There’s a new #1 in the 2021 SU recruiting class. Darian “Duce” Chestnut dethroned three star QB commit Justin Lamson with his commitment on August 2nd. Chestnuts’ commitment video sent shock waves through a fan base searching for reasons to be optimistic about the future. Fanatics and beat writers immediately boarded the hype train and even compared him to Andre Cisco.
Aside from the hype surrounding his four star rating, let’s take a look at what SU is getting in Chestnut, and see what makes him one of the top corner prospects on the East Coast.
After watching Chestnut’s junior season highlight tape, here are the takeaways:
Swiss Army Knife: Chestnut is a positionless football player. He primarily plays DB for Camden High School, but he also lines up at quarterback and returns punts. Check out the first play. Chestnut scoops the bouncing ball off the turf, cuts left, breaks a couple of tackles, stiff arms out of another, then hits the sideline with nothing but green grass in front of him. On the ensuing play, Chestnut is playing quarterback during the state championship game. He takes the snap in the pistol, fakes the handoff on a read option, runs left, jukes a man out, cuts it back inside, and scores standing up. Now to the third play. Chestnut telegraphs a pass to a receiver on the sideline and maneuvers his way to the endzone for a pick-six. Chestnut is a four star talent as a defensive back, but perhaps there is some potential for him in the offense and special teams.
Footwork: Being able to match a receiver’s speed and direction is critical as a defensive back. Having excellent footwork plays a big role in being an elite cover corner. Look at the play at 2:19. The receiver runs a “sluggo” route, which is a slant-and-go concept. The wideout fakes the slant, sticks his foot in the ground and goes vertical. Instead of biting on the diagonal route, Chestnut sits back, outruns the pass catcher up the sideline, and hauls in an easy interception. Most defensive backs bite on the slant, resulting in a lapse in coverage and a big play for the offense.
Tackling: Chestnut is a very fundamentally sound tackler and has a little pop in his hits. At the 5:25 mark, the offense runs a power run to the right out of the I-formation. Chestnut comes down from his deep safety position, dashes into the c-gap (between the kickout wing blocker and the right tackle) and wraps up the back for no gain. He shows no fear when shutting down run plays and has no problem making tackles in the open field. Take a look at the next play at the 5:33 mark. The offense runs a sweep to the right out of the Shotgun-Wing. Chestnut is matched up with against a receiver whose responsibility is to block him and allow the back to hit the sideline. Chestnut sheds the block, cuts off the back and makes the tackle as well.
Chestnut displayed why he’s already become a household name among the SU fanbase. He could be a game changer for Syracuse the first day he steps foot on campus. With “Duce,” Syracuse is getting an elite defensive back, an explosive return man, and an offensive playmaker. He has the ability to carve out a role for himself as a freshman and contribute in any of the three phases of the game. Similar to Malcolm Folk, Chestnut is a versatile defensive back prospect that can play anywhere in the secondary, which makes him a perfect fit for the 3-3-5. This is a major recruiting win for Dino Babers.