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Syracuse’s 2014 National Signing Day: The Fizz’s Official Annual Thread

8:43p: Just finished taping our Syracuse Signing Day Sportscenter podcast. I think you’ll really enjoy it. Fitz, Sheen and Zeph are all over it, breaking down all the commitments. In six years of covering SU’s NSD for the Fizz, this has been my favorite one. You can see the evolution of how NSD has really caught hold with Orange fans. In ’09, I was sitting in a McDonald’s in South Florida banging out a post on Ri’shard Anderson because using their WiFi, seeing if we could get a few clicks from the die hards. Five years later it’s night and day, every SU site has wall-to-wall coverage. It shows the thirst for the information, and passion and expectations for SU football fans. Been a thrill to be part of it, thanks for another awesome day here on the Fizz. Stay tuned for the FizzCast on NSD. -D.A.

8:09p: Scott Shafer joined Campus Insiders to discuss his National Signing Day. How about the familiarity with Illinois, and pulling a number of talented kids from there? “I’ve recruited Chicago forever. Ever since Northern Illinois, I’ve recruited that area forever.” 

Shafer has been active on Twitter, and says it’s definitely helped him in recruiting. “It’s just another way to reach out to the kids. It’s natural to them. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s a great way to have those kids shoot me messages. It’s a lot of fun as well.” 

Denzel Ward may have made the most waves for SU on NSD. He made his announcement live, and chose the Orange over Vanderbilt and USF (see below). Is he ready for the hype that comes with his 6’9″ frame, and big expectations?

“I’m always reluctant to say anyone can come in and jump right in. We talked about that on his visit. I was blint with him. If you’re not ready let’s develop you to at the type of speed to truly enhance your opportunities after Syracuse. Sometimes you get in that recruiting mode, and people tell kids what they want to hear. If we get to that freshman camp, and have someone good enough to help us win games, then we’re gonna go ahead and suit them up and let them play.” 

The blunt honesty helped Shafer land Ward, and the ’14 class has Syracuse fans salivating at what’s next for this program. – D.A.

7:59p: Gigantic OL Denzel Ward was one of the few mysteries on this National Signing Day for Syracuse. It ended up being worth the drama for the Orange. Here’s video of his official announcement. He will seriously help protect the quarterback, and scouts are already drooling over his size for Sundays down the line.

7:51p: Not surprisingly, Florida State dominated the 2014 ACC recruiting game. Winning the BCS National Championship has a lot of perks.  One of the biggest is the influx of recruits in the coming years. Florida State has capitalized on its platform, and currently has the top recruiting class in the ACC. At the top of their class stands five-star running back Dalvin Cook and a plethora of four-star recruits like Travis Rudolph, a top 10 receiver Kain Daub, top 6 linebacker Derrick Nnadi, top 10 defensive tackle, and offensive tackle Chad Mavety, the second best junior college transfer in the nation.

Orange fans should also look out for Clemson, who spent much of last season in the national spotlight. Clemson currently has the 16th best recruiting class in the country and is built upon balanced four-star recruits. Headlined by a dual threat player, Deshaun Watson and receiver Artavis Scott, Clemson is looking for reinforcements after losing quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins.

The dark horse ACC team doing a phenomenal job this recruiting season is Virginia. The Cavs have two five-star recruits from in state: the top defensive tackle in the class Andrew Brown, and the top safety in the class Quin Blanding. Miami has also put a strong class together with the eighth-best recruiting class in the nation, including the 4th best running back in the nation and the fifth best quarterback. It’s safe to say the ACC isn’t getting any easier in 2014. – Jason Weingold

7:45p:  The population on “Dell-y Island” this past fall was always zero. No inhabitants. No survivors. Lucky for Syracuse fans, 3-star Cornerback Cordell Hudson is bringing that same defensive prowess he flashed the last four years at Largo High School in Florida to the Hill.

“Man, it feels awesome [to finally sign]. I can’t even explain how happy I am and excited I am right now. I learned that the fanbase at SU is freaking crazy! The fans are backing the football team and all other sports 100%. I love the atmosphere up there.”

Hudson commit to SU shortly after visiting the campus this past December. The Florida native said he wanted to leave the Sunshine State to play football collegiately. He’ll now begin his road to the NFL with the reigning Texas Bowl champs.

What makes Cordell so successful is not only his play on the field. As a former WR, he says that not many offensive players can fool him running routes. But off the field, the 3-star commit has already begun taking college credit courses in his hometown. He’s incredibly intelligent, and is just as excited about starting his academic career at Syracuse, in addition to his football career.

