This is part of The Sun’s position-by-position preview of the football team.
Heading into the 2016 season, Cornell football was very comfortable at linebacker, even after losing former captain JJ Fives ’16. However, a likely season-ending achilles injury will keep senior Miles Norris off the field for the upcoming season; a major blow to the Red’s defensive prowess.
Not only is Norris a force to be reckoned with on the field, but he was recently named one of four captains for the upcoming season and has been a symbol of resiliency for the program since he joined in 2013. Norris has never missed a game in his first three years, but that streak will end when the Red kicks off against Bucknell on Saturday.
“[Norris is] a guy who has played since he was a freshman, he’s a vocal leader,” said head coach David Archer ’05. “Incredibly well-respected. Plays his heart out no matter what, no matter if his shoulder is hurt, his ankle is hurt, had a good day, had a bad day. He was always playing his best for the team and just a captain in the truest sense of the word.”
So where does a team that lost its most consistent and solid linebacker go from here? Archer will look to senior and fellow captain Jackson Weber, along with juniors Kurt Frimel and Daniel Crochet to pick up the slack in the wake of Norris’ injury.
Archer spoke highly of Weber, who he called Norris’ “partner in crime” throughout their years in Ithaca. Weber has a slight edge on Norris in total tackles, but Norris leads in sacks and tackles for loss.
“[Weber] is one of the captains and he’s Mr. Do Everything,” Archer said. “He can tell the corners where to line up. He knows it inside and out, and he was actually playing inside linebacker last fall and we’re switching him to outside linebacker.”
Switching Weber to outside, Archer added, allows for a more strategic and versatile use of the linebackers on the roster.
“What that does for us is when we go four-down with Jackson at outside on run downs, it gives us a thicker front, and in the passing downs Jackson is good enough to slide back in at [middle linebacker],” Archer said. “We can go to a more three-down speed type package.”
Archer also expects sophomores Reis Seggebruch and Max McCormick to get some time at the linebacker position, along with a few freshmen.
“Seggebruch had a really good offseason, love football kind of kid, blue collar mentality and the same is for McCormick,” Archer said. “We expect those guys to really be in the mix. Maybe a couple of freshmen, backing up on the special teams kind of role.”
Two other players Archer will look to are sophomores Malcolm Chaka and Ryan Kelly, who he called “two guys who have some really good speed off the edge.” Chaka was deployed on special teams last season and Kelly did not see playing time at the varsity level.
Despite all the additions, Norris leaves big shoes to fill with his three years of varsity experience. All of his potential replacements — Seggebruch, McCormick, Frimel, Crochet, Chaka, Kelly — have a combined four years of collegiate experience on the defensive side of the ball.
Weber will have to rise to the occasion, and his performance is trending in the right direction. He led the team in tackles last year, and Archer said he is confident in Weber’s work ethic and ability to move into his new role.
“He’s an invaluable player and a home run kid,” Archer said. “The exact example of a guy who can be physical and nasty and competitive on the field and a really the greatest guy off the field. Can’t say enough about him.”
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