Football

Johnson leads group of true freshmen poised to see playing time

A true freshman seeing major time can be a rarity in college football. Usually they find the field out of necessity or because they simply have blown the coaching staff away.

Isaiah Johnson’s increasingly likely path to the field comes as a mixture. Syracuse is relatively weak at defensive end, having lost several players to graduation or dismissal from the team, but Johnson has also been impressive. He looks the part away from the field and has blown coaches away on it.

Of any true freshman, he seems to be the most likely to see major playing time

“There’s some guys that are knocking at the door,” head coach Scott Shafer said, “and (Johnson’s) one of them.”

The rest of the bunch seems to be freshmen that could make their presence felt on special teams. Shafer mentioned wide receiver Brisly Estime as another potential candidate to see playing time, perhaps as a return specialist or the H-back role he’s currently listed at on the depth chart.

The biggest surprise that Shafer mentioned, though, was linebacker Marqez Hodge. He likely won’t get major time in a strong linebackers corps, but he could find a place on special teams.

Shafer said two and three days ago, the linebacker strung together back-to-back impressive practices.

It even came as something of a surprise to the head coach, who watched him struggle a bit in the weight room, but “now on the field,” Shafer said, “he’s just knocking people out.”

The freshman quarterbacks Mitch Kimble and Austin Wilson likely won’t see the field this season, but that didn’t keep Shafer from raving about them either.

The head coach has kept many of his thoughts about quarterbacks Drew Allen and Terrel Hunt low-key as the competition played out, but when talking about the long-term outlook of the program he beamed with optimism.

“I really like our two freshman quarterbacks,” Shafer said. “I wouldn’t lose sleep if I had to get one ready to be honest with you.”

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