“I’d like to start my Masters degree. Hopefully I’ll finish my bachelor’s degree within two or three years. Right now I’m not 100% sure [what I want to pursue], but it’ll most likely be the engineering route or biology.”

Sounds like Dell-y Island has been engineered without many escape routes for wide receivers. – Fitz

7:35p: Steve Ishmael’s been good friends with Syracuse safety Ritchy Desir since the age of seven. The two played a year of high school ball together at Miami North Beach HS down in Florida. And now they’ll be teammates one more time for a year at Syracuse.

“Honestly he was just being as honest as possible, telling me, ‘They really want you up here. I’m not going to pressure you to do anything, but if you feel like this is the school for you, come on up.’ When I was up there, he took care of me, he took me under his wing. I really didn’t have that at any other school. I felt like that was a huge benefit.”

The 6’3” 185 lb WR decided on the Orange just a day before National Signing Day, but knew he always felt the most comfortable with SU. He told The Fizz he had a great relationship with all of SU’s coaches including George McDonald and Eric White. No other school that was on his final list (Illinois and Cincinnati) showed him as much love.

Ishmael is a speedy WR that figures to compete right away for playing time this upcoming fall. White believes that Ishmael will “shatter records” while at Syracuse.

The Miami native is happy he’ll get a crack at some of former SU star Marvin Harrison’s records – his favorite receiver growing up. That was one of the main reasons why he decided on Syracuse. He wanted to follow in Harrison’s footsteps. And now he’ll have the chance to elevate his name next to one of greats in Orange history. – Fitz

7:12p: The theme of this year’s Syracuse class should be “evolution.” Two things changed this year, and hopefully permanently. No longer is Syracuse trolling the projects or lesser known players and hoping to find diamonds in the rough. And the Orange is going well outside its normal geographic comfort zone. The heavy bulk of this class were three-star kids, and while rating services are far from an exact science, it shows the Orange ability to pluck well-regarded athletes. SU also got a solid chunk of its class from Florida (McDonald) and Illinois (Shafer, Lea), instead of relying solely on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Six years ago, the Orange had only THREE players to hail from outside the immediate NY/NJ vicinity. Today, most of the class is from elsewhere. The affiliation with the ACC is the biggest reason. The composition and roots of this coaching staff is another. In ’14, Syracuse football has clearly evolved. – D.A.

6:32p: Alin Edouard is expected to compete for the starting quarterback job alongside AJ Long, Mitch Kimble, and Austin Wilson. He is considered a top 30 dual-threat QB in this class. He may have to wait until Terrel Hunt moves on to the next part of his future. Or he and Long could put the heat on sooner than that.

The Fizz’s Austin Pollack caught up with the So-Fla dual threat QB in October about the role he could play with the Orange. At the time of his verbal commitment, he had recently decommited from the University of Miami. Edouard is a close personal friend of Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater.

Edouard brings dual-threat skills to the Orange, perhaps some characteristics like Hunt. He can pass and run, and that could lead Syracuse down the field and toward an ACC championship.  -Pollack

5:47 pm: Jalen Harvey’s relationship with DL coach Tim Daoust keyed his signing with Syracuse. The 6’2″ 302 lb. lineman has visions of winning right away. He’s from the state of Alabama, so add yet another state down South SU is putting work in. Remember his words at the start of last week. “Surprised” and “excited” by the Orange’s pitch.

“It’ feels amazing to sign. He said I was a good player and belong on a good defense. I think I rushed my decision.”

Harvey flipped his commitments twice in recent weeks, from South Alabama to Western Kentucky to Syracuse. So indeed it’s been a bit of a jumble for the Clay senior. In his talks with Scott Shafer, Harvey says, “trying to get wins and win an ACC Championship” is the obvious main goal and reason for excitement.

Tim Daoust deserves the most credit for locking Harvey up. Daoust has contributed to the Orange since 2011, and his work is really starting to take significant notice. Most of the defensive recruits have a relationship with him. Harvey is in touch with fellow DL, Kayton Samuels, about tearing up the D-Line. -Sheen

4:16 pm: After taking a leave-of-absence to go to prep school, Corey Cooper is back and set to join SU officially. Take a look at our discussion with Cooper from last year. He’s a member of a loaded receiving corps, alongside KJ Williams, Steve Ishmael and Jamal Custis.

There’s a bit of a connection between Cooper’s father and Syracuse. Cooper was a late-bloomer recruit SU was deeply looking into. As it turns out, Cooper’s dad gave the Orange serious consideration way back when he was looking at scholarship offers:

“I definitely had to give SU a look especially because of my dad. This was my dad’s second choice for college until he signed a letter of intent with UConn. But if he didn’t sign with UConn, this was his second choice. He was telling me all about it. I just wanted to take a visit and see what it was about.”

