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The Fizz’s 2015 Syracuse Football Signing Day Thread

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12:45am: Team Fizz just finished recording and posting the annual National Signing Day SportsCenter Special. Sheen, Connor, Zeph, AP and Nathan all united tonight to provide their detailed reactions to NSD15. Take a listen to a jam-packed podcast: -BG

9:45pm: The Fizz just talked to DE Jake Pickard about joining Syracuse over Michigan and Wisconsin. Pickard is one of the major prizes in the 2015 class. He managed to say no to Jim Harbaugh (woah).

Pickard mentioned how the distance from home was a big factor for him when deciding. In regards to the program, Pickard says he loved the coaching staff and remains optimist about next season despite witnessing a rough year in 2014.

“I truly, truly think we can turn this program around.”

Pickard is looking to improve on his technique early in his freshman year. He calls himself a “big body,” but mentioned how he is eager to learn from the coaching staff.

Listen to Zephan Mayell talk to Jake Pickard about joining the Orange. -ZM

9:07pm: Georgia’s Tyler Cross sat down to talk with The Fizz after keeping his commitment to the Orange. When asked about a possible switch to Wake Forest or Georgia State before sending in his letter of intent, Cross said he was not seriously considering either school despite taking visits to both recently.

Cross also spoke very highly of defensive line coach Tim Daoust, who recruited him throughout the process. “Tim Daoust, my defensive line coach, is such a great person to be around. I think that – well I don’t think, I believe – that he will be the person who will take me where I want to go,” said Cross. Daoust was considering leaving Syracuse to become the defensive coordinator for Pittsburgh but ultimately stayed.

Listen to Connor Morrissette talk with Tyler Cross about his decision.

8:53pm: Georgia DB Kielan Whitner spoke with The Fizz’s Connor Morrissette earlier today. A safety out of Lawrenceville, Whitner committed to the Orange just three days ago, after originally pledging to Appalachian State.

Listen to Kielan Whitner’s NSD15 FizzCast here:
Whitner informs The Fizz as to why he flipped, as well as what it means to him to finally be an official member of the Syracuse family.
With only five safeties expected to be on the Orange roster next season, Whitner could have an opportunity to get time on the field as a freshman. The departure of safety Derrell Eskridge to the NFL Draft calls for undefined roles in some ways next season. Whitner explained what the opportunity would mean for him during the recruiting process. -ND
8:41pm: Pennsylvania’s Amir Ealey plans to be a “game changer” at defensive line for Syracuse once he arrives on campus. The 3-star DE signed with the Orange early this morning.

Ealey gave former ACC foe Maryland a look at his services a week after officially visiting the Orange. Since the beginning, though, arguably PA’s second best defensive end has visions of making SU the landing spot for players from the Keystone State.

“There’s a couple of us from Pennsylvania, Jamal Custis, Zaire Franklin. We’re building a PA Pipeline. I’m trying to get my boy here next year.”

            Listen to Amir Ealey’s NSD15 FizzCast with Brendan Glasheen here.

That would be Naseir Upshur, a 2016 4-star TE/DE from Philadelphia. So we constantly speak on NYC and Florida pipelines. Ealey makes a valid point that we need to look out for groups to flock to the Hill from PA. Interesting stuff.

Ealey can’t wait to go to war with the rest of the defense. He also praised Coach Daoust and mentioned he was “one of the major reasons” for Ealey to agree on signing. -BG

8:30pm: Troy Henderson is another member of the Syracuse recruiting class. The 6’1″ 215 pound linebacker from Ohio said he is excited to further his football career at Syracuse. The Fizz’s Connor Morrissette sat down with Henderson to talk about what it means for him to bring his Ohio state championship to Syracuse next year.

“I’m just blessed that we finished our goal,” Henderson said. “It’s a great feeling to finish your high school career on top.”

Henderson said he feels like he made the right choice coming to Syracuse and the decision was more definite once he made his visit to The Hill.

