Doug Marrone and Syracuse football received some much needed good news Wednesday, as three-star running back George Morris verbally committed to the Orange. Morris had become a huge priority once Boom Perkins scratched SU altogether, and the Orange gets a much-needed boost in the running back department. Morris joins DeVante McFarlane as the two new commitments in the SU backfield next season. Earlier this month, The Fizz stacked the odds of Syracuse landing Morris at about 80%.
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Syracuse had been dealing with a string of frustration since before Halloween. Its last win came on October 21st, a five-game losing streak ended the season, and questions surrounded a team that once again was home for the holidays. Would any high-profile recruits, including a player like Morris, choose a program that has slid back to a 5-win team in the nation’s worst BCS conference? Morris had offers from Utah and Illinois, but his longstanding relationship with Tyrone Wheatley (sound familiar?) pulled him north.
Recently The Fizz profiled the final push for Morris and spoke to his head coach. Here were some of the bullet points on SU’s newest addition:
- 1,045 yards rushing yards and 17 TDs. Another 30 catches and around 400 yards receiving.
- Led the county in touchdowns.
- “Morris is lethal in the passing game and a very versatile player. George makes quick cuts and doesn’t hesitate in the backfield. The ’10 season was his first playing running back, and his coach said his improvement from year one to year two was tenfold.”
- Head Coach Todd Wofford: “Coach Wheatley has done an excellent job of building the relationship with George. He came down about a month ago and visited the whole day and watched one of our games.”
- According to Wofford, the Mountaineers win may have cemented the commitment: “Every time (SU is) on TV he is checking them out. One of the games that stood out was the West Virginia game. He came back to school talking about that game a lot and about how many carries the back had, and just was real pumped up about that.”
Morris’ commitment is a rare ray of sunshine for SU football fans over the past month. One of SU’s best players, Phillip Thomas, was suspended for an entire calendar year without explanation. Speculation surrounded his punishment and many believe his days playing football for Syracuse have ended.
Defensive coaches Jimmy Brumbaugh and Dan Conley were both reportedly fired, but that hasn’t been verified by anyone on record. The venerable Conley, a Syracuse alum, has been with SU longer than any other member of the coaching staff. In the past, he helped convert both Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue from running backs to All-Big East linebackers. He also turned a patchwork linebacking unit into one of the team’s strongest groups in ’11, so his dismissal would be a surprise.
In a locker room with questionable unity at the moment, senior leaders are at a premium. So the loss of fifth-year senior captain-to-be Adam Harris, who went from walk-on transfer to captain, sustaining a career-killing concussion against Cincinnati is extraordinarily difficult.
Chandler Jones and Shamarko Thomas, two of SU’s best players, are now testing their NFL Draft stock. Dorian Graham, far from the team’s best wide receiver, inexplicably thinks he belongs in the NFL, and has reportedly decided to skip his senior season to enter the draft.
Keon Lyn rattled off some cryptic tweets suggesting he might transfer, but later stepped back from those statements. However, he’s injured, and needs offseason surgery.
Student-athletes that SU depends on heavily, not only as players, but as leaders, are either out the door already or putting on their coats. Marrone may have underestimated the number of scholarships exiting the program, and consequently spurned a couple of quality recruits unnecessarily.
Which finally brings us back to Morris. A lot of disappointment has befallen Syracuse football over the last two months, and the Georgia running back’s commitment is just the jolt in morale Orange fans need. It’s a run-heavy offense without a clear feature back to take over for Antwon Bailey. The need for talent in the backfield has been an overwhelming priority for the Orange.
Unlike a year ago when optimism abounded for Marrone’s program, this winter serious doubt has crept in. Luckily, as we ring in 2012 Morris’ commitment is encouraging news to toast your glass to.
Posted: Andrew Kanell