But the real significant connection Syracuse has with Cooper is his relationship with newly appointed offensive coordinator McDonald. Cooper told The Fizz him and Coach McDonald go way back.

“I knew Coach McDonald since he was at Miami. I knew him for a couple years. We established a great relationship when he was at Miami, at Arkansas, so I knew him for a couple of years. That was pretty awesome he got promoted to be offensive coordinator at Syracuse. I was just happy for him that he got that promotion. He’s a great guy. He just did an interview with me probably about an hour and a half ago just talking with my family and me. He’s a great guy and can’t wait to play for him.”

The relationship between Cooper and McDonald should only continue growing upward over the next few years. McDonald has a player in his system that he has great familiarity with, while Cooper has the possibility of seeing playing time more quickly. The departures of Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales doesn’t hurt either. Cooper is hopeful to get on the field right away:

“First, Alec (Lemon) and Marcus (Sales) were great players. They’re forces going to the next level. I think I can see immediate playing time. All I got to do is play hard, work hard at practice, and we will see what happens.”

The wideout corps. is finally getting some much-needed playmakers, and that should help the offense in a big way. -Sheen

3:03 pm: LBs Coach Clark Lea was a dominating force during the heat of summer recruiting. With the recent adds from Florida/Illinois piling in all day long, “The Genera” Lea’s contributions last summer can easily be forgotten. He reeled in three linebackers in Zaire Franklin, Colton Moskal  and Paris Bennett while classes were out of session and little football activity going on. That scenario makes it difficult to sell kids on Syracuse, better yet any school. The soft-spoken Bennett told The Fizz he and Lea constantly chat:

“My relationship with Coach Lea has been long and great. We’ve been in touch with each other since last June, just checking in with each other. He was great at the camps too.”

Just reminding all Syracuse fans that of course Shafer and McDonald are going to have the best pitches to top gun recruits today. But don’t forget the job Lea did over the summer to this point. Tim Daoust has received a lot of attention in recent weeks as well. Lea’s presence is very valuable to a staff that hasn’t been around long. Low-profile assistant coaches aren’t so unnoticed when the recruits make their decisions based on ’em. -Sheen

2:44 pm: AJ Long has to be thrilled now about the entirety of this class. The Fizz has spoke with Long numerous times about SU recruiting. He shares his strong feelings for SU on Twitter, which has quickly become a new method of recruiting power he’s taken advantage of. Long is very excited to work with cousin KJ Williams as well as recent signee Steve Ishmael. He’s very high on both receivers already. George McDonald’s recent words with SI’s Pete Thamel about designing a fast-paced offense like A&M and Oregon has to have these offensive guys juiced.

Long was never assigned the leadership role by the staff. He took it upon himself to recruit hard and invade the Twittersphere and bombard the other recruits. Naes Howard and Zaire Franklin soon joined the party. The trio is very close with recruiting coordinator Eric White which is good to hear they are comfortable to working with him. Long obviously up on campus this early means immediate competition with freshmen Austin Wilson and Mitch Kimble. A bit of a strecth, but he wants to give Terrel Hunt a run for his money, too. We’ll have to see. -Sheen

1:53 pm: The biggest get in the last decade for Syracuse football? That’s arguably KJ Williams, the lone 4-star commit and signee with the Orange. When The Fizz spoke with KJ over the summer,  he loved the idea of playing for a program that produced great receivers like Marvin Harrison and Rob Moore.

“It feels great. Some great receivers played at Syracuse. Marvin Harrison, Coach [Rob] Moore. That’s a great opportunity for me and to be up there with those guys feels really good.”

KJ’s commitment is a program game-changer. He’s attracted a ton of three-star recruits to join the ’14 class. His relationship with his cousin, already-signed AJ Long sounds promising for the near-future. AJ’s on record that he and KJ could be the best QB-QR combo in the country. Whether he runs the right route or not doesn’t really concern Williams, as he is very confident Long will find him in the open field.

What’s remarkable here is Williams wasn’t swayed by top programs towards the end of this process. He’s easily the recruit no one would’ve been surprised to see change his mind. His soft verbal seemed to have a lot meaning towards the end of last July. No need to look further. He’s ready to impress Cuse Nation. – Sheen

1:20 pm: He was the first commit to Syracuse’s 2014 recruiting class. Naes Howard had to wait close to a year to do it, but the West Genesee product finally signed on the dotted line to officially become a member of Syracuse’s football program. The 3-star power back from right here in Syracuse has waited a long time to make his dream a reality.

“It feels amazing. I’ve been waiting for that scholarship since I was about seven years old, playing pop warner. I’ve always loved Syracuse, never about any other college, it’s always been Syracuse. I didn’t care about any other school besides SU.”

