This year’s National Signing Day is officially in the rearview, and Syracuse has a plethora of new signees to show for it. A total of 19 prospects, from the Class of 2021, put pen to paper this week, solidifying the next stop on each of their respective football journeys ‚Äì the 315.¬†
Fresh off a 1-10 season, it‚Äôs no secret Dino Babers had quite a tall order to fulfill. The Orange stands to upgrade in several areas, with a few glaring needs, in particular, that jump out. Let us take a look at those needs as we examine the most significant takeaways, from SU‚Äôs latest National Signing Day.
With that, we begin on the offensive side:
Takeaway #1: Pass-catchers are on the way, but how about some certainty at QB?
Leading the Orange in receiving yards (by far), Taj Harris was a bright spot, for SU throughout an underwhelming campaign. However, despite notching 355 more yards than the team‚Äôs second-highest leader in [receiving] yards, the junior still only tallied 733 yards, the whole season. It‚Äôs safe to say it wasn‚Äôt a lack of talent that prevented Harris from fulfilling his peak potential. Rather, SU‚Äôs quarterback situation was far from consistent, nor was it fruitful in production. The Orange also had no other weapons in the receiving game ‚Äì besides Harris ‚Äì that truly posed a serious threat to opposing defenses.¬†
All indications suggest Dino was well aware of this. As a result, SU swooped in and picked up signatures, from five different Class of ’21 pass-catchers. Between Oronde Gadsen II, Kendall Long and Umari Hatcher, the Orange added three receivers with the ability to, alongside one another, provide some needed help in Syracuse passing game. Perhaps, the best part about these three new signees is the different strengths each one brings to the table.
At 6-foot-4, Gadsen II stands nice and tall, and figures to pose a viable threat on the outside, for SU. Also, for what it‚Äôs worth, the Fort Lauderdale, FL native will head up to Syracuse with some NFL bloodlines in his DNA. His father, Oronde Sr., played wideout for both the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins where he happened to catch Dan Marino‚Äôs final career touchdown pass.
6-foot-3 Kendall Long will also be a member of the Orange next season. The Lexington, SC, native showed plenty of catch-and-run ability during his high school days, and seems just fine lining up on the outside, or in the slot. The same can be said about fellow SU newcomer Umari Hatcher ‚Äì a 6-foot-3 Virginia native, whose tape certainly suggests he can be a threat, both in the short game or down the field.
Oh yeah, it‚Äôs also very much worth noting the Orange added tight end Landon Morris as well ‚Äì to its Class of 2021 list. Morris, a product of the state of Indiana, plays like a wide receiver and ‚Äì at 6-foot-5 ‚Äì can go over the top of defenders to haul in passes.
The only question now, is with all the receiving help SU has incoming, what’s the situation with the person throwing the ball going look like? Unfortunately, the answer may not be as clear as Orange fans would like it to be. For one, Tommy DeVito was inconsistent before succumbing to injury, this past season; Rex Culpepper won‚Äôt be back; and there hasn‚Äôt been enough seen yet, from either JaCobian Morgan or Dillon Markiewicz. Nevertheless, a bit more certainty at the signal-caller likely couldn‚Äôt hurt.
Takeaway #2: Syracuse beefed up on its numbers in the trenches, but now needs to beef up in the weight room.
This one really does speak for itself, but man‚Ä¶ it‚Äôs going to be an important one. Between both the offensive line and defensive line, SU added a total of nine new players in the trenches. The thing is, between all five new signees on the o-line, and four on defense, only one guy is listed at over 260 pounds. Syracuse heads into next season desperate to improve up-front, and it‚Äôs hard to imagine that a crop of 260-pounders is enough to adequately get the job done. If there‚Äôs one possible solution here, it‚Äôs: get each and every one of those guys in the gym‚Ä¶ early and often.
Luckily, the eight linemen who are listed at 260 pounds (or less) will have someone to look towards, perhaps as a source of inspiration. Honolulu, HI, native Kalan Ellis is 6-foot-5 and weighs a whopping 355 pounds. With Ellis clocking in approximately 100 pounds up on the next guy, one could definitely say this list is rather top-heavy‚Ä¶ literally and figuratively.
Takeaway #3: Fans of the Orange should already be getting excited about the team‚Äôs secondary, heading into 2021.
There was plenty of youth in the SU secondary, by the time this past season came to a close. The Orange was down several key players in the back of its 3-3-5, which actually provided the team with a few prime opportunities to plant some seeds, for the future. Freshmen Garrett Williams, Ja‚ÄôHad Carter and Rob Hanna each took on expanded roles towards season‚Äôs end, and answered the call. As a defense, Syracuse notched the second-most interceptions in the ACC, and get this‚Ä¶
Of SU‚Äôs 13 total interceptions on the year, 11 of them were made by players who will be back next season. Furthermore, the Orange received signatures from two talented young defensive backs this week ‚Äì as if fans needed another reason to get excited about the team‚Äôs DB room.
Cornerback Duce Chesnut will join SU from Camden, NJ where he showed off some impressive coverage skills ‚Äì both in press and off-man. The scouting report on Chesnut also praises the Syracuse newcomer‚Äôs instincts, physicality and support against the run.
Aside from Chesnut, the Orange will be adding safety Malcolm Folk into the mix, as well. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound defensive back can line up pretty much anywhere in the secondary, and has proven to be an impressive ball hawk ‚Äì during his high school days in nearby Pennsylvania.