Redshirt Sophomore - Recruiting class of 2021
New York, NY- Iona Prep
6’4” - 265
2023 Projection - Presumed starter at ROLB
Sydnor arrived in West Lafayette prior to the 2021 season. The former three-star recruit chose Purdue over offers from Arizona State, Boston College, Maryland, Penn State, and basically every Ivy League school. He was committed to the Boilers for a solid eight months before signing day.
Seeing backup/special teams action in just two games in 2021 allowed him to keep a redshirt while getting experience in the trenches.
His redshirt freshman season in 2022 established him as one of the meanest dudes in the front seven.
The 6’4” 265-pound edge rusher from New York City appeared in all 14 games for the Boilermakers last season, racking up 17 solo tackles and five assisted tackles.
Of those 22, four and a half were sacks, resulting in -39 yards for opponents. Accounting for non-sack tackles for loss, Sydnor finished with a total of six and a half tackles for loss, averaging two yards per tackle toward -43 yards. He added one pass deflection. Those are big numbers for a redshirt freshman.
As he’s continued to put on healthy weight (he started college at around 235), one might expect to see him play a bit closer to the line of scrimmage as time moves on. In fact, at times last year he was lined up as a defensive end.
Sydnor himself on the new defense and his role within it: “I love this defense. It shows my versatility; I get to rush the passer and drop into coverage. I love it.”
He would later elaborate that “[Coach Walters] wants to show the same front every time. Show the quarterback the same thing so they never know who’s coming and who’s not. It’s a great scheme. I love it. It’s smart.”
It looks as if in the new defensive scheme, there will be a role in which he gets to play as sort of a hybrid defensive end and outside linebacker. In Walters’ 3-4 front, the group of linebackers in those four compliment each other heavily in their strengths.
I see Sydnor further flourishing under Ryan Walters and the rest of the new staff. Personally, I think he will be able to flirt with leading the Big 10 in sacks this year.
He’s got great technique and a good motor. He’s quick enough and reactive enough, especially for a bigger guy, to have success covering passes over the middle. These things allowed him to shoot up the depth chart so quickly. If you add a few more years of refining those skills and tools, he has serious high-round draft potential.
He’ll be a key player for two main reasons this year:
First, he’d be a key player on any team’s defense whether starting or not. The kid is big, can move, and is clearly smart as hell. Sydnor mentioned post-practice this Spring that Waters has the trust in the linebacker group to allow them to make their own decisions and act as quarterbacks of the defense. This is the exact type of dude I want to be able to make his own instinctual decisions as a defensive field general.
Second, there really are not many proven guys behind him as a right-side edge rusher, so he might be the player on defense who most needs to stay healthy in 2023. It’s always a scary thing to think about those hypotheticals (for both the sake of the individual and the sake of the team), but Syndor should easily be one of the best edge rushers in the Big 10. An injury there, to be blunt, would suck. It’d cause a reshuffle that requires more experienced linebackers to play slightly out of position while twos and threes have to fill in elsewhere along the “4” part of a 3-4 front.
Avoiding the negative hypotheticals: I’m super high on Sydnor and I think he’s got a career in the pros. His swim moves, his lowering of the shoulder to sneak by left tackles, his speed, his form when getting after that panicking quarterback…no complaints.
Note: I’ve seen that he may switch jersey numbers to 56, but he’s still listed as 96 and was wearing 96 in the Spring practices that recently ended, so for now let’s assume he’s sticking with 96.