Naes immediately became one of the key figures in Syracuse’s 2014 class. He bonded quickly with other commits and always maintained a positive and energetic personality. He simply became one of the leaders of the recruiting class.

“I didn’t take as being just a leader, I took it as, being a player that’s going to be playing at Syracuse and I believe every has to be a leader at some point and have to play a role someway.”

The 6’0”, 190-lb running back will also play in the secondary for Coach Shafer and the Orange in his first year and beyond. He doesn’t mind. Naes just wants to help Syracuse prove the doubters wrong.

“I want to get there, and let people know that Syracuse is not what people think it is right now. Some people already doubt us, and they don’t see what we see. But I see it clear as day, and I want people to understand what we are about.”

With his signature smile and upbeat attitude, Howard will achieve his ultimate dream of playing with the Orange this fall. – Fitz

12:50pm: Syracuse football had a monster running attack this past season. But as George McDonald proved: if you are an underclassman, you still have a shot to play. RB commit Ervin Phillips has intentions to get in the mix ASAP.

Coach McDonald loves his versatility and wants to incorporate it once Phillips arrives. The Orange was the first to offer Phillips a scholarship and he’s still very thankful for that. Back when he committed in October:

“It came to whose coaching staff I felt I was more comfortable with or where I could see myself playing with. The Syracuse coaching staff is really down to earth and creates a family atmosphere. They’re some great guys.”

It’s as simple as this. If the staff really believes in you, it isn’t kidding. Just look at the impact Brisly Estime had last year as a freshman. Obviously SU needed a little more help in the receiving game than running game, but players aren’t immediately ruled out. Sophomores Devante McFarlene and George Morris II played key roles as well. Now with Jerome Smith off to April’s NFL Draft, a spot opens up for Phillips. – Sheen

12:25 pm: Kayton Samuels has jumped aboard the 2014 class and joined the Orange. Samuels was a late commit for Syracuse after visiting this past weekend. He joins Jonathan Thomas as Georgia products who have committed to the class. Ever since Syracuse joined the ACC, the coaching staff has been opening up recruiting grounds in the South and Midwest.

A Georgia pipeline could start to be a real possibility, with seven players from the Peach State on the squad. Samuels was originally committed to Georgia State. Ball State was the other school in consideration. He brings great size to the defensive line, an area that was lacking in the class until this past week. Wayne Williams is also another player who will be joining the D-line after missing last season.

Although he is a 2-star recruit, Samuels looks to breaking into playing time early with Jay Bromley gone and John Raymon on the sidelines with an injury. – Zeph

11:50a: Aaron Roberts is a big offensive lineman – REALLY big. The 6’6”, 295 lb. OL is one of the big boys asked to fill in the holes for this ’14 class along the offensive front. The LA Salle senior hails out of Chicago, IL told The Fizz other schools really didn’t attract him after his SU offer. He plans to get involved in the offensive schemes right away: “I’m coming to compete. I’ll be a student of the game. If I have to learn from other guys, fine. They are great players.”

After veteran Sean Hickey, Syracuse really does have an open competition at the position. Roberts wants to compete not just with his teammates, but in the ACC. His other school choices couldn’t pitch that to him. Roberts is close to a SU coach in particular that assures his commitment and that he’s making a good choice.

“Coach (DeAndre) Smith a great guy. We talk about life more than football because he actually cares about me as a person. He knows my potential if I keep working hard. He tells the running backs need me to open up holes, and I can do that.”

It cannot be said enough how invaluable it is for recruits to be extra close with assistant coaches prior to committing and their arrivals up on campus. Roberts has that knitted-bond with Smith already. – Sheen

11:40a: One of the original three, 3-star linebacker Zaire Franklin calls the 2014 recruiting class “monumental” and “a movement.” “I remember when it was just me, Naes (Howard) and AJ (Long). It’s pretty surreal.” Orange recruiting coordinator Eric White was in on a group chat with all three players, according to Franklin. They chatted constantly about how to make this year’s class not one to forget. He’s also pumped to play for LBs coach “The General” Clark Lea.

The Philadelphia native was on board with Syracuse way back in June last summer. His maturity is through the roof, as he has already told The Fizz several times he chose SU for academics more than football. During his visits to campus, he stayed with junior LB Cam Lynch. Franklin praised Lynch for hosting him. He tells The Fizz meeting Lynch has made very comfortable even before coming up On the Hill.

“Getting to know him, Dyshawn, Marquis, and Marqez Hodge, it’s great to already have a bond. It’s time work. That’s the mentality. Having a relationship with them already makes it the best.”

