Syracuse football received significant news on Thursday as starting middle linebacker Mikel Jones announced he will return for the 2022 season. Jones decision is huge as he is considered the quarterback of the Orange defense and that means even more continuity on that side of the ball next season.
Babers called Mikel Jones “the key to everything” this past season and called him “the guy.” He was extremely important to the Syracuse defense in 2021 and now will be back to lead the unit in 2022.
Jones finished the 2021 season with 110 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four sacks, three quarterback hurries and one fumble recovery. As the quarterback and leader of the Orange defense, he led Syracuse to a top 25 ranking in total defense (22nd), top 30 in rushing defense (29th) and top 30 in passing defense (28th). He was named ACC Linebacker of the Week twice during the year.
In 2020, Jones burst onto the scene as a sophomore with 69 tackles, one sack, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four interceptions. His four interceptions were the most by a linebacker in the country. That provided momentum for his stellar 2021 season that led to being named to the All-ACC First Team.
Syracuse finished the 2021 season 5-7, just one game shy of bowl eligibility. With Tony White back as defensive coordinator, along with Jones, there will be optimism that the defense can take another step forward as the Orange looks to get back to the postseason in 2022.