Syracuse football’s defense faces a monumental task this offseason.
The Orange defense will need to replace eight starters along with several key reserves, and the returning players account for just 29.3 percent of tackles from the 2014 season according to Phil Steele. That ranks SU dead last at 128th in Division I football.
That includes a retooled linebacker core, with outside linebackers Marqez Hodge and Parris Bennett joining leading returning tackler Zaire Franklin, a middle linebacker.
Franklin played in all 12 games last season as a true freshman, recording 44 tackles including 5.0 tackles for loss. With injuries piling up for last year’s team, Franklin floated between outside and middle linebacker, before finishing at the middle linebacker position at the end of the season.
“We decided that was a pretty good combination,” Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer said. “Zaire’s done a nice job.”
Franklin flashed his potential in the final game of the season against Boston College, recording six tackles, including a tackle for loss and one sack. That continued in the spring game in April, with Franklin logging another six tackles.
It has been indicative of his progress throughout spring.
“He had a very good spring,” Shafer said. “He has a lot of work to do with his pass drops but he’s a good, tough physical middle linebacker, a good football player, and he’s going to have a very good career.”
Inside slant: Syracuse finished with the No. 38 defense in the NCAA last year, allowing 24.3 points per game. If SU wants to approach that number again this year, Shafer and defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough will need several young players to mature quickly, including Franklin.
- Birthdate: July 1996
- Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.
- High School: La Salle College
- Position: Middle Linebacker
- Class: Sophomore
- Height: 6’0″
- Weight: 238 lbs
Career highlights: Franklin was on the 2014 All-ACC Academic Team and one of just 10 true freshman to play for Syracuse last year. He appeared in all 12 games. Against Duke, he recorded six tackles, with four of them as solo.