His words should have Syracuse fans extremely excited. He believes this class can be “legendary.” The third guy on board once upon a time is now a member of a class of two dozen. – Sheen

11:30a: Chris Slayton gave Orange Nation an early Christmas present when he committed to Syracuse last December. For a while, Slayton was the only defensive line commit in the 2014 class. That would change this week when Jalen Harvey joined him in the trenches. At 6’4” and 255 pounds, Slayton brings size and quickness to a position SU has seen greatness from. Dwight Freeney and more recently Chandler Jones are just two of the famous names who have played the outside pass rusher position for the Orange. Micah Robinson and Robert Welsh will return for their senior seasons.

One of the biggest reasons Slayton chose to join the Orange was the coaches’ connection to the Midwest. There has been a big push to recruit there because of the experience that many SU coaches have to the area. Syracuse has made major inroads there and hopes to make the pipeline stronger. Slayton may not get much playing time as a freshman due to the experienced defensive ends coming back. This should give the three-star commit some time to adapt to the team and put in work for when he gets an opportunity to play. – Zeph

11:18a: A weakness in 2013, WR looks to be a strength in 2014. Joining the new ACC, the Orange had a huge problem: lack of depth at WR.  With the departure of Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales, Syracuse saw a lot of depth go. Left in the hands of Ashton Broyld, Christopher Clark, Jarrod West and Brisly Estime, the Orange never had wide receivers open downfield. Scott Schafer is trying to change that.

The Orange has received a letter of intent from highly touted wideout Adly Enoicy. He committed to Syracuse over schools like Florida, Florida State, South Carolina and USC. Also factor in the addition of stud KJ Williams, a three-star recruit who chose the Orange over Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin. Treevon Prater also officially committed this morning, and he could play either wide receiver or in the secondary.  A huge signing for the Orange was Jamal Custis, a 6’6” receiver who has the size to dominate on the outside.  The Orange also inked Corey Cooper and Steve Ishmael, two three-star recruits.

It’s clear that Schafer saw the weakness in the passing game on offense last season, and he is loading up his first full recruiting class as head coach with receivers for Terrell Hunt. – Jason Weingold

11:01a: Towering offensive lineman Denzel Ward has chosen Syracuse in a live announcement. A good day continues to get better. There weren’t many swing battles on NSD, but the Orange is winning those too. He was one of the only mysteries on the day for Syracuse. Ward’s size is what obviously stands out the most, but he’s got solid footwork and hands too. The Orange has needed help along the offensive trenches, and Ward is certainly that. He cited academic prestige as the most important factor, as well as playing time and comfort with the coaching staff. “He’s very straight up. He’s down to Earth. His guys are really honest. He was able to come into my house and make my mother feel really comfortable with him. He’ll take care of me, he’ll make sure I get that education.” Experts believe he has the size to be playing on Sundays years down the road. Ward clearly believes his academics are a major priority, he cited the sports management program as a reason to come to the Hill. He’s also a Chicago product, marking yet another Midwest win for Shafer. The first full recruiting season this coaching staff has had is paying major dividends in the places it needed to, the Midwest (Shafer) and Florida (McDonald). – D.A.

10:51a: Remember to follow us on Twitter for the latest Syracuse recruiting news today (@orangefizz).

10:34a: Chalk up Lamar Dawson as just another Midwest commitment. Scott Shafer and the coaching staff’s ties in that region have reeled in a number of solid players today, including the CB Dawson. The Chicago native is rated 3-stars and was sold on playing time. He saw a number of seniors in the secondary at SU, and went other places like Michigan State and realized just how much harder it would be to get on the field. It’s been very obvious the positions Syracuse has prioritized this NSD – secondary being one of them. The move to the ACC means a need to keep up with a lot more speed than the Big East, and cover playmakers down the field for longer. Dawson is the next player Syracuse hopes can deliver on that.

10:21a: Last winter it was Syracuse on shaky ground, dealing with recruiting uncertainty. How would the new coaching staff handle things? Would most of the established commitments flee when Marrone and co. left? Could this program win in the ACC? After a year that came up with positive answers on almost all those questions, now it’s Syracuse’s neighbors to the south which are in turmoil. Sports Illustrated writes that Kyle Flood is on the hot seat as Rutgers heads into the B1G.

“It’s all falling in on Flood entering year three. Blue-chip receiver Saeed Blacknall recently became the 11th player to de-commit from Rutgers, as his defection to Penn State reminded everyone again how bleak the future is in Piscataway. The knock on Flood is that he’s too nice, and the program misses Schiano’s iron fist. Good luck in the Big Ten, especially with an embattled athletic director, Julie Hermann, who has little experience handling football.

