Doug Marrone has done something he’s never attempted before: Offer a scholarship to a high school sophomore. Quarterback DeShone Kizer from Toledo, OH is the class of ’14, and Syracuse is hot on his trail. It’s easy to see why SU broke the mold for Kizer. His physical potential is oozing at 6’5”, 207 lbs. The signal caller has pro height already and will undoubtedly add 15-20 pounds by the time he graduates. He’s a dual-threat player who moves fluidly in the pocket and is elusive in the open field. Kizer also does something Ryan Nassib’s typically incapable of – showing great touch on his passes. He simply looks like a natural quarterback, and he has two more seasons left before he could land on the Hill. The Orange have a pretty strong selling point as well – the starting quarterback job is wide open after Nassib graduates.
We’re exactly one month removed from SU’s most successful National Signing Day under Marrone, but the school is in a tricky spot. Without high-end facilities, a reputation for recent success, or a pipeline of big-time talent, SU has to get creative on the recruiting trail. The Orange staff has to develop relationships early, build a significant trust with the player, and take some fliers on kids who are not quite BCS-ready.
Well, staking your program to a recruit early? That’s certainly the idea behind offering a sophomore. Wayne Morgan was the biggest recruit in this year’s class, and the key was SU’s early interest and persistence throughout. Morgan told The Fizz SU being first in was a huge factor in pushing away late offers from schools like Penn State, and choosing the Orange over Connecticut. Julian Whigham was in the same boat. He had verbally committed to SU in the summer and wouldn’t even take an unofficial visit to hometown Miami (FL) after the Canes offered late. Josh Manley also spurned Mizzou late because of his longstanding relationship with the coaches.
SU has to get in early on Kizer because this is going to be a fiercely fought recruiting battle. He was just named to 247Sports All-America team for the class of 2014. Kizer already has another offer from hometown Toledo as well. And, yes, Ohio State and Urban Meyer have shown interest. A Google search for “DeShone Kizer football recruit” returns a lot of results for Buckeyes message boards.
This is going to be a tough sell for Marrone if (when) the big boys get involved. Ideally, SU’s can string together a few bowls in the next two years, take advantage of the ACC move, and close the gap between it and programs like OSU. Syracuse can never be a blue-chip football factory. But it can be a respected school on the gridiron, and begin pulling in higher-end talent.
The early offer to Kizer will hopefully have him pondering this question in 23 months: Do I choose the big name program or the school that has believed in me since I was a sophomore?
The formula isn’t foolproof. For as much as it worked for Morgan, Whigham and Manley, Indiana runningback Boom Perkins spurned the Orange twice for bigger schools that came in late. But this is what SU has to do as it climbs up the football food chain. Marrone has told The Fizz how crucial it is to convince that first 5-star recruit to join the Orange. It creates momentum and a domino effect. Will it work? Talk to you in two years.
Posted: Craig Hoffman