When it comes to recruiting, Syracuse football coach Dino Babers isn’t one to procrastinate.
Today, Babers and company offered a scholarship to highly-touted and tremendously-named safety Litchfield Ajavon, a member of the Class of 2019. Wipe off your glasses and check your calendar; no, that wasn’t a typo. Ajavon wouldn’t be wearing Orange for another two and a half years — but when you’re chasing guys like this, you can never begin the pursuit too early.
Babers is lining up in the race for Ajavon’s services next to a pair of blue-blood programs. Ajavon has only two other offers: Michigan and Georgia (those pesky Wolverines are no strangers to chasing SU safety targets). SU’s coaching staff is stepping into the ring with a couple of heavy hitters — and he’s doing it a few hours before the bell signals the beginning of the first round.
This move isn’t unprecedented, by any means, and offering early by no means guarantees a signature from anyone, let alone a player of Ajavon’s caliber. But it certainly can’t hurt, and it may well end up as the deciding factor between Syracuse and a school that shows up to the party fashionably late (or, in this case, on time).
“It’s so surreal,” Ajavon told the Fizz via Twitter direct message. “I never one day thought that I would have this happen to me. It’s truly a blessing to have an opportunity like hits. Being recruited by big Division I institutions so early proves to me that I have a lot of work to do and that I can be great if I get [that] work done. This also means that anything can happen to anyone. You just have to seize your opportunity when you have it.”
Ajavon doesn’t yet own a ranking from the top recruiting sites, but his sophomore highlight tape reveals an über-talented player. The Alexandria, VA, native is a heat-seeking missile; the first play on the reel sees Ajavon curl around the offensive line on a safety blitz and obliterate an unfortunate quarterback with a collision that would make the old producers of ESPN’s discontinued segment Jacked Up salivate.
Ajavon believes his best traits are his speed, physicality, and “ability to make tackles anywhere on the field.”
The player he models his game after? Kam Chancellor, a tenacious, boom-laying safety who plays for the Seattle Seahawks, has qualified for multiple Pro Bowls, and whose nickname is “Bam Bam.”
On the next snap, Ajavon’s opponents are on the doorstep of the end zone. The team runs a sweep, and the running back nearly carries two defenders across the goal line. But once the poor kid has reached the one-inch line, Ajavon hunts him down and delivers the finishing blow; the ball out squirts out, and Ajavon’s Episcopal HS teammates pounce on it.
Ajavon’s nose for the ball extends to the passing game, as well. He reads the eyes of opposing and moves into prime interception position — and once the 6-foot, 185-pound athlete has the ball in his hands, watch out. Ajavon’s second position is running back, and he flashes that skillset after ripping the rock away from the opponent.
Ajavon told the Fizz that Syracuse running backs coach Mike Hart visited him Thursday, and that was the first contact he’s had with Babers’ staff. Although Hart oversees a position that Ajavon could potentially fill, the high school sophomore expects to spend the majority of his college career on the other side of the ball.
“Safety,” Ajavon says. “That’s the position I love.”
There’s a reason why Ajavon has received offers from two powerhouse programs already: he’s an extremely promising ballhawk who could terrorize college quarterbacks from the back line for years. National Signing Day — for 2017, that is — is on the horizon, but it’s never too early to get your foot in the door with a potential star. Nice work, Dino Babers.