Isaiah McDuffie’s commitment to Syracuse lasted almost a year. Yesterday, the outside linebacker tweeted that he will take his talents elsewhere in 2017.
McDuffie becomes the program’s second 2017 recruit to decommit, joining wide receiver and fellow three-star recruit Daewood Davis. The news trims the class to just three players: wide receiver Sharod Johnson, defensive end Zach Morton (who spoke with the Fizz last week), and quarterback Tommy Devito. Each member of the trio committed after the university hired new head coach Dino Babers.
McDuffie, a product of Bennett High School in Buffalo, chose SU last July, citing the school’s close proximity to his hometown as one reason why he wanted to play for the Orange, according to Syracuse.com. Another factor in his decision: He “[loved] the coaching staff,” which was led by Scott Shafer at the time of his commitment.
Boston College, Pittsburgh, and Penn State are among seven teams chasing McDuffie, per 247sports.com. As a junior, he racked up 91 total tackles, five sacks, four forced fumbles, and two interceptions on his way to being named the top defensive player in New York by USA Today.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound McDuffie, who plays on both sides of the ball in high school, has been touted as a hybrid-type player, with the potential to work as either a linebacker or safety. Some NFL teams, such as the Arizona Cardinals, have recently found success employing a “moneybacker” — a fancy name for a player who looks, runs, and defends the pass like a big defensive back, but lines up almost exclusively in the front seven. McDuffie may have been able to fill that role in Babers’ Tampa-2 defense, which relies heavily on zone coverage.
But Babers didn’t seem very interested in exploring that possibility. After McDuffie visited the new coaching staff in February, “there has been minimal communication” between the two sides, according to Scout.com. That comes as a bit of a surprise after McDuffie told the Fizz in December that Babers was a “great hire,” calling him “the perfect man for the job.” The staff’s apparent lack of interest could represent a silver lining for Orange fans, though: If Babers didn’t push to retain McDuffie’s commitment, the coach may never have envisioned the linebacker in his defense, and likely didn’t alter his recruiting strategy (focus on other positions, target players who would complement McDuffie’s skillset, etc.) under the assumption that the Buffalo native would be locked into a starting spot.