Early Look: Incoming Syracuse Football Recruits That Could See Action in ’14

A few standouts from Scott Shafer’s first recruiting class could see immediate playing time this season.

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 WilliamsIncoming 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 himIn 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 

50 Comments on this Post

  1. Dr. bill

    Outside of wide receiver, I hope none of these freshman see the field this year, especially not at offensive line. These guys need a year to get bigger and stronger. We are deep at wide receiver, at least number wise. Talent not class status should win out….so let the best players play…..but why waste a year if only minimal playing time exists?

  2. I believe both KJ and Ismael will get substantial time on the field with balls being thrown in their direction. Just how well they treat those passes will determine how much more time they will get out there I expect Cornelius and Flemming as well as West will improve but I doubt they will be able to match the downfield speed theses two freshmen bring to the offense.Flemming is another WR to watch closely with Funderburke being the achiever we always hoped he would be. If Acosta can generate any meaningful production with the TEs the team may be able put more points on the board and create some threat to the elite of the ACC.

  3. Dr bill I disagree with you!! SU needs to play its best freshmen this year and down the road too. That’s how you build a program up. Players of today want the McD’s way to the playing field=quick service!! They just might for go a better program for instant play. Its seen nationally from coast to coast!!

    Fleming is a bust so play the Freshmen and see what they can do.

    Nice to see the pig skins showing up again. We’ll see if it will last for another week of no info on SUFB!!


  4. Yeah Terry I agree…I hear KJ was promised a chance to get immediate PT but its not as wise for OL unless there 5 star talent…mostly everyone on the lines needs SC at least a yr before getting going on the field eso OL where I agree with Dr Bill!But we need to acclimate this young talent for play in the ACC and other P5 type games.Looking forward to see what Ron or Malone think.

  5. Wow as soon as a FB article appears its buried in no time by talk about next years hoops squad!?!No wonder everyone looks at us as a BB school.Terry was right about turning the ship around with this overwhelming perception by HSFB star’s about coming here….I hope HCSS is aware and on top of this situation.

  6. @Russell Dangerfield;

    The one thing that I noticed last season were the amount of teams that were playing “TRUE FRESHMEN” in their games. Both Terry and I discussed in depth Syracuse getting on board and doing the same. I’m a strong believer if a kid comes here to play and is physically and mentally ready to play the game,then I feel the kid should be playing no matter what.

    There is a defensive lineman who plays for Don Bosco who stands 6’9″ and weighed 285 lbs as a junior. If he decides to come to Syracuse to play using Dr. Bills philosophy about freshamen playing the game,this kid wouldn’t have a chance.

    The kids coming out of high school are big and strong and are ready to play the game. That’s why I have a hard time understanding why all of these 4* athletes from NYS pick other schools instead of Syracuse where they could come in and start immediately.

    I totally agree with Terry on this.

  7. @Russell Dangerfield;

    When talking to the current players about this years squad,without hesitation all of them say that the class of 2014 is loaded with talent and can’t wait for them to get on campus and start practicing with the rest of the team and “this year’s team is going to be better than last years team”.

    Listening to them speak tells me that some of those freshmen will play and we’re going to improve on last years record. Is another Bowl Game/trip in the works? Only time will tell.

    I see that we’re after Jordan Fox a 6’3″ OLB from New Jersey.

  8. Russ to me that’s “ALL” freshmen coming here and even walk-ons too. Incoming freshmen OL might be as good as SU has now. Play them and others will see that and they(2015 class) might come too. This BS about depth is important to but depth is built by playing time and winning so SU and HCSS go for the gusto an play more Freshmen!!

    Ron/Russ do not forget how HCSS and staff kind of broke our hearts last year with all the top talent offered and only one “4 star” showing at LOI time!! Yes SU has offered NJ and such. But that’s down the road and this years team and who HCSS plays(freshmen) will really make the difference. Lets see what happens??

    I see there’s talk about the Buffalo Jills moving to a new place or better yet moving out of NYS. Interesting?????????????

  9. Ron,OL is unique and DT to a lesser degree…no matter how talented !! But in our case maybe a hot fire will make the strongest steel down the “Line” lol.@Ron,don’t worry if I miss a couple of day’s here soon as my GF’s mother is very ill and in bad shape.In the 80s I used to call her ma.I was just put on watch.I’m OK but I worry about those left to deal w/a loss!!

  10. Terry,4 stars are NEVER gonna be common here but many very good programs succeed with well coached 3 star guys!! Lets face it,,,were not Bama or Texas let alone ND but outside ND most of those schools FB players are not really students in most case’s.

  11. It is not only talent and strength. Like Broyld and Brisly, great athletes can be limited by their ability to absorb the playbook. Secondly other teams playing freshmen means nothing other than they didn’t have an upperclassman good enough to beat out the freshman’s talent level. You start the best kid whatever class he is and that may or may not be the most athletically gifted one based on his retention rate of the pb.

  12. Dr. bill

    I don’t know how I could have been more clear in my post: The last statement read:Talent , not class should win out….let the best players play. In my opinion, the type kids Cuse is able to recruit are not big and strong enough to play right away as freshman like some of the 4 and 5 star talent other schools are getting. Look at the the 4 and 5 star kids, generally, they are bigger and stronger than the 2 −3 star kids. We have a 4 star and a top tiered 3 star WR coming in, they should be able to compete for playing time….we will see about the others…..Go Cuse

  13. Malone

    I agree with what most if not all are saying here. Talent should win out. I think at some of the special teams or skill positions, talent trumps playbook too. Bris is maybe the best example of that. As a PR he changed the bowl game and I don’t think that return was playbook or taught. I like the idea of WRs getting time with a more seasoned QB (I know Terry doesn’t like Hunt, but he’s still more experienced than any of the others we have). It is possible to start a Frosh QB, but its rare. Houston and PSU did well with it, but it is rare. Young receivers with experienced QB become experienced receivers with a young QB. I guess that lowers the ceiling, but you can catch lightning in a bottle (McNabb with Harrison). I am less inclined to believe it is possible with linemen, especially O-line, but I guess anything is possible. I don’t think this class will do that even with Ward and Roberts, but I am sure it has happened in our past.

