Doug Marrone has the SU football program rolling in the right direction, but to take the next step and become a Big East power the Orange now has to reel in top-tier New York State prospects. The Dougie has already put Syracuse at the center of the NYS high school football universe and strengthened the New York/New Jersey pipeline. Solid talents like Brandon Reddish, Ashton Broyld and Tyree Smallwood are staying in-state. But SU has missed out on big-named NY guys like the powerful Ishaq Williams and the lesser-publicized Dominique Easley. Both five-star recruits in-state slipped through the Orange fingers.
Even before Marrone, New York products Mike Hart and Ray Rice also never found their way to the Hill. Hitting on one of those two could have sparked life in the program during the dark ages of Syracuse football. Rice, who initially committed to Syracuse, was a star for Rutgers and helped put the program on the map. He had monster years for the Scarlet Knights and transitioned them from the laughing stock of the Big East to an 11-win team. Hart grew up in Syracuse and finished with over 5,000 career rushing yards for Michigan and was one of the best backs in the country for four years.
For the 2012 recruiting class, New York has once again produced a couple highly-touted players the ‘Cuse is after. SU is already has an uphill climb on Rochester’s Jarron James. The behemoth defensive lineman has verbally committed to Penn State. Although his “soft verbal” is not binding, many signs point toward Jones playing in Happy Valley. Erasmus Hall’s (Brooklyn) Wayne Morgan is another sought-after recruit who has offers from Michigan, Alabama, Penn State and Rutgers, as well as Syracuse. The cornerback is rumored to be leaning towards Michigan and Rutgers. Potentially another miss for the Orange.
The Fizz has been hot on the trail of St.Joseph’s (Buffalo) quarterback Chad Kelly. The four-star recruit has narrowed his school choices down to seven and Syracuse is on that list. Kelly has the star power to resurrect this Syracuse team. SU seems like a good fit for Chad; it’s close to home, has a family-like atmosphere and the Orange has the talent to go to a BCS bowl right away playing the weak Big East conference. Having Kelly would be enormous for the Orange and Marrone would be wise to put all his eggs in this basket to do whatever it takes to land the QB.
However, getting Kelly to the Hill is easier said than done. Other schools on his list include Alabama, Florida State and Clemson. Competing against the likes of these national powerhouses is no small task. Schools such as ‘Bama live and breathe football, play in front of 90,000 fans and are coming off a recent national championship.
How can SU compete with that? The Orange has to prove last year wasn’t a fluke and convince kids it’s back on the rise and a consistent bowl team. Winning cures a lot and is also contagious. Once the victories start piling up, fans will pack the Dome again and the Loud House can again be used as a selling point to land big time recruits. The program needs to also overhaul its facilities to compete with the rest of the top teams in the Big East. Landing star recruits is crucial if Syracuse wants to be considered a top football program again. And when SU finally catches a top talent, the gates will open wider and more big named recruits will begin either finding their way to upstate New York or hopefully staying there.