Click here to listen to Henderson’s full interview with Morrissette. -AP

8:00pm: Syracuse got more help for the defense. Defensive end Qaadir Sheppard from New Rochelle, N.Y. is one of the new members of the Syracuse defense. Sheppard, a 6’3″ three-star recruit, signed his Letter of Intent for Syracuse at around 7:30 this morning and is the fourth best recruit in New York State, according to Sheppard was heavily recruited in the northeast. He received offers from ACC rival Boston College. He also had offers from UConn, UMass, and Central Florida.

The Fizz’s Austin Pollack caught up with Sheppard this evening and he said he fell in love with the family atmosphere at Syracuse. The Orange has talent on the defensive line, but underclassmen do tend to get some playing time early on in their collegiate career, and Sheppard noted that was another reason for his heavy interest in wearing orange and blue.

Stay with The Fizz for the rest of National Signing Day to hear from the recruits, as well as the entire 2015 NSD Special with the Fizz staff. -AP

7:00pm: Offensive lineman Cody Conway fell in love with the Carrier Dome and Syracuse after his visit back in April. He decided it was the place for him as soon as he left campus. Conway says he brings some serious athleticism to the offensive line, which will need a lot of help with the loss of upperclassmen.

Conway said the opportunity to play early in his college career is one reason he decided to sign with Syracuse. Click here to listen to The Fizz’s Austin Pollack talk to Conway about his commitment.

4:40pm: Scott Shafer press conference –  At the end of the biggest recruiting day of the season, Scott Shafer addressed the media.

This wasn’t the best of stress relievers, but on National Signing Day there’s little free time, and Shafer was eager to tell reporters about all of the players in Syracuse’s 2015 recruiting class who signed their letters of intent today.

“Our focus going into to this season was filling the needs,” said Shafer in his opening remarks. He went on to say that those needs started with the offensive and defensive lines. The Orange definitely filled those needs. The team has more linemen commit (7 on the defensive line and 5 on the offensive line) than any at other position.

Shafer also mentioned that the team focused a lot on the player’s academics. “We wanted to find kids with intelligence,” said Coach. He brought up that out of the Orange’s 25 commits, 23 of them had a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Defensive end was one of the most difficult positions for the Orange to recruit this year, and Shafer expanded on that, saying “the [defensive line] is in a lot of ways the toughest position to recruit because everyone’s looking for them.” The Orange lost defensive linemen Keivonnis Davis and Dana Levine in the last week, but in that same time grabbed Jake Pickard and re-confirmed the commitment of Stephen Clark.

Overall, Shafer said that he looked forward to seeing all of the players in the class get on the field next fall, and thanked his coaching staff for all the hard work that they put in. -ND

2:55pm: Anthony Giudice is the latest member of Syracuse’s 2015 recruiting class to talk with the Fizz. The defensive tackle said signing with the Orange felt unbelievable. Giudice went on to discuss why defensive line coach Tim Daoust wanted to bring him in, “He liked my motor and how I played relentlessly. He liked how I played all over the field; we talked about how every play I would just come out and give it 100 percent and he knows that he’ll get that from me.”

When asked about competing against the seven other defensive linemen in the class, Giudice said that he can only worry about himself. He finished the interview talking about how excited he is to play in the new practice facility.

Listen to the complete Anthony Giudice NSD interview right here. –CM

2:40pm: Former Syracuse commit Keivonnis Davis flipped his verbal commit from Syracuse to Oregon State a few weeks ago, but has now made his commitment final – but not with either team. The defensive end from the Miami area has officially signed on the dotted line with the University of Florida.

This is George McDonald’s territory. He was the South Florida go-to guy for recruiting but since he left for NC State, Syracuse is without his connections to that region, which has some of the top recruits in the country. When Davis had his verbal commitment at Oregon State, that was a sign that the McDonald departure may have played a bigger role than people thought because the decommits came so quickly.

In total, Syracuse has lost commitments from seven players. At least half of those were McDonald targets. Perhaps this McDonald departure is hurting the Orange more than expected. -AP

1:58pm: Tough to imagine how he declined opportunities to play in the SEC. But Steven Clark wanted more than a storied program.

The defensive tackle from Guntersville, Alabama decided to stick with Syracuse last week instead of highly considering offers from Florida and Ole Miss. Clark tells The Fizz what the decision came down to:

The family atmosphere at Syracuse felt better than other places.”

