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Syracuse Assembles a Linebacking Corps of the Future

The Orange has lured a trio of linebackers that should terrorize the ACC.

Wide receiver features, without question, the deepest and most impressive collection of talent among all positions in Syracuse’s 2017 recruiting class. Four of the Orange’s 13 commits are expected to play wideout (Josh Palmer, Cameron Jordan, Nykeim Johnson, and Sharod Johnson), and SU is working hard to lure at least three more pass-catchers, with Amonyae Watson, Eddie Lewis, and Russell Thompson-Bishop on radar.

But Dino Babers and his staff have assembled a strong 2017 crop at a key defensive position, as well. As of July 6, three linebackers have announced their commitment to Syracuse: Keirston Johnson, Kadeem Trotter, and Tyrell Richards.

Richards was the first to choose SU, announcing his decision on June 18. The Canadian linebacker checks in at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, and earned a two-star rating from scout.com. Richards was one of seven players to commit to the Orange during an eight-day span in late June. The versatile linebacker is stellar in pass coverage, which is very impressive, considering his size.

Keirston Johnson followed Richards a couple of weeks later on July 2. A three-star recruit, Johnson received offers from Maryland, South Florida, and Memphis, among other schools. The six-foot, 215 pounder didn’t even visit the Hill before choosing Syracuse. SU linebackers coach Tom Kaufman, who has done a phenomenal job throughout the recruiting process, visited Johnson during the evaluation period and attended his spring game. Johnson, a native of Jacksonville, FL, racked up 101 tackles (15 for loss) and 10 sacks as a junior at Robert E. Lee High School. The fiery linebacker isn’t afraid to put his head down and lay bone-crunching hits — while this technique often leads to fumbles (he forced two last year), it could sometimes get him into trouble if he fails to wrap up. When charging at a ball-carrier to make a stop, Johnson doesn’t run at the offensive player, he runs through him.

Trotter wasted no time joining Johnson in the Orange’s linebacking corps of the future — Johnson broke the news on Saturday, and Trotter announced his commitment on Sunday. The Canton, Ohio native was recruited by some schools as a safety, but he told the Fizz that he expects to play linebacker for SU. He’s only 196 pounds, but should fill out his 6-foot-3 frame as a high school senior. Before settling on Syracuse, Trotter drew interest from Michigan State, Pittsburgh, and Boston College.

Diego Fagot, the 28th-ranked linebacker in 247sports’ national composite rankings for 2017, is also considering the Orange. He spoke with the Fizz in May.

These young linebackers will learn from Zaire Franklin, who, as a sophomore, was a team captain and arguably SU’s best defensive player in 2015 (assuming Franklin doesn’t leave school early and declare for the NFL draft). A few years from now, Franklin will pass the torch to an extraordinarily promising group of linebackers. Who needs Isaiah McDuffie?

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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