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A.J. Long Tells Fizz Syracuse Is Overhauling Recruiting for ACC Competition

LehighValleyLive.com

Scott Shafer and company have been awfully busy on the recruiting front since the last time The Fizz caught up with 2014 QB commit AJ Long. Most of the names Long has mentioned the past few months have been targeted by the SU coaching staff. As it turns out, those marquee players have jumped on the Orange bandwagon.

Since the end of April, Syracuse has reeled in six more commits to the 2014 recruiting class, with four in the month of June and two in July. The most recent is Long’s 4-star WR cousin, KJ Williams, who received an SU offer thanks to Long’s persuasion. He told The Fizz that he and KJ one day dreamed of playing college football together. Now, there’s a chance to make that dream a reality in the Carrier Dome.

Shafer’s mentioned his ideology for the ACC several times: HARD-NOSED. That’s been his mindset all summer, really since he’s been named the head coach of SU. Whether it’s recruiting or putting together training camp depth charts, Shafer is looking for something extra out of his guys. Long believes the staff is doing some real digging when it comes to finding the right players for the new conference. He said it was a “huge relief” for him personally to finally convince Williams to become a part of that:

“They don’t have the players they want to play in the ACC. We’re the type of kids that they want and fit their system. So it’s good to know that he’s the first one we get. He’s going to help us so much more, [since], as everybody says, he was the most highly recruited person that we’ve brought in the last couple of years.”

KJ’s commitment is arguably the biggest get for Syracuse football in over a decade. Ranked 154th overall by Rivals and 23rd best at wide receiver in the country, Williams brings a bright spotlight to SU’s class. What should be mentioned is he pledged with a “soft verbal,” so there’s plenty that can change with Pennsylvania’s 2nd  best WR. Although he’s not as involved as the other commits on social media or vocal when it comes to interviews, Williams has joined the shaping bond between the guys in this class, according to Long. AJ  is pumped about the unity and mindset of the guys already, and they’ve yet to even play a single down to together and sign with Syracuse:

“It’s awesome. We talk to each other on a daily basis. Daily might even be short, because we’re talking to each other every minute of every day with the group message we have on Facebook. We’ll talk about anything from recruiting to anything about everyday life, to who’s the best basketball player, to who is the best at video games. You can feel already this class has something special. Not just on the football field, but off the football field. By the way we’ve talked, I’ve felt like I’ve know these guys all my life. It’s awesome to see what we’re building.”

From the forming LB corpse in Colton Moskal and Zaire Franklin, to fresher names such as Jason Cabinda and Rodney Williams, this class, as Long has already said, has something special already. Their constant communication has been constantly discussed, specifically regarding the “Twitter Mafia” Long has engaged. But somewhere down the road, these talks should pay off in training camp or workouts at Manley Fieldhouse, and most importantly, during games at the Dome against ACC powerhouses (like Clemson this coming season).

As Long preached a few months ago, fine-tuning his footwork remains his top priority this summer before his senior stint at Friendship Christian. He’s a smaller quarterback, often comparing himself to Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. Throwing on the run is a skill he’s comfortable with, but establishing something in particular could make him great at the college level:

“Right now it’s my footwork, and more specifically with my footwork, I have to keep a wide base. When my base is wide I complete my throws 10 out of 10 times. When my base isn’t solid I only complete 7 out of 10. That’s been the focus of my summer workouts.”

So there comes good and bad when throwing without a wide base and Long understands that already, which is a great sign. He threw just one interception last season as a junior, but realizes the competitive nature of the next level will require more of him. Earlier this summer, he participated in the Elite 11 competition in Ohio:

“It was fun to be in. It’s a great experience, and a chance not many people get. I’m very thankful for that. The guys I was playing with I’ve seen since I was a freshman. That camp is a great camp to go to especially for a QB.”

Things are only starting for Long. He’s had an eventful summer personally with camps and training hard for the coming season. One thing he certainly doesn’t mind adding to his busy plate is recruiting, better yet “hard-nosed” recruiting, to make the class of 2014 a class no one will forget.

Posted: Brendan Glasheen

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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