Possible replacements: Schiano, Lembo, Pat Narduzzi (Michigan State), Mario Cristobal (Alabama assistant), John McNulty (Titans assistant), Darren Rizzi (Dolphins assistant) and Matt Campbell (Toledo).”

10:08a: Gigantic DT Denzel Ward is one of the few plot mysteries in today’s National Signing Day for Syracuse. The nearly unthinkable 6’9″, 320 lb. Ward will decide between Syracuse, USF and Vanderbilt in about an hour. It would be a huge get for SU considering the Orange already lost big body Zeek Rodney to Wake Forest. The Chicago native could be a monster piece of bedrock on the offensive line for the Orange. Fans have been clamoring for an upgrade along the line for quite some time. He’s had a lot of fun promoting his televised decision on his Twitter page the past few days. We’ll see if the drama plays out well for the Orange. -D.A.

9:54a: For Jalen Harvey, there’s been a lot of twists and turns during his recruitment. Originally he was committed to South Alabama, but that ended. Then he was heading to Western Kentucky, but he flipped. Now he’s faxed in his LOI to Syracuse and could be one of the building blocks of the defensive line. Harvey is a big boy, standing at 6’2″, 305 pounds. His stock continued to rise throughout the winter, and his commitments steadily rose from the Sub Belt to the ACC. He might only be graded as a 2-star kid by some sites, but he has the opportunity to compete for a slot right away. Jay Bromley is gone, and John Raymon is dealing with knee surgery. The good news is Syracuse fans and the coaching staff don’t have to worry about him heading somewhere else. His letter is signed, he’s a member of the Orange. Now he can take a deep breath. The next twist is simply spring practice.

9:41a: Treevon Prater has tweeted “Syracuse nation!” – which we assume means he has faxed in his LOI. “Athlete” has become one of the buzzwords of the college football world. Athletes can play multiple positions and usually have superb athleticism. Syracuse was able to snag the verbal committment last month from “athlete” Prater.

Prater played both wide receiver and defensive back in high school and will see where the coaching staff thinks he fits best. The three-star commit once gave a verbal commitment to Western Michigan but de-committed when he visited the Hill in mid-January.

The decision where to play Prater will depend on need and ability. Syracuse currently has big numbers in wide receivers and defensive backs in the 2014 class. Two defensive back spots will open up with the departures of Keon Lyn and Ri’Shard Anderson but it will be a competitive spot with experience coming back in Brandon Reddish, Wayne Morgan and Julian Whigham.

From an ability perspective, Prater is 6’0”, 180 pounds and has a 40-time of 4.82 seconds. Prater also played quiet a bit at safety during his senior season. Prater does not have breakout speed but does have versatility to play on both sides of the ball. Options are a good thing, and so is being flexible. This is a win-win for Syracuse and Prater. – Zeph

9:28a: Running the rock was a staple of the Syracuse offense. Depth at in the backfield was a strength. The Orange would like to keep it that way. Syracuse’s leading rusher has left for the NFL, so enter Ervin Phillips and Nas Howard. Since Jerome Smith is now gone, Prince-Tyson Gulley and George Morris become the lead backs. Devante McFarlane will be getting the ball as well. But this morning Syracuse also added the LOIs of Howard from nearby West Genessee and Phillips of West Haven, CT. These two running backs will hopefully grow into the next duo, like Gulley and Morris.

Shafer’s style early on in his coaching career appears to allow young players to get some experience, with limited roles such as running back kicks and punts, and filling in for an injured player. But George McDonald has suggested he’s ready to push the accelerator to the next level on the offense, so maybe it opens up more opportunities for young names.

Howard and Phillips are the next two running backs to stack on the depth chart. Running the football has been a lynchpin of the offense for years. Why change now? – Pollack

9:08a: You want a big target at wideout for the Orange? You got one. 6’6″ WR Jamal Custis has faxed in his LOI. The Philly native  also had offers from Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Virginia, UConn, UMass, and UCF. Suddenly a program that seemed light on playmakers on the outside has a number of them, and many are over 6-feet. Quinta Funderburk and Adrian Flemming are both 6’3”. Arguably the best player in SU’s class is K.J. Williams at 6’2″, 188 pounds. Add in wideout Corey Cooper. He’s just 5’11″, but is considered a major talent. Clearly the staff knew it had to add speed and athleticism on both sides of the football to consistently compete in the faster ACC. Custis and co. are a great place to start.

9:01a:  We have mentioned all recruiting season how linebackers are a major focus of Syracuse’s 2014 class. The Fizz had the chance to ask one of those targets, Lake Zurich, Ill. commit LB Colton Moskal about it, who committed to the Orange back in June.

