The recruiting race for Buffalo quarterback Chad Kelly seems to be nearing the third turn, and Syracuse is still right in the thick of it. In fact, the Orange will get a chance to roll out the red carpet for the prized signal caller this weekend, when Kelly visits the SU campus.
Kelly will be in town for the Upstate-Downstate Football Classic on Sunday, according to his high school coach Dennis Gilbert. Two of Kelly‚Äôs St. Joe‚Äôs teammates, Nick Hall and Dominic Bargnesi, are members of the Upstate roster. This will be the quarterback‚Äôs third up-close look at Syracuse, following an unofficial visit to the Dome last season and an appearance at SU‚Äôs spring practice in Rochester.
The Fizz has praised The Classic as a great recruiting tool for Doug Marrone in the past, and now it indirectly brings the quarterback prospect who has Orange fans drooling to The Hill at a crucial time in his recruiting process. This extra chance to talk to SU coaches and see the campus and facilities could provide an extra edge for The Dougie and sidekick Nathaniel Hackett in this high-profile recruiting battle. With seven Syracuse scholarship commits playing in the game, the chance to see, and presumably socialize with, some of the talent he‚Äôd potentially be playing with could also help the Orange cause.
Kelly has trimmed his list of schools to seven: Alabama, Buffalo, Clemson, Florida State, Michigan State, Purdue, and Syracuse. While the¬†Fizz recently analyzed how Clemson appears to be the leading candidate for Kelly‚Äôs services, Gilbert says the race is still anyones to win.
‚ÄúNo, [there is no leader], I‚Äôd say it‚Äôs pretty open. ¬†There are obviously different things at each school that are appealing to him and his family. ¬†Obviously, you need to get your feet on the ground and see a program and campus up close before making this decision; It‚Äôs a big decision and all the schools offer unique things that he‚Äôs looking for.‚Äù
After his trip to Syracuse this weekend, Kelly will visit Alabama one week later. After that trip Kelly will have been on every campus in his top seven. Once his round of visits is complete, the list will probably be trimmed down once more before a final decision is made, but things could start to move quickly, according to Coach Gilbert.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôll decide before our season starts, it could be as early as the end of this month. He‚Äôs enjoyed the process, and it could go on for a few more months, but I know he wants to make the decision early so he can focus on his senior year, both academically and on the field. And it‚Äôs only fair to the schools involved. They‚Äôd rather get the commitment early, and if you know where you‚Äôre going to go, why wait?‚Äù
If Kelly does end up wearing Syracuse Orange, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett might be in for a pay raise. Coach Gilbert certainly would agree:
‚ÄúI‚Äôll tell you one thing, I love Coach Hackett. He‚Äôs a heck of a guy and one of the most honest coaches I‚Äôve dealt with. He‚Äôs really done a heck of a job.‚Äù
Chad shared the same sentiments with ESPN last week:
“I visited there in my sophomore year and they were interested. Coach [Nathaniel] Hackett, their offensive coordinator, is supposedly the next big-time coach, according to my uncle. It’s close to home, and I feel like they are heading to the top of the Big East. Lots of great quarterbacks, like Donovan McNabb, came from the program.”
Hackett and Syracuse will get another chance to impress their prize recruit this weekend. Here‚Äôs hoping they make it count.
Posted: Steve Neikam