Syracuse missed out on a really highly touted and talented wide receiver in four-star Bryce Gowdy on Tuesday night. It would have been hard to completely make up for that in just 24 hours, but the Orange did take a step in recuperating their losses just about 20 hours later.
SU picked up its 14th commitment in the 2020 cycle on Wednesday afternoon when DB Chase Atkinson pledged to the Orange, just four days after receiving his offer. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder hails from Blythewood High School in South Carolina, which just so happens to be the same school where Syracuse basketball forward Robert Braswell shot onto the recruiting scene and twice won the South Carolina high school high jump championship.
Although he’s yet to be ranked by any of the major recruiting services, the last time SU got a commitment from an unranked prospect was Canadian safety Ben LaBrosse late last week and when he did get ranked, he wound up being the top recruit in the Orange’s 2020 class, so there’s still a lot of potential for Atkinson to be a diamond-in-the-rough kind of guy.
As for what Atkinson brings to the table for SU, his number one asset is versatility. Despite being listed as a safety on the 247Sports site, Atkinson’s commitment graphic touted him as a cornerback. That wasn’t a mistake or anything, either. He has played both positions in high school (although there seems to be a bit more emphasis at corner) and he’s played both of them well.
While at free safety, he’s shown the ability to read quarterbacks, sit back in zone coverage, diagnose a play, and make breaks on passes before the quarterback has even released the ball. He’s shown a similar ability at corner and does an excellent job of undercutting routes before they can develop and picking off passes.
His work in press and man coverage has shown similar potential and he’s got the speed and quickness (listed at a 4.44 40-yard dash which is about equal to the average at the last five or so NFL combines) to keep up with all types of receivers when he’s one-on-one.
His tape also shows that he has a knack for the big play on special teams and has the elusiveness in the open field to break things open on both punt and kick returns. Having that ability to impact the game in more ways than just what your position assignment dictates is a great sign for someone so raw and young and could be the key to early playing time when he gets to the next level.
Right now, Atkinson is the great unknown when it comes to SU’s 2020 class. There is clearly some skill there, but the fact that he’s unranked and unrated by any recruiting sites and his only other offer outside of SU was one from a third-year FBS program in Coastal Carolina, definitely surrounds him with some question marks. Like we said, though, Atkinson could easily blossom into an under-the-radar steal down the line for SU.