With just over a week to go until National Signing Day, Syracuse still has finishing touches to put on its recruiting class. Doug Marrone has had some tough luck, and the end of the season collapse couldn’t have done him any favors in selling the program to hopeful commits. The Orange still has an opportunity to fill some major holes with its remaining scholarships, and round out one of Marrone’s better classes. Here’s my three biggest thrills and disappointments of Syracuse’s recruiting efforts so far.
1) The ACC move is already paying dividends
One constant theme that keeps popping up in talking with recruits and their coaches, especially in Southern states, is the enticement of playing in the ACC. The Orange already landed a couple of Georgia natives (highlighted by confident RB George Morris), and Florida, Carolina and Virginia players have openly spoke about how much that could effect their decision. When battling with UConn for a player like Wayne Morgan, an enormous hook is the ability to play at Tallahassee, Death Valley and Blacksburg on national TV. SU has just scratched the surface of using this as a recruiting tool.
2) Tyrone Wheatley is “The Real Closer”
The Fizz nicknamed the SU recruiting heavyweight “The Beast” after landing 4-star TE Sugar Bear Thompson. Break out a list of the biggest Orange commits this year, and odds are Wheat closed the deal. He has helped extend the reach of SU into Michigan and the upper Midwest. He was the main reason Ohio State commit Boom Perkins had SU on his list for so long. He is the most respected name on that staff by recruits and coaches. Wheat has an incredible ability to develop relationships, earn trust of players, and sell the best of Syracuse. Whatever he’s being paid, double it. He has been invaluable for this recruiting class.
3) Ability to survive no bowl game
It may seem like lipstick on a pig when a school plays in the Compass, Liberty or Beef o’ Brady’s Bowl, but you’d be surprised by how much it wins over high school athletes. Playing in a postseason game is like seeing your name flashing in neon lights, and when more than half the Big East gets an invite, being left out really hurts the perception of your program for an 18-year-old. Give Marrone and staff credit. This won’t be a shockingly high-rated class, but it will be well-rounded and have a handful of big potential impact guys. SU preached family, stability and building something special, and commits bought in despite the Orange falling back to the bottom of the league. Marrone sincerely believes in the university and has an earnest passion for what SU can make a student achieve personally. That can’t be faked, and has helped him stabilize a recruiting class in the teeth of an awful collapse.
1) No New York State big fish.
The closest SU will come to landing one of the biggest names in the Empire State will be NYC’s Morgan. The Brooklyn product is a terrific addition, no doubt. But two more monsters of the recruiting trail left for greener pastures this season. Buffalo’s Chad Kelly showed cursory interest in SU, but decided on Clemson. The Monster of Rochester, Jarron Jones, never seemed to feel too strongly about the Orange and chose Notre Dame. Losing kids to elite programs like these is nothing to hang your head about. But when I spoke with Marrone at Big East Media Day about landing a 5-star kid in-state, he hinted at frustration these big names (along with Ishaq Williams) didn’t have the fortitude to be the first huge name to start building back the program.
“We have to get them first from our state, before we can go outside our state to get those 5-star kids. Someone is going to have to make that commitment. People are going to hit him with ‘how can you go to the Big East?’ Hopefully one of these days, one of these young men will step up and say, ‘we’re going to Syracuse University because I want a great education, I want to stay in-state, I want to play and I want to win a championship’. Easy said, hard to do publicly for these kids nowadays because there’s so much pressure on them to go visit the top 5 schools in the country.”
2) No quarterback recruited in ’12
The only fresh face on the depth chart under center this spring will be Ashton Broyld. This staff must believe it has the successor to Ryan Nassib on the roster, because it’s hard to believe they’d hand the keys to a true freshman or JUCO transfer in the class of ’13. No one has distanced himself from the group of backups, and it should’ve been an easy sell to recruits there was an open competition to start at quarterback their second season on the Hill. SU needs someone to step up this spring so it’s not awarded by default.
3) Loyalty comes back to bite Marrone
It’s one of his most impressive characteristics, but I continually wonder if it hurt him this recruiting season. Over the summer, a whirlwind of verbal commitments came in for the Orange. Unfortunately, many of them were from lightly-ranked players who didn’t have better options. Well regarded MLB Tyrone Neal and RB Lakeith Walls seemed to suddenly be dropped by SU, even though they were being recruited by schools such as Nebraska, West Virginia, N.C. State and Louisville. The Orange nabbed talent at both RB and LB positions, so maybe it was simply a numbers crunch. But with the scholarships that opened up from Chandler Jones, Dorian Graham, Adam Harris, and Tyree Smallwood, it may have suited SU better to keep all its doors open. Recruiting analysts wondered if the Orange had a steady plan, or was changing on the fly. Hopefully, the SU staff gains some experience from this for the future.