2022 Syracuse Football Preview: Linebackers
If you want to get excited for the 2022 Syracuse football season, look no further than the linebacker group of the Orange. Three experienced starters are set to make a return to their same roles as last season: Mikel Jones, Stefon Thompson and Marlowe Wax. That trio is backed by a promising core of young players looking to make a name for themselves, so be prepared to see some of the best talent in the ACC. This group has proven skill, toughness, and a flair for the dramatic.
Mikel Jones, Junior: Jones is not only the best linebacker of this group, but one of the best in the entire conference. The team captain earned First Team All-ACC honors thanks to an incredible 2021 campaign. In his third season the Miami-native ranked second in the ACC with 110 tackles, and led the Orange with 13 tackles for loss. The anchor of this defense has a versatile set of skills that allow him to wreak havoc anywhere on the field. Entering his senior season, Jones has exceeded expectations and is on his way to being nationally recognized.
Stefon Thompson, Sophomore: If Mikel Jones is Batman, then Stefon Thompson is Robin. The pair have started alongside each other for two years, and provide a great compliment to one another on the field. Last season Thompson was second on the Orange with 79 tackles, and six sacks, while also leading the squad with two forced fumbles. The junior has shown an instinct to get to the quarterback at a young age: Thompson won’t turn 20 years old until Syracuse plays Notre Dame on October 29th.
Marlowe Wax, Sophomore: To round out the starting linebacker group, the Orange turn to Wax for the second straight season. Since arriving on campus in 2020, the junior has played in every single game for Syracuse, starting all-12 in 2021. The Baltimore native broke out in his first starting season, tallying 60 tackles, nine for loss, and five sacks. In Syracuse’s final game of the season, Wax recorded his second double-digit tackle performance, a sack, and a pass breakup against Pittsburgh. The tenacious tackler fills out a starting group looking to build on its success of 2021.
Leon Lowery, Redshirt Freshman: The bench group of linebackers consists of all underclassmen, and Lowery leads the way in experience. He made his 2021 debut against Albany, notching two tackles in the victory. The redshirt freshman has appeared in five games in two years with the Orange and is likely to earn a larger role this upcoming season. Recruited as a wide receiver, the young defender is still learning his new position. Lowery’s unique 6-foot-4 225 pound frame gives him endless potential as an edge rusher and tackler in the open field.
Anwar Sparrow, Redshirt Freshman: Sparrow saw action in three games last year, and is entering his third season with the program. Rated as a top-30 player coming out of Virginia, the backer has potential to be an impact player of this group. A starting role could be in his future, but for now Sparrow will be called upon to provide depth to an experienced set of starters.
Mekhi Mason, Freshman: He was a Florida high school star and is now set to join Syracuse for his freshman season. His senior year at Monsignor Pace was a successful one, racking up 102 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, six sacks, and two forced fumbles. The freshman yielded offers from numerous powerhouse programs like LSU, Ole Miss, and Florida State, before ultimately deciding to head up to Central New York. Mekhi Mason is poised to have a strong career wearing Orange
Dereck McDonald, Redshirt Freshman: One of the few freshman linebackers to see time last year, McDonald appeared in two games for the Orange. A Georgia state championship winner in high school, the linebacker was awarded with team MVP honors. In 2020 he tallied 70 tackles, 22 for loss, five sacks, and four forced fumbles. McDonald has great size at 6-foot-4 230 pounds, and could see more time in the upcoming years.
Austin Roon, Redshirt Freshman: Another member of the class of 2021, Roon was rated three stars by 247Sports.com. He came to Syracuse after a decorated high school career in Michigan, earning four All-Conference selections, and was twice a team captain. Roon didn’t play in his first year but still has room to add more weight and become an impact player off the bench.
Ryan Dolan, Redshirt Freshman: A third year player out of California, Dolan is yet to appear in any games for the Orange. He led Marin Catholic high school in tackles his senior season, and played linebacker and running back for four years.
John O’Conner, Redshirt Freshman: O’Conner enters his second season with Syracuse, coming from Hingham, Massachusetts. The redshirt freshman didn’t see game action in year one, and is likely to get most of his reps in on the scout team this fall. He was invited to the program as a preferred walk-on and could see opportunity at different positions as he played both offense and defense in high school.