    On anther note, one that Ron and I have chatted on repeatedly, I heard from a birdy that the IPF should begin in earnst May 1 and construction is likely to last between 6 and 8 months. That puts it into December. Just in time for OVs and signing day? Maybe we can use it for bowl prep (see what I did there?)

  14. zetabeta5

    My dear Dr. Bill…..Not wanting to play a freshman lineman who is 6’9 and weighs 320 pounds until he gets bigger and stronger seems to be a little too cautious when he probably already is bigger than anyone in the entire NFL….As someone who played running back, I will tell you that it would have been very difficult to find me cutting behind this very large person…..You might not endorse it…but he is the answer to a running back’s prayer….

  15. I go by the Skytop parking lot every day that I work and I can’t believe the amount of material’s that’s being stock piled there. Truly amazing.

    @Russell Dangerfield; I got another response from DA today,he’s waiting for you to email him so he can connect us for some chats away from this website.

    I hope Russell that things go well for your GF’s mother. I know it’s a tough situation.

  16. Ron, I just email OF in care of DA?

  17. Ron,clarify it for me and I’ll clear it but give me a day or so because of the dire situation posted above. Sounds like fun.

  18. Finally its nice to listen to FB talk with interesting commentary and info from fans from Syracuse to Scotch Plains-FW,NJ passing the news!!Where is our bright young Texas fan CuseDontLuse? School?Miss the bright kids viewpoints!

  19. Malone

    Ron/Russ, IPF info is very accurate. My birdy is very well informed. I think we are lagging a bit on the recruiting front and that has me a bit concerned. I think we are still a few seasons from having this program running smooth on all cylinders. I think the window to get in with the best talent is moving up and I also think it is important for the university to reinvest the ACC money back into the program, even if at a disproportionate percentage (80%?) Coaches need money, and facilities needs constant expansion. I think football should be the focus for facilities especially. Hoops will need to increase coaches salaries if they want to keep the staff they have now.

  20. Hey Ron I guess DA doesn’t want to hear from me-huh???

    IPF should have stared by before now?? I still wonder about the administrations feeling about SUBB and the SUFB programs?? No doubt there is an issue. SUFB alums should be placing that boot in the right place. Melo center showed that things can get done smartly and quicker than this IPF!! no matter what the birdies think!!

    Look my feelings about freshmen play is all about building the program!! Fleming is an example of that!! He has shown very LITTLE. Start the Freshman instead or at least 2/3’s the time than him!! I still feel the OL is not up to par either. If its a toss-up put the FR in. Let them learn and grow!! Plus you have a fresh players in and out regularly. The only problem is fine tuning the plays to be effective.

    Malone my birdies also have said that Hunt looks better-sort of. But in reality improvement should be real easy on how he played last year!! But I also hear his touch passes are slightly better, but still far off what a top DIV 1 team should have. Always playing a FRQB is an gamble, but now those long throws ARE NOT there at all. Yes Hunt is a bull running the rock, but one shot on a knee throws that out the window!! Plus any fool knows the teams coming up knows HUNT is HUNT and will stoop him better than last year. They are not stupid!! HCSS has to play the BEST FR or FRRS as much as HUNT this spring and fall practices!!

    Ron I think that monster OL kid from NJ is going elsewhere!! SORRY!! Plus NYS/LI talent again this year is very limited for 2015!! 5 or 6 at the best!!

  21. Terry,news is sometimes a little slow up here outside NY metro? Gonzalez played us AND RU and committed verbally to the molesters!?!?!What’s going on in these family’s minds? They let them off the hook too easy!!They needed the DP IMO? A beast of an OT we lost out on. Im hoping HCSS has “stain” as the kids say….we’ll need it!!

  22. Russ in the game of recruiting!! LOL!!

  23. @Russell Dangerfield;

    Go to the home page and where it says,contact us,click on that button get DA’s e-mail address and send him an e-mail. He said that he would send us both an e-mail at the same time so that we can contact each other in th future.


    Look kiddo,I’m with you on this subject. If the upper classmen don’t want to give it their all to try and win the game,then put the under classmen in to see what they do. I started screaming that back when GROB’s team went 0-11 and haven’t stopped yet.


    I agree that we should start paying these coaches more money. The ACC guaranteed Syracuse $23/25 million per year. I wonder how good the other teams are doing generating revenue for the school? I’m sure that when the school releases the amount of money the football team made last season,we’re going to see that they made money.


    I can only hope that this 6’9″ 285 lb giant of a kid/man that plays the DL for Don Bosco comes to Syracuse in the fall. I honestly believe that we’re going to get a few players from NJ this year.

    Isn’t it great to start talking football with some of your friends?

  24. Dr. bill

    Zetabeta5…We have 6-9- 320 pound freshman lineman? Really??. Just because you are big…doesn’t mean you are strong..or can play. Don’t take what has been said out of context…best players play…period!!! Our freshman who don’t play…there is a reason for it!!

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