            Listen to Steven’s Clark NSD15 FizzCast with Brendan Glasheen here.  

If Clark had gone to Florida, he most likely would’ve been stuck along the offensive line. That’s not what he wanted. He gets the chance to suit up under Tim Daoust and Chuck Bullough, plus build chemistry with the rest of the line.

“We’ll be a tighter brotherhood when we get into our junior and senior year, stronger and faster. We’ll be killing it in the ACC with our d-line.”


1:15pm: While stars and rating for recruits are totally subjective, the Orange has to be happy with how their new recruiting class is stacking up on paper.  According to 247sports, the Class of 2015’s average recruit is rated an 82, nearly the highest average rating in the last ten years. Since 2005, only one recruiting class has had a higher aggregate score, last season’s.  However, last season’s average of an 83 was heavily inflated by wide receiver KJ Williams, who is no longer with the team.  This year is headlined by running back Dontae Strickland and safety Marquise Blair.

SU’s worst class in the last six years was the one from 2009.  Rated just a 78, it must have surprised scouts four years later.  Players like Justin Pugh and Shamarko Thomas, who were the lowest rated in the class, ended up making the NFL, proving how subjective the rankings are.

The incoming class consists of 20 three-star recruits and just five two-star recruits, as rated by 247sports.  Brandon Ginnetti, who is delaying his enrollment until next January, is also a three-star recruit.  Rivals, on the other hand, rates only 13 of the 25 signees as three-star players.  The rest are two-star guys.

What makes this incoming class special is the immediate chance they will have to make a difference.  Coming off a failure of a season, Syracuse certainly brought in some talent that will have a unique opportunity to contribute to the team immediately. -JW

12:15pm: Bravo to SU assistant coach Tim Daoust for doing Yeoman’s work formulating a monstrous defensive line. The Orange has eight total d-linemen to add to this class: three DTs and five DEs.

There were rumors Daoust was headed to Pittsburgh to become the new D-Coordinator and join forces with Pat Narduzzi. Instead, Daoust decided to stick around and he’s kept his foot on the gas. Daoust reeled in ends Steven Clark and Jake Pickard down the stretch. Clark could have gone to face SEC competition with the Gators, while Pickard could have boasted playing in the Big 10 Conference with either Wisconsin or Michigan with newly appointed head man Jim Harbaugh.

Arguably Daoust is this year’s Clark Lea in terms of the assistant who climbed the latter and rose to the occasion. Considering a bad, 3-9 season, plus drastic changes on offense with George McDonald out the door, give Daoust an A+ for his efforts on the recruiting front. Who knows where this class stands without his voice in recruits’ ears? -BG

12:10pm: It’s time for a Fizz-combo. Don Bosco Prep (NJ) products Daivon Ellison and Kyle Kleinberg talked with the Fizz earlier today about their National Signing Day experiences. The corner and linebacker discussed their friendship and how excited they are to continue playing football with each other at the next level.

Ellison also explained the meaning of the word “savage” that so many Syracuse commits and even coach Bobby Acosta have used on social media in recent months. Ellison says, “It’s someone who’s not afraid of anyone on the field. [Someone who’s] willing to go after anybody, just a straight competitor.”

When Kleinberg took the phone from Ellison he brought up the unity of all the New Jersey commits. The group has already begun forging a bond: “I’ve been talking to pretty much all the commits, but the closest that I’m with are all the Jersey boys. We have a group chat and we want to stay close together, all coming from New Jersey.”

Listen to the full Ellison and Kleinberg interview here. The Fizz will talk with fellow New Jersey commits Jake Pickard and Dontae Strickland later on today. -CM

11:54a: It was like getting up early, anxious for the holiday to arrive for Syracuse linebacker signee Shy Cullen.

“It was like Christmas time all over again.”

            Listen to Shy Cullen’s NSD15 FizzCast with Brendan Glasheen here.

On the field, Cullen plans to be “hungry” with the rest of the linebackers. These guys like to call themselves “savages” on the field. Cullen reminds The Fizz a lot of a Zaire Franklin or Cameron Lynch. He’s got a quiet spunk about himself, but his athleticism screams on the gridiron.

Cullen remains pretty close with classmate Dontae Strickland, as well as another future Orange.

