After Syracuse was left without Ebenezer Ogundeko or Laray Smith last night a common refrain from Orange Nation has been the uncertainty around Doug Marrone scared off both. While pass rusher extraordinaire Ebo chose Clemson on national television, the speedy running back Smith delayed his decision without explanation. Marrone’s NFL interviews may have slightly affected Ogundeko, but almost definitely did Smith.
For Ebo, Clemson was always considered the strong front runner. The Tigers are a perennial ACC contender, one of the most exciting teams in the nation to watch, and are competing for BCS bowls. While Ogundeko’s reasoning included proximity to his home in Brooklyn seems a bit silly, how do you compete with the aura of Death Valley? Yes, many of Ebo’s buddies had committed to SU (including close friend Gus Edwards). And even he admitted his official to the Hill was fantastic. But the feeling among recruiting insiders was that Syracuse was going to have to pull off a major upset to grab Ebo. Put it at about a 35% chance. The 65% won.
Could Marrone’s NFL news have affected Ebo? Of course. But even had Marrone come out last week and said he’s not going anywhere, the odds were overwhelmingly in favor of Ebenezer choosing Clemson. This is not to say Syracuse wasn’t a legitimate contender. It was. SU has clearly ascended, winning two bowl games in three years, and become a hot destination for kids of the five boroughs. Unlike the Ishaq, Jarron Jones and Chad Kelly decisions, SU had a legitimate shot at Ebo. So maybe smoke surrounding Marrone was the final log on the fire. But the guess here is Ebo goes Clemson no matter what Marrone had said.
As for Smith, it seems likely he delayed at least in part because of the coaching situation. Which program of his finalists is in the best position to success? Tennessee is now an afterthought in the SEC, a place where even the Louisville coach isn’t interested. Purdue has been a non-bowl team in four of the last six years, and just got smashed by Oklahoma State in the postseason 58-14. UConn is a program without a home. Syracuse has been seen as the clear front runner for Laray for weeks now. For him to delay his decision last night seems to speak to Marrone’s dalliance with the NFL.
As long as Marrone stays at SU, expect Smith to commit to the Orange. There’s a slew of New York City players that are already on the Hill, and more to come with this class. Syracuse is in a position to enter the ACC and be successful. There’s a momentum for this program right now. Should Marrone leave for the pros, it’s anyone’s guess for Smith. Although the promotion of Scott Shafer, which The Fizz suggested last week if Marrone did leave, would likely keep enough consistency within the program to reel in most if not all of the existing verbals.
There are some critics on the message boards who wonder if Shaun Williams, Ishaq’s dad, is steering players away from Syracuse. I don’t believe that’s the case. Shaun is a proud SU alum. Ishaq essentially had Syracuse as a finalist with Penn State and Notre Dame simply as a favor to the program. While Shaun tells is straight, I believe he is an asset to these young men and wishes they would all attend SU. But he’s not about to put his own interests above these players’ and demand they join the Orange.
Unfortunately, Syracuse loses out on Ebo and still must wait on Laray. But unless Marrone decided to leave for the money of the NFL, SU is simply in a waiting pattern and will eventually land Smith.