You can use a lot of words to describe Scott Shafer’s stint as Syracuse’s head football coach, but long is not one of them. Shafer only got three years as a head coach in college football before SU gave him the can, which means most of the players in his first full recruiting class are still at Syracuse. Shafer may not have been the best head coach, but when you look at what Shafer’s first class has brought to the field for the Orange you realize Dino Babers has some pretty big shoes to fill.
Syracuse’s recruiting class of 2014 (the first full recruiting cycle of Shafer’s tenure) has a number of similarities to the 2017 class. Both have local running back commits; West Genesee’s Naesean Howard in ’14 and Fayetteville-Manlius’ Eric Coley in ’17. Each class has a player with “game-changing” potential. KJ Williams earned a four-star rating from 24/7 Sports’ composite rankings in 2014, but academic problems landed him at East Mississippi Community College instead of in Syracuse. For Babers, Tommy DeVito is that diamond Syracuse found in the rough.
According to 24/7 Sports, Syracuse’s 2014 class was No. 50 overall and No. 10 in the ACC. The 2017 class is No. 57 nationally and 12th in the conference but has a higher average player rating than the 2014 class. What the 2014 class has already done on the field is what makes its resume. The 2014 class brought of today’s best players to SU. Both Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett came out of the class, both of who surpassed 100 tackles last season and were the Orange’s top two tacklers in 2016. On offense, Syracuse signed Steve Ishmael and Erv Phillips. After Amba Etta-Tawo, that pair led SU in receiving this season. The Orange even landed kicker Cole Murphy in 2014 even though he was just a walk-on at the time.
After looking at Scott Shafer’s 2014 class, the most important thing to know about the class of 2017 is that there is no way to know. Shafer’s class got Syracuse Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett, but neither were among the top five rated players in the class at the time. And don’t forget, the quarterbacks of that class (AJ Long and Alin Edouard) didn’t pan out. Today is a big day for college football and the thousands of players signing letters of intent, but it isn’t when championships are won. Some players who were recruited as prodigal sons don’t pan out, and other walk-ons steal the show. Shafer’s 2014 class wasn’t anything special, but three years later it’s shown its value to Syracuse football.