Moskal mentioned SU’s academics and family atmosphere as main reasons he liked Syracuse over other schools he received offers from such as Wisconsin, Minnesota and Cincinnati. He went on to say how his relationship with some of the recruits who already committed to the Orange played a major role in his decision. Syracuse has also made a big push in the past year to recruit and build a pipeline to the Midwest. Shafer and his staff have many ties to that area of the country.

Coaches including Lea, Bullough, and Lester all were crucial in persuading the three-star commit to play on the Hill. Moskal made a point to mention how intelligence and speed are two factors that are vital to his game. Playing time could be at a premium with SU bringing back Cameron Lynch and Dyshawn Davis, while this class has four linebackers with the addition of Jonathan Thomas over the weekend. But Syracuse fans don’t mind. The more the merrier in a conference where defensive playmakers are the only way a team can compete for league titles. – Zeph

8:51a: Remember to follow us on Twitter for the latest Syracuse recruiting news today (@orangefizz).

8:47a: Jonathan Thomas is one of the “Fantastic Four” – the quartet of late commits over the weekend for Syracuse. He already adds to a strong linebacking corps. The Fizz chatted with Jonathan as he got ready for National Signing Day. Thomas loved his time up on the Hill when he made his visit. It didn’t hurt that Syracuse had an epic contest against Duke, and the surreal atmosphere around that.

Thomas also mentioned how he loves the defensive minded team. “Defense wins games honestly. Without defense you don’t have a team. I love that [Coach Shafer] is defensive minded.” He also likes that despite the competition of three other linebackers in his class, Syracuse is heavily recruiting his position. “Without good linebackers, you can’t stop the run. Linebackers have to help with the coverage game too. I think it’s the most important position on the defensive side.”

Since preparing to join the ACC, there have been several pushes by this coaching staff to build pipelines in areas that Syracuse has not necessarily explored before. Georgia is starting to be one of those places. George Morris and Cameron Lynch are two players on the SU roster from Georgia who have made a name for themselves in recent years, something Thomas is also looking to do early on. Thomas was a late commit to his class, but with his talent, better late than never. – Zeph

8:37a: Syracuse has two new quarterbacks ready to be serious competitors in the shadow of Terrel Hunt. Mitch Kimble and Austin Wilson are already on the roster, but A.J. Long and Alin Edouard are going to run fast after the spotlight and the QB spot on this roster.

While Edouard and Long are just getting their feet wet, we’ve already seen Scott Shafer likes to encourage players fighting for a spot. He gives everyone a fair shot. He doesn’t automatically reward seniority. Drew Allen won the starting nod, but he had a quick hook.

Both Long and Edouard have serious talent, and the back stories of both prove what type of mettle they have. When Syracuse watched Ryan Nassib graduate, the program was at a loss under center. But after a breakout season from Hunt, and the addition of these two signal callers, Syracuse’s QB situation suddenly looks pretty good. – Pollack

8:27a: Whether Alin Edouard ever succeeds on the football field isn’t really the biggest victory in his life. Becoming a productive member of society is. A fantastic profile by Syracuse.com illuminates the type of road it was just to get to Syracuse. No lights in his home. Beatings from his father. Disciplinary issues when he was young. “When you struggle a lot it makes you think so much. Sometimes you want to cry. But crying isn’t enough. Action is enough. I cried so many times, and it helps, but your actions will prove everything.” 

He comes in as a quarterback, although with as raw as he is, it may be difficult to beat out A.J. Long and Terrel Hunt over the next few years. But as an athlete, he has skills. And if his upbringing is any indication, he’ll be a terrific representative for Syracuse football. He was originally committed to Miami, and had interest from Louisville. After a rough early life, his coaches and teachers have nothing but glowing words about the type of person he is. Exciting to see a person like that become part of the Orange family. -D.A.

8:17a: Colton Moskal is straight out of Scott Shafer’s central casting. Hard-nosed, punishing linebacker, who looks like he walked into the gym after bailing wheat in an Illinois field. The Midwest used to be a dead zone for Syracuse, but Shafer’s staff has so many ties there, now it’s become a very important recruiting ground. He’s one of a number of 3-star recruits for SU in this class, and continues to be part of the stockpile of LB talent now on the Hill. One can only imagine Shafer’s post-game comments about Moskal if he ever made a game-winning stuff at the line, or forced a fumble in the fourth quarter. The coach might not be able to walk out of the room without headbutting the podium. -D.A.

