The Syracuse University football team brought in some talented linebackers as part of the 2015 recruiting cycle with Shy Cullen and Troy Henderson, not to mention junior college transfer Ted Taylor, but the Orange are still looking to add more depth to the position in 2016. With two of the staff’s top targets deciding within the next week, Syracuse could fill its linebacker quotient pretty quickly.
While Syracuse is hosting a number of players throughout the week and could conceivably get a commitment from a player like Dymelle Parker at any moment, the two names to keep an eye on are Zachary Kastenhuber and Brandon Simon. Both are set to decide soon, with Kastenhuber making his decision on Friday while Simon picks his college on Monday.
Kastenhuber visited last weekend – as did Parker, by the way – while Scout.com’s Mike McAllister reported that Simon will be making a trip to campus on Saturday, making the Orange his last stop before deciding.
The thing that jumps out about both Kastenhuber and Simon is their size compared to the linebackers that Syracuse has brought in recently. Both are big, strong, middle linebacker types, though Kastenhuber could conceivably play on the outside. He’s 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, and already benches 410 pounds, while running a reported time of 4.65 in the 40. The Connecticut native will be picking from schools including Syracuse, UConn and, somewhat surprisingly for football fans, Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale. In addition to being an outstanding athlete, he’s also an elite student who could follow the path Orange fans just saw Colton Moskal take when he transferred from Syracuse to Penn in order to receive an Ivy League degree.
But don’t let the fact that he’s strongly considering a Harvard or a Yale fool you, Kastenhuber is an excellent football player. The 3-star talent hits like a Mack truck, and had an incredible 44 tackles for loss in 10 games last season. Here’s what our guy Justin Roe had to say about Kastenhuber recently:
“He is very technically sound. Great motor. Great tackling skill. He is a flat out stud. If he was playing in any other state – he would be a 4 star. No doubt in my mind.”
Simon, meanwhile, is another 3-star talent and high school teammate of incoming Syracuse defensive back Daivon Ellison. At 6-foot-1, 240 pounds he’s bigger than most linebackers Syracuse tends to bring in and could conceivably grow into a defensive end. His offer sheet includes Iowa, Boston College, and UConn, among others. For now, though, he’s being looked at strictly as a middle linebacker for the Orange defense.
Watching his film, he shows terrific quickness in beating blockers and getting to the quarterback. He’s definitely got a knack for getting to the QB, as well as getting his hands on passes despite being a little bit undersized as a defensive end (which is the position he plays at the high school level). He runs a reported 4.7 in the 40, and despite already being 240 it’s clearly all good weight, as he’s got an athletic build and terrific agility. Check out his highlights:
Obviously, Simon and Kastenhuber aren’t the only linebackers the Orange are pursuing. Rochester native Taylor Riggins was a recent offer, though he’s more than likely being targeted to play on the outside, rather than being a middle linebacker like Simon and Kastenhuber. The same goes for Parker, as well as Jamir Jones, a teammate of Riggins’ who, by the way, is currently on a visit to Notre Dame as I write this. I wouldn’t count on Jones being a realistic target.
Kastenhuber and Simon, however, are both very realistic. And since both are deciding within the next week, we could very well see them each join the Orange Revolution before long.