that, with this defense, with how it’s set up and with the players we have on it, there’s nobody stopping us.” Errr….Mikel- you’re trying to stop them!

Yasuke Sugano transferred in from FCS (St. Francis of Pennsylvania), where “the 5-foot-10, 225-pound Sugano appeared in 24 games over three seasons for the Red Flash, totaling 34 tackles, four sacks, six tackles for loss and one forced fumble”. Nunes: “Sugano brings experience to the Syracuse Orange and could see time on special teams this Fall. He played some defensive end in high school so maybe he’ll work into the rotation on passing downs.” He wasn’t rated by 247.

Stefon Thompson is our biggest linebacker at 6-1 250, which makes him am monster in this defense. (It will be interesting to see the 219 pound Linton at end, backed up by the 250 pound Thompson or the 239 pound Marlowe Wax). In two years, he’s played 22 games and started 19. “Has 114 tackles, 9.0 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles”. (Cuse.com) 247 had him at #1,135/51 as an inside linebacker. Nunes: “Is in that platoon with Marlowe Wax and Mikel Jones as the first tier linebackers. He also added fifteen pounds to his frame in the off-season so there’s a chance we see him more with his hand on the ground rather than dropped in coverage.”
(8/9 Update: “Babers also mentioned linebacker Stefon Thompson as getting "banged up" on Tuesday.”)

Marlowe Wax, like Josh Hough came here as a big-time running back prospect who was also good on defense and the staff felt he could help us more there. I love his name- he can really ‘wax’ those ball carriers. 247 had him #1,268/#77 as a running back. He’s played in 23 games and started 12 of them.
“Enters the 2022 season with 93 career tackles (60 solo), 12.5 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.” (Cuse.com) Nunes: “The Syracuse Orange linebacking unit has it’s top three with Wax, Mikel Jones and Stefon Thompson locked in, experienced and ready to contribute. He’s one of the lynchpins and will be starting as many games as he can. He seems to have a penchant for getting in the backfield as well, so we may see some serious disruption from some stunts here and there.” Jones, Thompson and Wax are the best threesome we’ve had at linebacker since Zaire Franklin, Parris Bennett and Jonathan Thomas in 2017.

Kadin Bailey is a three-star freshman out of Georgia, (247: #959/87 just as a ‘LB’). Nunes: “During his senior year, Bailey put together a decent haul of 33 tackles, a sack, a puck and a fumble recovery. He also played running back on the year and earned the Georgia Region 8-4A Athlete of the Year and was a two time All-Region selection. A redshirt is likely here. That linebacker room is packed at present. We may be seeing some special teams run if needed though.”

Ryan Dolan came all the way from California to play here but hasn’t in two years. He’s a preferred walk-on who has yet to be preferred. Nunes: “(Last year was a) redshirt year for Dolan, placing him in his currently third and final freshman year eligibility wise. (Might) possibly getting some special teams run, but the Syracuse Orange linebacking corps is pretty deep still at this point.”

Leon Lowery came out of New Jersey as 247’s #1,482/73 ‘weakside defensive end’. He’s been a reserve linebacker here and in two years “has seven tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss in five games played”. (Cusde.com). Nunes: “The starting linebackers are set so Lowery will be used to give them a rest as well as on special teams. His quickest way onto the field this fall would be to excel in coverage which is an area the Orange could use some help.”

Mekhi Mason is another Floridian, rated #1,162/117 as an ‘LB’. “Recorded 102 tackles, six sacks, 20 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and four pass breakups as a senior.” (Cuse.com) Nunes: “Mason arrived in time to participate in spring practice for the Syracuse Orange. He’s not going to start this year but he could see time on special teams and as a back-up to the current group of linebackers.”

Derek McDonald is a Georgia who was rated #1,453/77 as a tight end but got into two games last year as a linebacker and that’s where he’s stayed. Nunes: “With the starting LBs set in stone and many other underclassmen on the roster, McDonald will have to fight for consistent playing time. He could rotate in as needed but this is still probably a development year.” They note: “He’s doubling as a broadcast & digital journalism student.” So he could wind up following the lead of Erik Slater, (see defensive linemen who are gone, above).

John O’Connor is another preferred walk-on who redshirted last year and didn’t play. 247 didn’t rate him. Nunes: “O’Connor is likely spend another season on the scout team. His best path to playing time would be on a special teams unit. He did play on both sides of the ball in high school so in addition to linebacker he could get practice reps as a fullback.”

Austin Roon is a Michigander rated #1,344/151 as a linebacker. He redshirted last year and didn’t play in any games. Nunes: “Outside of the starters, this is a very young linebackers group. It’s anybody’s guess who would be the first to step up, but until there’s a reason otherwise, Roon should be limited to special teams and late-game appearances in blowouts.” That’s a good point. Jones, Thompson and Wax are great but the guys behind them haven’t played much, so this unit could be susceptible to injuries.