“We’ve been in touch all the time. After I took my visit with all the linebackers, I got close with Troy Henderson (Jr.).”

The LB crews over the last few seasons have learned to get close. This season with a smaller group, that could change a little bit. Good to hear Cullen and Henderson have hit it off already. This class is loaded on the lines, offense and defense, but it never hurts to add some more hefty linebackers for Coach Clark Lea to mold. -BG

11:10a: Syracuse has some tough competition coming up. Not only does it have one of the toughest schedules in the ACC for next season as well as coming off a 3-9 campaign, but it has one of the worst recruiting classes in the ACC. According to Rivals, here are ACC rankings for this year’s recruiting class:

Florida State
Virginia Tech
NC State
Georgia Tech
Boston College
Wake Forest

Georgia Tech, BC, and Syracuse are the three teams in the conference without a four-star recruit. The average for SU is a 2.52 star recruit, which puts it worst in the ACC. These players still have the chance to learn and get better but right now on paper, the next few seasons could be very challenging for Syracuse considering how competitive the ACC is going to be. -AP

10:55a: Former Syracuse commit Gerald Robinson has signed with Florida Atlantic University. When he originally decommitted from the Cuse, Utah seemed to move to the top of Robinson’s list. Instead, in a signing day change, the DB from Hialeah, Florida stays closer to home at FAU. -SG

10:45a: Offensive tackle Evan Adams says his mother has had a big impact on his football career. She enjoyed seeing her son sign for Syracuse earlier this morning, “[My mother] was there for me to sign. It was a very great experience. When the papers came in she got ecstatic about that. When I finally signed the papers it was a big relief for her knowing her son’s going to college. She was overwhelmed with joy; it was a moment to be remembered.”

Adams added that Chuck Bullough and Joe Adam were the main coaches that recruited him. He also said he was on the fence about Syracuse, but when he saw that the SU community truly cares about their football players he knew he had to pick the Orange.

Listen to the complete Evan Adams National Signind Day interview right here. -CM

10:37a: Former SU commit Devante Davis has signed with Texas. Davis is a 6’2″ corner back from South Florida, and could be looked at as one of George McDonald’s recruits. After verbally committing to SU in May, Davis began to get some more attention from higher profile schools. -SG

10:10a: QB Eric Dungey has signed his LOI. While the QB from Oregon likely won’t play right away, he is the only quarterback in this class for SU. That could come in handy later on when the Orange opens up a QB battle and he can compete with AJ Long and Austin Wilson. -SG

9:50a: Andrejas Duerig officially faxed his LOI over to the Hill this morning. The Syracuse coaching staff plans to have the offensive lineman transition from playing guard to center. Duerig told the Fizz that he has already started practicing at center: “Right now I’ve worked on my stance a little bit after track and I’m going to be getting with my quarterback from Mount Carmel and snap to him. I’m also going to be working more when the snow melts here with my brother outside and my father, but right now I’m just working on my stance.”

Duerig also talked about which coaches have been most influential to his commitment and the infamous Sliders burger challenge he attempted when he took his unofficial visit in the summer.

Listen to the complete Andrejas Duerig National Signing Day interview right here. -CM

9:36a: Kicker/Punter Sterling Hofrichter has officially signed his Letter of Intent and will joint SU. Check out earlier in the thread for an interview with Hofrichter. -SG

9:30a: How much did the turmoil surrounding George McDonald affect Syracuse’s signing class today? It may be a question we’re asking for awhile. When looking simply at the list of decommits from SU it’s impossible not to notice a trend.

Homestead, Florida.
Hilaleah, Florida,
Hallandale, Florida.
Miami. Florida.
Of the 7 decommits, 5 came from the Sunshine State. This was, of course, McDonald’s recruiting territory. If in the long term the SU offense is better off and more productive, than SU may have lost the battle and won the war. But in a season that ended so poorly anyway, it always felt like firing McDonald mid-season was a panic move, and unnecessary. Had McDonald been properly (and not so publicly) removed from OC after the season, maybe he bolts anyway. Maybe all of these players decommit anyway. But the mid-season blowout between the two parties certainly feels like it left collateral damage on the recruiting trail. -D.A.
9:23a: Georgia safety Christopher Fredrick has officially signed with SU. The safety is an important addition to a secondary that struggled at times last year and loses safety Durell Eskridge to the NFL Draft. Fredrick joins Marquise Blair as safeties in this recruiting class.

