Doug Marrone has publicly made it a priority to use his New York City roots, buddy up with the high school coaches within the Empire State, and keep the best talent within these borders. Unfortunately, we have yet to see the big pay off. His most touted recruit from last year was Brandon Reddish, who barely saw the field as a freshman despite a brutal secondary begging for someone to step up. It doesn’t necessarily mean Reddish was overrated, but we haven’t see enough of Reddish to judge him yet.
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The other major New York recruit was the state’s best high school player in ’10, Ashton Broyld. But he never even made it to campus, nevertheless on the field. We can only hope Broyld is headed for SU this spring. Tyree Smallwood was supposed to be a gamebreaking running back from Cornwall, NY. But his murky ’11 recently left him de-committing from SU.
What about this recruiting class? ESPN’s rankings have Chad Kelly, Jarron Jones and Wayne Morgan as the top 3 players in the state. The Orange were in Kelly’s final group of schools before he ultimately chose Clemson, but some think SU was only in the race as a favor to Nathaniel Hackett. Jones, the Monster from Rochester, eliminated the Orange before making visits and eventually chose Notre Dame. Sound familiar? That was the same decision of last year’s #1 player from NY, Ishaq Williams. Ishaq had SU in his final three, but many believed it was merely a courtesy to his parents alum. Morgan appears to be leaning strongly towards the Orange, but has an official to UConn later this month.
In ESPN’s top players from New York, the first SU commit is 10th on that list – Poncho Barnwell. This is not entirely negative. The Empire State is not known to produce high end football talent, so plucking players from Florida, New Jersey and other states might equate to better athletes. But you certainly want to own your state, especially if Syracuse is “New York’s College Team.” 9th on ESPN’s list is August Wolf, who committed to Duke. Yikes.
We know rankings can be misleading. Chandler Jones was the best player in the program, is a projected 3rd round NFL pick, and was only a 2-star recruit. ESPN is also only one set of rankings. But there is some value you can usually take from these numbers. SU prides itself on recruiting New York State (and specifically the Big Apple), but has only 1 of the top 10 players in the state (2 in the top 11). Marrone must know that’s not good enough.
New Jersey’s prep field are filled with much higher profile recruits, unfortunately SU is nowhere to be found on that list either. Syracuse used to grab terrific talent from the Garden State as recently as 10 years ago. But Rutgers ascension has changed that. The highest rated Orange recruit from Jersey, according to ESPN, is #39, DT Marcus Coleman. Crazy Eyes Schiano has 3 of the top 10, and usually has a roster dominated by in-state kids.
We have to remember, this is still all a process. The program is still moving in the right direction, even if this season was a step back. Last year wasn’t supposed to happen. Marrone turned a dumpster fire into a bowl win by Year 2. Morgan is a bonafide 4-star prospect who’s scouting report reads like Phillip Thomas’. He’s a ball-hawking safety who’s a great open-field tackler, and can provide support in the run game. Pair him with Ritchy Desir and the Orange all of a sudden has tandem standout safeties.
Morgan is the must-get guy for Marrone right now. Because SU has lost so much in-state talent, the pressure to land NY’s best remaining prospect is growing by the day. Morgan won’t likely commit until Signing Day. The holidays may be over, but let’s hope The Dougie gets a 4-star safety for Fizz-mas.
Posted: Craig Hoffman