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Spring Game: Will Marcus Spruill & the LBs Be the Weakness of the SU Defense?

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An area of concern for the Orange this season will be the inexperience at linebacker. Syracuse has to replace two seniors in Doug Hogue and Derrell Smith who combined for 209 tackles, almost a quarter of the team’s stops. In addition to losing those two, Marquis Spruill (the other starter at linebacker last year) has switched from the outside to the middle this season. Essentially, there will be a new face at every linebacker position come September. But, this does not mean that there will necessarily be a drop off in production. As one Orange coach told The Fizz, Spruill hasn’t missed a beat while taking over the middle spot.

“It was a smooth transition for him from day one, he picked it up pretty quickly,” says Syracuse linebacker coach Dan Conley. “He is a lot like Derrell Smith. He is able to recognize formations, make adjustment calls for us, he is a bright kid.”

This should not shock anyone. Spruill was recruited to Syracuse to play his natural position of middle linebacker. He also didn’t come to SU as just another recruit – he was a highlight of his class as a four-star athlete. The kid has obvious talent and he likely will take over as the team’s best defensive player.

Conley has already developed former running backs Hogue and Smith into all Big East defensive players. Now he has a four-star natural middle linebacker to work with. Conley should be drooling over coaching him, and is going to raise Spruill’s game to a different level. Coming off a 51 tackle freshman campaign as an outside backer, Spruill should easily amass 100 tackles for Syracuse.

Spruill should fill the shoes of Smith in the middle. But the question is, who will be starting on the outside next to him and how productive will they be? After the dismissals of Malcolm Cater and Brice Hawkes, the only other linebacker on the current roster with any experience is Dan Vaughan. This means SU will need freshman to step in a make an immediate impact.

The ‘Cuse brought in four promising linebacking prospects in the offseason in Cameron Lynch, Oliver Vigille, Dyshawn Davis and Siriki Diabate. Lynch is the most talented out of this group, being called “an SEC-caliber talent, but was just a few inches too short to earn those offers.” He and Vigille won’t arrive on campus until the summer. Davis and Diabate have been impressive at spring practices, but Davis is still learning the ropes of the position after switching from wide receiver and safety in high school.

This group of freshman is talented, but the concern is with their inexperience and how the entire unit meshes. The Orange will miss the leadership that Smith and Hogue provided. Let’s see who steps up as the next leader to command the defense.

No matter who starts for the ‘Cuse, it will be a young group out at linebacker. We’ll all see how they perform at today’s Spring Game. If you can’t make it to the Spring Game, follow The Fizz on twitter for live updates all day.

Posted: Dave Van Moffaert

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