Credit Syracuse and Doug Marrone for still being in the Chad Kelly Sweepstakes until the very bitter end. Three years ago, this was a program stuck under a boulder, suffocated to near death under the weight of incompetence and losing. The Groobers Error had created an atmosphere of intense negativity over four years, the likes of which we had never experienced as Orange Nation. Syracuse hung a scarlet and orange “A” for apathy around Otto’s neck.
Because the climb back up the mountain has been so swift (bowl win in year two?), the faith in The Dougie so complete, it’s easy for SU fans to want it all. Clearly, we’re not delusional. No one thinks Syracuse is going to all of a sudden become the TCU of the Big East (although, now with the Horned Frogs in the Big East we’ll have to change that metaphor). But the next step in creating a Northeastern football force, like SU last enjoyed during the McNabb Era, is by locking down a few stud recruits – especially one in Western New York.
Which brings us to Kelly. The cold, hard truth is the blue-chip signal-caller with the big arm and NFL Hall of Fame bloodlines is likely going to choose Clemson or Alabama Thursday at 5:00p in a news conference back up in Buffalo. And once again, Syracuse fans will wonder when it’s their turn to celebrate reeling in one of the big boys. After the Ishaq drama, the Kevin McReynolds’ tease, and the David Perkins’ last-minute escape, Orange Nation desperately wants to be on the winning end of a top-flight recruiting battle. Yeah, it’s nice to beat out Rutgers and Pitt to a kid. But when do we run (and win) with the big dogs?
And while the chips look stacked against SU once again for Kelly, we should give The Dougie credit even before the final decision. Syracuse made the final list of choices for the quarterback and when The Fizz spoke to him at the Upstate/Downstate Classic he seemed sincerely excited about the Orange and its coaching staff.
“Coach Marrone, Coach Hackett, I probably have the best relationship with them out of any of the coaches I’ve talked to. Coach Hackett, he’s awesome man; making me laugh all the time and everything. He took great care of us today, Coach Marrone did too. It was just great. I’m happy to be here and thankful for everything that’s happened.”
What stood out to Kelly in his process with Syracuse?
“I’d probably say my relationship with the coaches. They definitely put themselves high on the list for sure, today was a great visit just got to know more and more people and plus the players, not every place I got visit with the players but talking to them sitting with em right now, they’re pretty sweet.”
While Syracuse is busy trying to raise money to build facilities to rival the elite of the Big East, Kelly is traveling through a part of the country right now with two seasons: Football and Spring Football. Alabama competes for National Championships. Clemson eats and breathes pigskin. Syracuse is just a few years removed from one-win seasons and national punch lines.
It’ll be an enormous upset victory if Kelly chooses Syracuse on Thursday afternoon. And while SU is past crawling, it still needs to walk before it can run. Give Kelly and his family credit. This won’t be an in-season distraction or a National Signing Day ESPNU bonanza. They’ve done their due diligence. Whittled down the list. Taken the visits and will make a decision at their school in the middle of the summer. A nod of the cap to The Dougie that Syracuse isn’t only still in this thing, but expected to be there and not just a fly swatted away early in the process. Unfortunately, it’s just still a little too early for Syracuse to win that race just yet.