Our SU top 100 list continues with another Syracuse football great. Over his career at middle linebacker for the Orange, Zaire Franklin was a leader. Franklin was just the second three-year captain at Syracuse, and the first since the 19th century. Over his four year career, Franklin never missed a game, starting the last 39.
Franklin was the key link from the Scott Shafer to Dino Babers. After being recruited by Shafer, Franklin became a star in his sophomore season – Shafer’s last. After being named just the fourth sophomore team-captain ever at Syracuse, Franklin led the squad with 81 tackles.
In his junior season Franklin was named All-ACC third team by the media in his best season at SU. He showed out, recording his first season of over 100 tackles. Parris Bennett also had over 100 tackles at middle linebacker as the two combined to be a force at the second level. They became the first Syracuse teammates since 2003 to both record over 100 tackles.
Since the Franklin-Bennett tandem graduated, Syracuse has been rotating through different middle linebackers annually. The turnover caught up with the Orange last season when they allowed over 200 yards on the ground per game.
In 2016, Franklin tied for the team lead with 10 tackles for loss and was twice voted ACC linebacker of the week. His best game of the season came against Connecticut when he made 14 tackles including 2.5 tackles for loss.
In his last season on The Hill, Franklin was selected as an All-ACC Honorable Mention. On the season Franklin recorded 85 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. In Syracuse’s upset victory over Clemson Franklin finished with four tackles, a tackle for loss and a 12-yard sack.
Franklin was drafted in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts, where he still plays today. So far in his career, Franklin has recorded 35 tackles to go along with one pass defended.