Scott Shafer’s first official recruiting class has a lot of potential and includes players that could realistically see playing time during their freshman season. This class is heavy in offensive lineman and receivers but also has some serious talent on the defensive side of the ball. Offensive lineman Aaron Roberts and Denzel Ward are two incoming freshman that could be blocking for George Morris II and Terrel Hunt next season. Receivers KJ Williams and Steve Ishmael should feature in the SU passing game. Zaire Franklin also has an opportunity to get reps at middle linebacker for the Orange.
Shafer’s ties to Illinois helped him land two massive offense linemen in Roberts and Ward. Shafer coached at both Northern Illinois and the University of Illinois and still has connections in the area that helped him bring in these two highly coveted players. Center Macky MacPherson is the only graduate of an offensive line that that propelled Syracuse to finish fourth in the ACC in rushing. There is plenty of depth at those positions. That being said, the sheer size of these two freshmen means they will definitely be competing for a spot on the line in preseason. Roberts is 6’6″, 295 pounds and Denzel Ward is 6’9″, 320 pounds. Roberts echoed this in his interview with the Fizz claiming, “I’m coming to compete”. Experts say Ward, who was not committed until National Signing Day, could play on Sundays in the future.
Also on offense, Syracuse landed its first 4-star recruit since before the Doug Marrone era in receiver KJ Williams. Incoming freshman Steve Ishmael is also a clear talent at wide out. Similarly to the offensive line, SU has a lot of depth at wide receiver going into next season. Ashton Broyld, Brisley Estime, Jarrod West and Jeremiah Kobena all return after playing significant roles for the Orange last year. The only two graduate to Syracuse’s wide receiving corps is wide receiver Christopher Clark. Clark finished with 36 receptions and three touchdowns last year. Both Williams and Ishmael will compete to replace Clark in the SU offense due to their size and skill. The two recruits are 6’2″ compared to the 5’11″ Clark. Offensive coordinator George McDonald has not shied away from using freshman wide receivers in the past, just look at Estime last season. This bodes well for both wide outs. There are certainly many players vying for a limited number of spots but the pure talent of Williams and Ishmael is enough for them to compete to catch balls for SU next season.
Defensively, recruit Zaire Franklin could play inside linebacker for the Orange. The 6’0’’, 200-pound defender is not only an immense talent, he is mature beyond his years and truly understands and appreciates the investment Scott Shafer has made in him. In his interview with the Fizz, Franklin made it clear that he is excited to begin his SU career but also extremely fortunate to be attending a school like Syracuse. Syracuse needs to find a replacement for influential middle linebacker Marquis Spruill. Spruill had nine tackles against a talented Clemson offense and followed that performance with a 10-tackle game against NC State. One of the Orange’s many outside linebackers could come play in the middle in an attempt to replace Spruill but it is still too early to tell Shafer’s plans. If he elects to keep everyone in their natural positions then Zaire Franklin only has Luke Arciniega to compete with. Whatever Scott Shafer decides to do he knows he has some freshman that have the skills to perform in the ACC.
Posted by: Connor Morrissette