Syracuse fans should be warming up to former Pitt head coach Todd Graham. In less than an hour’s span Monday evening, coveted 3-star DT Myles Hilliard of Ohio decommitted from the Panthers and subsequently announced his commitment to the Orange. The Fizz spoke with Myles, who had given his verbal to Pitt in June, moments after his decision. The 6’6” 260 lb. lineman was stoked about coming to SU, and confessed Graham’s sudden departure to Arizona State in December was a huge factor in his change just two days before National Signing Day.
“It really did effect the situation a lot. It morphed it. [Coach Graham & Assistant Head Coach Randolph] recruited me, and I felt safe with them. When Graham quit, the staff went with him, and I had no idea who my coach was, or what kind of offense or defense we were going to run. I didn’t know anything, and it wasn’t a great situation for myself.”
Orange Nation definitely owes Graham a new pair of orange Ray-Ban shades for the gift he has just delivered to this program. Graham was pilloried for his impersonal exit after just one season, and SU is one of the beneficiaries. This is enormous news for Doug Marone on the heels of losing DT Harold Brantley a day earlier to Mizzou. Hilliard visited the Hill two weekends ago, and said he is happy with his switch. Myles admitted it was fate.
“It was bound to happen. Syracuse was actually the first letter I received. Coach Wheatley came up to [Bedford HS] about 5 or 6 times. He was very persistent, and I felt like I was part of their plan. When you know, you know. It feels great.”
That’s right, “Wheat the Beast” at it again. But really, the entire SU coaching staff deserves the credit on this one, especially Marrone. Myles was blown away by SU’s efforts down the final stretch, and his head coach at Bedford, Sean Williams, was adamant that SU wanted him more.
“Syracuse had been talking with him the whole time [since Graham’s departure]. I will say if this is a recruiting battle, Syracuse flat out beat Pittsburgh on this one. Coach Marrone has been down to Myles’ house twice; he’s come visited Myles at school. And to see 4 or 5 Syracuse coaches walking through the building 4 or 5 times in a two week period, that let’s you know somebody wants you.”
Marrone’s efforts to land the lineman went above and beyond. Myles said he wanted to come to SU because of the respect and love he got from Marrone. He told The Fizz he was blown away during one of his most recent interactions with The Dougie.
“He opened his home to me. He opened up Syracuse to me. When I visited, he came up and hugged me. No handshake. I thought this guy must really care about his players, and he doesn’t even know me yet. It showed that he really cared.”
If Marrone turns into a great coach at SU, this will go on his plaque. Hilliard loves Marrone’s “down to Earth and straightforward approach” to coaching, and can’t wait to don the Orange next season.
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Hilliard is a clutch pickup the day before Signing Day, and adds depth to a defensive line that has been stacked this offseason. Keep in mind Myles is only 17. Yes, 6’6” 260 lbs. and still not even legal. Williams calls the pass-rushing mammoth a “baby.” A baby with endless potential. Myles played both offensive tackle and defensive tackle at Bedford this past season, and straight up “Michael-Oher”-ed people. He is also a very bright and intelligent kid, with plans of majoring in Communications at Newhouse. He’ll be bringing all of that energy and smarts to Syracuse, where he’ll finally be able to play with his buddy and Ohio native, DE Micah Robinson.
“Micah is great a person. We’ve always stayed close with each other, and he can teach me a lot and I can learn a lot from him.”
Whether it’s Brandon Reddish selling Wayne Morgan, or Robinson helping land Hilliard, Syracuse has gotten big help from its own players on the recruiting front. Speaks well to the program and the enthusiasm of players inside it. Hilliard will be holding his presser at Bedford tomorrow to officially announce his commitment to Syracuse.
Marrone has come under fire for the way the season ended and some recruiting losses along the way. But let’s tip the cap to him on this one. Syracuse is still battling for recruits mere hours before NSD. The trade off was definitely worth it. Graham gets all his sunshine in Arizona, and SU picks up Hilliard. A player the Orange didn’t just want, but deserved.
Posted: Kevin Fitzgerald