Anwar Sparrow is a Virginian who played in three games last year and made two tackles. The 247 site doesn’t have a rating for him but Cuse.com says that he was “the No. 76 inside linebacker in the Class of 2020 by 247Sports.com”. Nunes: “Sparrow won’t start, but he could find himself some solid work late in certain games. The LB core is VERY young so second-team spots are really anyone’s to grab. Otherwise pay attention to special teams as that’s where he’ll likely end up.”


This starting unit is the pride and joy of the team but they need to stay healthy. It will be interesting if Sugano can help us. Cody Roscoe came from McNeese and turned out to be quite a player for us. Bailey, Lowry, Mason, McDonald, Roon and Sparrow need to grow up quickly to give us the depth we need. We may also see some of the lineman, (especially Linton) at linebacker on some plays and vice-versa.
 

Dmcnabbrules

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Nice write up. I think McDonald is going to surprise some people as the 4th linebacker this year. Has good size and athleticism, now that he has focused on defense he is ready to play without thinking too much.
 

SWC75

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No surprises among the starters on the depth chart but the back-ups are freshmen Leon Lowery, Austin Roon and Derek McDonald. I’ve heard that he’s impressed a lot of people who saw the practices. No Linton, Sparrow or Sugano. They seem to be going for development of the future starters at this position. Here’s what Nunes said: Lowery: “will be used to give them a rest as well as on special teams”; Roon: “should be limited to special teams and late-game appearances in blowouts”; McDonald: “will have to fight for consistent playing time. He could rotate in as needed but this is still probably a development year”.
 

rrlbees

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KaiserUEO

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Here's a link.

1661887958145.jpeg

Stop opening those doors, I’m beginning to see sunlight….
 

SUFaninNJ

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LINEBACKERS
Seniors: None
Juniors: #3 Mikel Jones 6-1 224, #31 Yasuke Sugano 5-10 212
Sophomores: #7 Stefon Thompson 6-1 250 (was 235), #2 Marlowe Wax 6-0 239
Freshmen: #46 Kadin Bailey 6-2 217, #33 Ryan Dolan 6-0 222, #16 Leon Lowery 6-4 225, #13 Mekhi Mason 6-2 221, #81 Derek McDonald 6-4 225 (was 230) #48 John O’Connor 6-1 218, #42 Austin Roon 6-3 228, #12 Anwar Sparrow 6-1 219 (was 225)
Gone:
Geoff Cantin-Arku: Last year I said: “Cantin-Arku is a big, strong but mobile middle linebacker who has a chance to be remembered as one of our best.” Not now. Syracuse.com: “Cantin-Arku was seeing regular playing time for Syracuse as the team’s fourth linebacker and a key special teams contributor when he left the Orange last season, but his way to a starting spot was blocked by a strong group of young players at his position, all of whom are expected to return to the Orange next season.” He’s at Memphis.
Malik Matthew Was a 3 star recruit who redshirted and didn’t play. He announced he was entering the transfer portal in June and I could not find any updates.

Mikel Jones: Sean Tucker is our All-America candidate on offense. On defense, it’s Mikel Jones. He came here from Miami, a blue-chipper at #437/#24 as an outside linebacker, although he’s played inside more for SU. He’s the captain of the defense and could have jumped to the pros but elected to come back for a fourth year. He’s a ball-hawk with “218 career tackles (113 solo), 17.0 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in his career.” (Cuse.com) Nunes: “This is where Mikel wants to put it all together - and why can’t he? If he can combine some of his coverage from 2020 with his improved QB pressure of last season, then it will be a stellar year for the veteran leader. Jones is on watch lists for the Butkus Award (top LB), Nagurski Trophy (most outstanding defensive player), and the Bednarik Award (national defensive player of the year).” Jones: ““My mentality is to play aggressive, to play physical and with the most effort,” Jones said. “We do that, with this defense, with how it’s set up and with the players we have on it, there’s nobody stopping us.” Errr….Mikel- you’re trying to stop them!

Yasuke Sugano transferred in from FCS (St. Francis of Pennsylvania), where “the 5-foot-10, 225-pound Sugano appeared in 24 games over three seasons for the Red Flash, totaling 34 tackles, four sacks, six tackles for loss and one forced fumble”. Nunes: “Sugano brings experience to the Syracuse Orange and could see time on special teams this Fall. He played some defensive end in high school so maybe he’ll work into the rotation on passing downs.” He wasn’t rated by 247.