The commit from Ellenwood, Georgia tweeted this morning “It’s official” with an Orange next to it. -SG

9:18a: Jake Pickard is one of the most talented players of Syracuse’s ’15 signing class, and might be the most important for the psyche of Orange Nation. The three-star DE from Millburn High in New Jersey flipped his commitment from Wisconsin. After a bumpy final month to the recruiting season, beating out a power that competed in the Big 10 title game is worthy of celebration for the Orange.

Pickard’s father Andy tells the switch from the Badgers never would’ve happened had Gary Anderson stayed in Madison. But when he left for Oregon State, it opened up Jake’s possibilities again. “There are no coincidences in life. Jake was firmly committed on July 31 to Wisconsin. Had Anderson nit left, we wouldn’t be here.”
The Badgers loss in the Orange’s gain. And while this class may rank once again somewhere in the high 40’s or mid-50’s nationally, flipping a commit from a B1G power is a fantastic win for SU. -D.A.


9:15a: Syracuse has had two offensive linemen head to the NFL in Justin Pugh and Sean Hickey, who will head to the Draft in May. Offensive line coach Joe Adam is able to put those two names on his resume, for getting both to the NFL Draft, with Hickey likely to be selected.

The success of those on the offensive line is helping bring in young talent like Shy Cullen, Sam Clausman, Colin Byrne, and Cody Conway. All three are expected to sign their NLI’s today and join the Orange.

This Syracuse offensive line is something special. Not only has it had two members head to the NFL Draft, but it is quite attractive to kids coming in because they will have the opportunity to get on the field early and make an immediate impact.

Syracuse also knows it has to improve the offensive line in some spots because of the struggles of running backs this past season. Although not all blame goes to the line but when Syracuse ran the ball, it was difficult to create the open holes. Twenty-two running backs in college football last season ran for more than the combo of Prince-Tyson Gulley, Ervin Philips, Adonis Ameen-Moore, Devante McFarlane, and George Morris.

The program knows not only are the upperclassmen doing big things and moving onto the next step, but there are some spots that need to be better and that is a big key for bringing in younger talent. -AP

9:08aConsider Doyle Grimes one that got away today. The Florida linebacker had a whirlwind senior year, and decides he will play at Marshall. SU had appeared to be the front runner from the beginning. He originally committed to play for Syracuse back on July 5. Since then he decommitted from SU, pledged to Marshall at the end of October, then decommitted from the Thundering Herd at the end of January.

The Orange coaching staff did a great job staying in touch with him after he backed out of his verbal commitment.  Grimes originally cited that he had made his college choice too early in the process, and wanted time to weigh his options. Grimes had made the Orange, Marshall, and Appalachian State three of his finalists. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound, three-star linebacker could ultimately be the cap to a very entertaining two-week period in Orange football recruiting was another product of George McDonald’s recruiting. This will of course bring up questions about the messy ending to McDonald’s tenure on the Hill.

Linebacker has been a key strength of the Orange defense. But SU graduated Dyshawn Davis, Josh Kirkland, and Cam Lynch. Next year, they will rely heavily on the leadership of sophomores Zaire Franklin and Paris Bennett.  The 2015 class currently has two other linebacker commitments in Shy Cullen and Troy Henderson. -JW

8:56a: Fort Lauderdale offensive tackle Sam Clausman pledged Orange way back on May 16th of last year. His tight relationship with OL coach Joe Adam has remained strong to this day.

Adam tweeted at Clausman this morning telling him he’s looking forward to developing Clausman’s skill set. Sam realizes he’s in a good situation:

“I know he’s a great coach. He just put (Sean) Hickey in the NFL so I’m excited to work.”

Listen to Sam Clausman’s NSD15 FizzCast with The Fizz’s Brendan Glasheen here.

Whenever recruits reference former Orange heading to the NFL, it’s obvious they want the same to happen for them. It’s awfully helpful to have Hickey heading to the draft and current Giants OL Justin Pugh representing the Orange in NYC.

