Over the summer, The Juice Online will be featuring players on the 2018 Syracuse football team as we countdown to kickoff. Today, The Juice Online looks at senior linebacker Kielan Whitner.
The biggest question surrounding Syracuse’s defense this summer will be its linebacker core.
The unit is undergoing a major overhaul, with Zaire Franklin, Parris Bennett, Jonathan Thomas and Austin Valdez all moving on, taking four of SU’s top seven tacklers from last season out of the picture.
Kielan Whitner will be one of the linebackers that will try to fill the void.
Originally recruited as a defensive back, Whitner spent time at both safety and linebacker last season, finishing with eight tackles while appearing in all 12 games including one start at linebacker.
“Those guys were big parts of this defense,” Whitner said during spring practice. “But we’ve got plenty of guys, plenty of talent to step up and fill those roles. Those guys did a great job leading us. We just have to pick up where they left off.”
When the spring depth chart was released, Whitner was slotted as the team’s starting strongside linebacker. But that chart is fluid, with Ryan Guthrie, Andrew Armstrong, Lakiem Williams, Tyrell Richards and Nadarius Fagan all in the mix.
“I have to step up and be a leader,” Whitner said, “and do whatever this team needs me to do.”
Whitner is hoping that he can be part of a defense that can step out of the shadow’s of SU’s vaunted hurry-up offense under third year coach Dino Babers.
“This team has been known as an offensive team,” Whitner said. “Defensively, we need to hold up our end of the bargain not giving up a lot of points.”
Inside slant: With so many unproven options at linebacker, Whitner, who started at linebacker last year against Central Connecticut State, has every opportunity to be named a starter. But on top of the list of linebackers mentioned above, Shyheim Cullen and Juan Wallace could also crash the party. Whitner has no shortage of competition.
- Birthdate: July 1996
- Hometown: Lawrenceville, Ga.
- High School: Mountain View
- Position: Linebacker
- Class: Senior
- Height: 6’0″
- Weight: 216 lbs
Career highlights: In 2017, Whitner appeared in all 12 games, starting at linebacker against Central Connecticut State. He recorded eight tackles, including six special teams tackles, which tied for the team lead. He has appeared in 34 games in his Syracuse career.