Football: Hard-hitting Cater picks up new nicknames at Syracuse

Malcolm Cater was known as the “Caterizer” when he was hitting football players for Riverhead High School. Now that he makes his bone-crunching hits for Syracuse University, he has a new nickname: “Clothesline Cater.”

That came about as a result of a clothesline tackle Cater made on Maine’s Steven Barker on a second-quarter kickoff in a 38-14 Syracuse win earlier this season.

But that isn’t the only new nickname Cater has picked up. The freshman has also been called “Cater the assassinator” and “A-gap,” a reference to Cater’s propensity for charging into the rushing lane between the center and guard.

Cater, who was the co-winner of the Carl A. Hansen Award along with his cousin, former Half Hollow Hills West Colts quarterback/free safety JeVahn Cruz, is making an impression at Syracuse. He is a backup middle linebacker and plays for every one of the Orange[‘s special teams except the punt team.

“I’m giving 120 percent,” Cater told The Riverhead News-Review in a recent phone interview. “When I first got out there, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be. I just want to prove to everybody what I can do.”

Cater gave Syracuse Coach Doug Marone an idea of what he could do when he entered the Maine game at middle linebacker late in a contest that had already been decided. That didn’t dim Cater’s enthusiasm, though. According to The Post-Standard, Cater did the following over seven plays: he assisted teammate Dan Vaughan on two tackles; knocked Maine quarterback Warren Smith out of the game on a hard, clean tackle; and sacked backup quarterback Chris Treister.

In five games, Cater has made nine tackles, seven unassisted, as well as one sack.

Cater, who said he is hitting harder than ever, has found that the college game is a different animal than what he played in high school. “It’s a lot different,” he said. “It’s more faster. You can’t really make mistakes. Running backs are so much faster and stronger.”

And then there is the thinking part of the game. Cater said studying film and taking notes on tendencies and such is like going to class for football.

Mike Owen, a former Riverhead High School player who played for Syracuse before graduating this past spring, has spoken to Cater. According to Cater, Owen, who is currently an assistant coach for the Blue Waves, went to the Maine game and saw Cater in action. Cater said, “After he saw me play that game, he said, “Keep doing what you’re doing, you’re doing real good.’ “

Syracuse won its Big East opener on Saturday, defeating South Florida, 13-9, in Tampa, Fla. That made it the first time since 1991 that Syracuse has started a season with a 4-1 record.

“The team looks real good,” Cater said. “We’re flying to the ball every day. We’re hitting hard.”

Cater raved about Syracuse, calling it a “great environment.” He said: “What I like best about playing for Syracuse is the coaches teach you every aspect. They sit down with you and they want you to learn.”

Riverhead fans can recognize Cater in the familiar No. 4 uniform, the same number he wore for the Blue Waves. He said Syracuse had that number waiting for him.

“I just love that number,” he said. “If I get that number in the NFL, I’ll wear that, too.”

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