Stefon Thompson is our biggest linebacker at 6-1 250, which makes him am monster in this defense. (It will be interesting to see the 219 pound Linton at end, backed up by the 250 pound Thompson or the 239 pound Marlowe Wax). In two years, he’s played 22 games and started 19. “Has 114 tackles, 9.0 sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles”. (Cuse.com) 247 had him at #1,135/51 as an inside linebacker. Nunes: “Is in that platoon with Marlowe Wax and Mikel Jones as the first tier linebackers. He also added fifteen pounds to his frame in the off-season so there’s a chance we see him more with his hand on the ground rather than dropped in coverage.”
(8/9 Update: “Babers also mentioned linebacker Stefon Thompson as getting "banged up" on Tuesday.”)

Marlowe Wax, like Josh Hough came here as a big-time running back prospect who was also good on defense and the staff felt he could help us more there. I love his name- he can really ‘wax’ those ball carriers. 247 had him #1,268/#77 as a running back. He’s played in 23 games and started 12 of them.
“Enters the 2022 season with 93 career tackles (60 solo), 12.5 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.” (Cuse.com) Nunes: “The Syracuse Orange linebacking unit has it’s top three with Wax, Mikel Jones and Stefon Thompson locked in, experienced and ready to contribute. He’s one of the lynchpins and will be starting as many games as he can. He seems to have a penchant for getting in the backfield as well, so we may see some serious disruption from some stunts here and there.” Jones, Thompson and Wax are the best threesome we’ve had at linebacker since Zaire Franklin, Parris Bennett and Jonathan Thomas in 2017.

Kadin Bailey is a three-star freshman out of Georgia, (247: #959/87 just as a ‘LB’). Nunes: “During his senior year, Bailey put together a decent haul of 33 tackles, a sack, a puck and a fumble recovery. He also played running back on the year and earned the Georgia Region 8-4A Athlete of the Year and was a two time All-Region selection. A redshirt is likely here. That linebacker room is packed at present. We may be seeing some special teams run if needed though.”

Ryan Dolan came all the way from California to play here but hasn’t in two years. He’s a preferred walk-on who has yet to be preferred. Nunes: “(Last year was a) redshirt year for Dolan, placing him in his currently third and final freshman year eligibility wise. (Might) possibly getting some special teams run, but the Syracuse Orange linebacking corps is pretty deep still at this point.”

Leon Lowery came out of New Jersey as 247’s #1,482/73 ‘weakside defensive end’. He’s been a reserve linebacker here and in two years “has seven tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss in five games played”. (Cusde.com). Nunes: “The starting linebackers are set so Lowery will be used to give them a rest as well as on special teams. His quickest way onto the field this fall would be to excel in coverage which is an area the Orange could use some help.”

Mekhi Mason is another Floridian, rated #1,162/117 as an ‘LB’. “Recorded 102 tackles, six sacks, 20 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and four pass breakups as a senior.” (Cuse.com) Nunes: “Mason arrived in time to participate in spring practice for the Syracuse Orange. He’s not going to start this year but he could see time on special teams and as a back-up to the current group of linebackers.”

Derek McDonald is a Georgia who was rated #1,453/77 as a tight end but got into two games last year as a linebacker and that’s where he’s stayed. Nunes: “With the starting LBs set in stone and many other underclassmen on the roster, McDonald will have to fight for consistent playing time. He could rotate in as needed but this is still probably a development year.” They note: “He’s doubling as a broadcast & digital journalism student.” So he could wind up following the lead of Erik Slater, (see defensive linemen who are gone, above).

John O’Connor is another preferred walk-on who redshirted last year and didn’t play. 247 didn’t rate him. Nunes: “O’Connor is likely spend another season on the scout team. His best path to playing time would be on a special teams unit. He did play on both sides of the ball in high school so in addition to linebacker he could get practice reps as a fullback.”

Austin Roon is a Michigander rated #1,344/151 as a linebacker. He redshirted last year and didn’t play in any games. Nunes: “Outside of the starters, this is a very young linebackers group. It’s anybody’s guess who would be the first to step up, but until there’s a reason otherwise, Roon should be limited to special teams and late-game appearances in blowouts.” That’s a good point. Jones, Thompson and Wax are great but the guys behind them haven’t played much, so this unit could be susceptible to injuries.

Anwar Sparrow is a Virginian who played in three games last year and made two tackles. The 247 site doesn’t have a rating for him but Cuse.com says that he was “the No. 76 inside linebacker in the Class of 2020 by 247Sports.com”. Nunes: “Sparrow won’t start, but he could find himself some solid work late in certain games. The LB core is VERY young so second-team spots are really anyone’s to grab. Otherwise pay attention to special teams as that’s where he’ll likely end up.”


This starting unit is the pride and joy of the team but they need to stay healthy. It will be interesting if Sugano can help us. Cody Roscoe came from McNeese and turned out to be quite a player for us. Bailey, Lowry, Mason, McDonald, Roon and Sparrow need to grow up quickly to give us the depth we need. We may also see some of the lineman, (especially Linton) at linebacker on some plays and vice-versa.
Unfortunately, now there's a reason. Time to get that depth some game day experience.
 

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