8:09a: What’s there not to like about Syracuse collecting defensive backs and picking from the Sunshine State? Corner Antwan Cordy is one of the new members of the Orange, and he can fly. Cordy clocks in at a 4.45 40-yard dash, and had Tennessee and Kentucky on his final list as well. Syracuse knocking off a pair of SEC schools sounds pretty good. It’s more evidence that McDonald’s footprints in Florida are helping immensely, and that the staff realizes it needs more speed to compete in the ACC. It was a late commitment from Cordy, and a great job by SU’s staff to reel in some important names over the final days.

7:51a: When defensive back Rodney Williams committed to the Orange back in the summer, the question was asked: Is he the next Shamarko? He was a two-sport star in high school, playing both football and basketball. And brings a ball-hawking ability that Shamarko Thomas made famous at Syracuse (and the dreads as well). Never hurts to be able to pluck talent out of New Jersey either. He’s returning from two seasons cut short by injury, which scared off some bigger schools. But he’s been rigorous in his rehab, and believes he’ll be ready to go, 100%, when Syracuse opens up camp. If so, the Orange may have one of the bigger steals of NSD. Williams has said Shafer wants him to blitz from the safety position, although others believe he’ll start as a nickel back. Either way, a play-maker in the secondary is exactly what the Orange needs. -D.A.

7:42a: The LOI’s are rolling in, but three of Syracuse’s most vital commitments have already made their way to campus, and university housing to begin their lives as college kids.

AJ Long, Corey Cooper, and Wayne Williams will have already adapted to the college life by the time preseason and the season begin. Should be a nice head start for the trio. All three of them could potentially play huge roles moving forward for the Orange. Could Long take over the QB duties and be the long term solution under center? Could his favorite target be Cooper? Is Williams going to bring that BKLN swag to the defensive line? They’ll be working with the coaching staff and getting physically fit for the next level.

Terrel Hunt is the incumbent starter, but could Long compete for the position in his first camp? He has talked incessantly since giving his verbal about making Syracuse a winning program and a serious contender.

Coming to Syracuse early should help get this Big Three acclimated quickly, and hopefully set them up for immediate impact moving forward. Orange fans know these kids want to help the program right away, and not take anything for granted. – Pollack

7:33a: Jason Cabinda is now officially a member of the Nittany Lions. While the Orange pulled Zaire Franklin away from Penn State, Syracuse lost Cabinda during the recruiting season. Over the summer he had committed to Syracuse. He was always interested in PSU, but it appeared the Lions wouldn’t have room. Then, PSU linebacker commit Jared Wangler switched to Michigan after Brady Hoke offered him. Penn State was looking at a very thin LB crew, so Bill O’Brien offered Cabinda. While things were a little touch-and-go when O’Brien left for the NFL, Cabinda ended up remaining solid to his commitment. So if you’re scoring at home: a Michigan offer led to a Penn State offer which led to a Syracuse decommit. -D.A.

7:23a: Zaire Franklin has faxed in his LOI, and had many suitors. One of them being Penn State. The Philly product eventually was turned off by the Nittany Lions’ ultimatum. And one school’s trash is another’s treasure (not that Zaire would ever be considered trash). This was another huge get by coach Clark Lea. Franklin has big-time potential. And how about how this young LB corps. might end up looking down the road? But as much credit as the coaching staff should get, his teammates gets some love too. Because of the outpouring of support he saw from fellow SU recruits on social media, Franklin was pulled toward the Hill. He’s also been steadfast in his priority of academics as well, a big reason he felt comfortable in the ACC. Syracuse just reeled in a potential team leader for years. -D.A.

7:17a: LB Parris Bennett is one of the first Orange to send in his official LOI. The fax machine is ringing on the Hill. Back in June we told you about Paris. The Detroit product pledged his verbal over the summer because of his relationship with Coach Clark Lea. While the ACC affiliation has clearly helped in the Southeast, Scott Shafer’s roots in the Midwest are also paying dividends for the Orange. Tip of the cap to Bennett, who said Orange seven months ago and stayed true. -D.A.

7:10a: Syracuse fans, welcome to your National Signing Day homebase all day long. As is our Orange Fizz tradition, we have our entire staff posting all day on everything concerning Syracuse football and its rivals. Will have breaking news, updated class rankings, player profiles, and instant analysis of all the day’s events. Outside of Saturdays, it’s the most exciting day of the year for many college football fans. Today will mark another true beginning of tremendous optimism for Orange fans. This will be the first full offseason the current coaching staff has had together. This is the first full class ace recruiter George McDonald will have anchored. This is the first class completely built within a team already in the ACC. What will today hold? Hold on, and find out.

Keep clicking back all day long for our updates. Also follow us on Twitter (@orangefizz). We’ll tweet out every time we have new information. Thanks for reading. We’re just getting started. Ready… set…  -D.A.

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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