Clausman rejoins his high school teammate Colin Byrne at Syracuse. They both loved the new indoor practice facility when they officially visited SU in late January. -BG

8:35a: The Fizz began National Signing Day by talking with kicker Sterling Hofrichter. He will sign his letter of intent at 9am Eastern. He discusses what it means to join Syracuse and how far he can kick field goals inside the Carrier Dome.

Hofrichter also detailed how head coach Scott Shafer initially found out about him. He was kicking at practice and the rest is history, “[The whole team] was on the field. The offense was on one end and the defense was on the other, so I really had no place to kick. I decided to go out around midfield, 40 to 50 yards [out] and started kicking some field goals…Coach Shafer [saw this] and told my head coach that he was going to offer me a scholarship.”

Listen to the complete Hofrichter National Signing Day interview right here. Follow along all day on for more NSD updates. -CM

7:45a: National Signing Day is officially underway. The Fizz will speak with 2015 commits all day long starting with kicker Sterling Hofrichter and offensive lineman Sam Clausman.

For now, let’s take a look at the first member of Syracuse’s 2015 class to sign a letter of intent, junior college transfer Trey Dunkelberger. The tight end signed in mid-December from Pierce College in Los Angeles and said he was beyond excited to commit to SU.

Florida State was interested in Dunkelberger but he said he stuck with SU because they were with him from the beginning.

“I just felt like I was at home. Once these other schools came I just felt like it was because of what I had. I wasn’t as sure as [I was with] Syracuse,” Dunkelberger said. “Syracuse was there for me when I had a few offers…I just feel like Syracuse is my home and there’s no place I’d rather be.”

Dunkelberger believes in the Syracuse cause so strongly that he helped recruit other 2015 football players.

“I built a great relationship with the kids on the visit who haven’t committed yet,” he said. “I’ve been working on a few players to try and get them to decide on Syracuse as well. It seems to be going well, everyone sees what the goal is for next year.”

As far as next season goes, Dunkelberger believes he will add an important piece to Tim Lester’s offense.

“What they want to do with me is a lot of different things,” Dunkelberger added. “[They want to] spread me out wide and also [put] me in the slot and then in the backfield. It’s going to be a lot of fun getting used to that. We’re getting a new playbook this spring so everybody’s going to be learning it together. It’s going to be great.”

SU’s first official commit arrived on campus this month so he can participate in the Orange’s spring practices.

Listen to the complete Dunkelberger interview here. -CM

11:35p: Maybe the first win of NSD for the Orange happened Tuesday night (let’s hope). Defensive tackle Tyler Cross (Georgia) said just two hours ago, according to, he’s sticking with Syracuse. Wake Forest came on hot at the end. His high school had tweeted earlier that he would make his decision Wednesday, but apparently it won’t come to that. He had given his verbal to the Orange back in the summer, and visited SU just a few weeks ago. Then he spent time at Wake this past weekend. While the Deacs aren’t a power house SU should feel great about beating out, it’s still a win over a conference foe for a Southern kid.

11:02p: It’s almost midnight, which means we’ve finally hit the big day. Christmas in February for college football fans: National Signing Day. The Fizz has brought you wall-to-wall coverage on NSD every year since ’09. It’s amazing to think back to how we started – me, sitting in a McDonald’s in South Florida, just down the street from Edison High, where defensive back Phillip Thomas had signed his LOI. At that time, one of the few places in the area that had free wi-fi, would allow me to sit all day and a decently clean bathroom. I had just spoken to both Thomas and Rishard Anderson (Plantation, FL), and posted the interviews with analysis of the days events. Seemed like this little corner of the internet was one of the only places that cared about SU football signees. Six years later, it’s night and day. Every Syracuse site has all-day coverage. Every network devotes major time to NSD. Mainstream outlets cover the day’s proceedings. Which is great for all of us that have always found this one of the most enjoyable days of the year. Keep clicking here all day starting early Wednesday morning and refreshing our thread. We’ll have audio interviews posted with the bulk of SU signees, and a running blog to give opinions on all the news of the day. Thanks for jumping into the Fizz dog pile for another year. Let’s get started. -D.A.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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