The top 10 Syracuse football players you need to know for the 2016 season.
LB Zaire Franklin, Jr.
Franklin has emerged from a group of veteran Orange linebackers to become the program’s most dependable defender. The starter in the middle is also one of the team’s smartest athletes, getting positioned to make a team-high 81 tackles, 11 stops for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles in 2015. Above the numbers, the 6-0 and 229-pound Franklin was also voted captain last fall, the school’s first sophomore since 1945 to receive the honor.
WR Steve Ishmael, Jr.
A jumbled quarterback situation couldn’t prevent Ishmael from becoming Syracuse’s most potent weapon in 2015. He fulfilled expectations for a breakout year by catching 39 passes for 570 yards and seven touchdowns to inch closer to All-ACC consideration. Ishmael possesses the physical tool chest to get behind defenses, as well as the 6-2, 202-pound frame to provide his quarterback with a reliable target on jump balls.
FS Antwan Cordy, Jr.
Cordy is the epitome of a defender playing bigger than his size. While only 5-8 and 180 pounds, “Giant” manages the safety position fearlessly, making 68 tackles, a dozen stops for loss, most ever by a Syracuse DB, two sacks, two picks and two fumble recoveries in 2015. Cordy wraps up in space and is dangerous when he comes flying from the back end to generate backfield pressure.
QB Eric Dungey, Soph.
Dungey is the most important player to this program and its new coaching staff. Of course, to fulfill his potential as the athletic triggerman of the attack, he needs to remain healthy after missing considerable time to a concussion in his rookie year. The 6-3, 212-pound Dungey is a true dual-threat, though the staff wants him to run less in 2016. In his debut, he scrambled for 351 yards and five scores, while completing 105-of-176 passes for 1,298 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
RB Jordan Fredericks, Soph.
Running with an ideal combination of speed and power, Fredericks in 2015 became the first true freshman to lead the Orange in rushing since Delone Carter did it nine years earlier. Fredericks is 5-10 and 215 pounds, with the size to break tackles and the quickness to pick up chunk yards. If he can maintain his weight, Fredericks is positioned to blow past last season’s 607 yards and four scores on 107 carries, particularly now that Devante McFarlane has elected to leave the program.
WR Ervin Phillips, Jr.
In Dino Babers’ offense, the only question mark regarding Phillips is how best to utilize him this fall. The quintessential hybrid playmaker is a do-everything weapon that led the Orange with eight touchdowns a season ago, three on the ground and five through the air. The 5-11, 180-pound playmaker lined up in myriad locations in 2015, rushing for 234 yards and catching 29 balls for 286 additional yards.
OG Omari Palmer, Sr.
Palmer is the new veteran of a rebuilding O-line looking to replace three of last year’s starters. The 6-3, 321-pound mauler has 21 career starts under his belt, so he’ll be counted on to provide leadership to the balance of a young group. Palmer is a physically imposing run blocker, with the strength and the size to lead the Orange in knockdown blocks in 2016.
NT Steven Clark, Soph.
Based on the early returns, the program is very excited about the potential of Clark in the middle of the D-line. Chris Slayton and Kayton Samuels flashed potential as rookies, too. But after making 21 tackles off the bench, the 6-2, 311-pound Clark is expected to rise quickly this fall. He’s one of the strongest members of the team, thanks to years as a powerlifter, and he’s very difficult to move off his base.
LB Parris Bennett, Jr.
Bennett was having a really good sophomore season when it ended suddenly to an injury with four games remaining. At the time, the Detroit product was fourth on the team with 44 tackles, 3.5 of which were for minus yards. Like all of the Syracuse linebackers, Bennett is undersized at 6-0 and 218 pounds, but that allows him to cover large areas of the field from weakside and to contribute in pass defense.
LB Marqez Hodge, Sr.
Hodge will be looking to reverse a downward slope that saw his production slip to just 41 tackles and a couple of fumble recoveries last year. Still, the Miami native is one of the most experienced Orange defenders. The 5-11 and 226-pound Hodge already has two years of starting experience, both inside and outside, and he’s one of the most ferocious hitters on the D.