Countdown to Camp 2017

Countdown to Camp: Addition of Austin Valdez bolsters linebacking corps

Courtesy of Bowling Green State University Athletics

The graduate transfer was named to the All-Mac first team two years ago at Bowling Green, but injury derailed his 2016 season.

Syracuse football’s training camp begins July 30. Every day leading up to camp, The Daily Orange’s football beat writers will take a look at some of the upcoming season’s most pressing storylines, players and position battles. Read more on the Countdown to Camp here.

Austin Valdez: Graduate transfer, 6-1, 236 pounds

If there was one spot Syracuse was expected to go out and land extra talent, linebacker wasn’t it. But SU bolstered its strongest defensive position when it reportedly added Bowling Green graduate transfer Austin Valdez earlier this summer.

The linebacker, eligible to play this season, joins a unit led by three-year captain Zaire Franklin and 2016’s leading tackler Parris Bennett that will also see fellow senior Jonathan Thomas take plenty of snaps as well.

Valdez brings a solid resume with him from Bowling Green, where he played under SU head coach Dino Babers and defensive coordinator Brian Ward in 2014 and 2015. After redshirting his first year, Valdez racked up 222 total tackles in three seasons.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2015, Valdez started every game and was named to the All-MAC first team. He recorded 144 tackles on the year (58 solo, 86 assisted), including 11 for loss and 20 in one game alone.

The breakout season put Valdez on the map to start 2016. He appeared on watch lists for both the Bednarik and Butkus awards, which go to the nation’s top defensive player and linebacker, respectively. Injuries derailed his progress last year, and he finished the season having appeared in only 10 games and tallying 58 tackles.

Valdez’s choice to play his final year at Syracuse makes sense for both parties. For the player, his best season came under Babers and Ward. There is comfort and familiarity in playing for them. For the team, he provides depth. Franklin and Bennett are good players, but they cannot do it alone. Injuries exist. A fast-paced offense sometimes keeps the defense on the field more.

Reuniting with the Babers and the rest of the Bowling Green transplants on SU’s staff gives Valdez a chance to bounce back from last year’s abbreviated effort. It is the same leadership that three years ago converted Valdez to his current position, the one in which he once garnered national attention. He came to Bowling Green as a quarterback under former head coach Dave Clawson in 2013.

Now we’ll see if Valdez’s latest change turns out to work in his favor.

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