It’s not often you can add a probable starter this close to the start of the football season, but the Syracuse football team has done exactly that with the addition of graduate transfer Austin Valdez, a linebacker who played for Dino Babers at Bowling Green.
Valdez, a 6-foot-1, 236 pound linebacker who began his career as a quarterback before switching to linebacker, was the third leading tackler for the Falcons last season. Heading into the 2016 season, he was named to the Bednarik Award Watch List – that’s the award for the top defensive player in America, in case you’ve forgotten. So, yes, Valdez can play just a little bit.
Linebacker has been seen as the strength of the defense, and the position on that side of the ball with the most depth, but it’s hard to pass up an All-Conference player when he more or less falls into your lap. Valdez was a first team All-MAC performer a season ago, and has a tremendous nose for the football. By the way, his tackling numbers were down last year due to nagging injuries, while in 2015 he racked up a staggering 144 tackles under Babers and defensive coordinator Brian Ward.
Like I said: this dude can play some football.
This is yet another big addition to the defense, which should bolster that side of the ball along with graduate transfer defensive backs Jordan Martin and Devin Butler, in addition to junior college additions Ryan Guthrie (LB), Mykelti Williams (DB), Josh Allen (DE), Brandon Berry (DE), and Shaq Grosvenor (DT).
In addition to bringing his size and talent, it’s important to remember he’s also a player who’s performed at a high level under Ward, in this defensive system. That kind of knowledge of Ward’s defensive schemes should make his transition to Syracuse smoother than most transfer situations.