Josh Kirkland — Meet the 2013 Syracuse football team

Shafer: Players are vying hard for playing time

Every Wednesday over the summer, The Juice Online is going to highlight individual players on the 2013 Syracuse football team. This week, we’re profiling linebacker Josh Kirkland.

Back in the fall of 2012, then-Syracuse defensive coordinator Scott Shafer was scouring the Community College ranks, looking for a diamond in the rough.

When he was reviewing tape of Butler Community College, linebacker Josh Kirkland was near the bottom of his list. But the more he watched the video, the more he liked what he saw.

“Who was the kid who just made that play?” Shafer, now the head coach of Syracuse, asked.

The response? “That’s the Kirkland kid.”

» More SU football: Meet WR Jarrod West

Kirkland was part of a Butler team that reached the 2012 NJCCA National Championship game. He was a key member of the defense, recording 66 tackles, including 35 solo and six sacks, with forced three fumbles.

Kirkland committed in early December, and enrolled at Syracuse in January.

“I really got fired up about the kid because he plays the game with unbelievable emotions,” Shafer said. “Now, we just have to get him coached up, teach him how to play the game within the framework of our defense and I think we’ll have a good linebacker.”

So far, Shafer has been right.

During SU’s spring practice, Kirkland was one of the defensive stars, collecting five tackles. One of them came on a nasty hit in the flat, where Kirkland laid out fullback Clay Cleveland.

The crowd roared in approval.

“The Dome is a little hot,” Kirkland said of his first experience playing in front of fans. “But overall, it’s a great time.”

Kirkland, who still has two years of eligibility remaining, will be part of a deep linebacker core, that includes linebacker Marquis Spruill and Dyshawn Davis.

But with Davis recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Kirkland had a chance to compete for one of the starting spots in spring practice.

“Our communication is getting a lot better,” Kirkland said. “And the leadership role is great with Spruill leading the pack.”

» More SU football: Previewing Syracuse v. Wagner

Inside slant: Despite missing all of spring practice, Davis is still slotted as a starting linebacker. But there could be plenty of opportunities to see Kirkland, especially after the performance he had in the spring game.


  • Birthdate: August 1991
  • Hometown: Paxico, KS
  • High School: St. Mary’s
  • Position: Linebacker
  • Class: Junior
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 202 lbs

Career highlights: At Butler Community College, he was part of the team that went to the 2012 NJCCA National Championship game. In the 2012 season, he had 66 tackles, including 35 solo and six sacks, and forced three fumbles.

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About Wes Cheng 2907 Articles
Wes has worked for covering the New York Knicks, as well as for covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also been a contributing writer for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), for SportsNet New York (SNY) as a news desk writer covering all of New York professional sports, and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005 with a degree in journalism. Contact him at wes[at]