Syracuse claimed most of its defensive recruiting class early in the cycle. The newest development is the decommitment of three-star Hayden Nelson. The defensive end flipped to UCLA just one day before early signing day, but there is still a lot of talent for Syracuse fans to be excited about.
Jaelin Moss, DT
Hold your horses on Moss. The Rochester native is the only defensive commit who is opting not to sign early. Instead Moss will wait until February, but he’s still “set on” SU. There aren’t any big name schools that should be seen as a threat to scoop Moss up. The three-star selected SU over Stony Brook and Sacred Heart.
Rated as the fourth best recruit by 247 Sports, Moss has a lot of room to grow into his 6-foot-5, 260 pound frame. He has mostly been asked to play on the edge in high school, but could serve as a strong presence inside.
Jatius Geer, DE
When Jatius Geer racked up three Junior Varsity sacks in the first game of his sophomore year, Belton Honea Path Varsity Head Coach Russel Blackston had seen enough. Geer started the rest of the season at defensive end for the varsity squad and never looked back. He earned all-region honors his junior year. 11 offers followed, but according to Blackston Syracuse out-recruited the field.
If you turn on the tape, you’ll see a lot of Geer in the backfield. But Syracuse fans might get to know Geer as an interior lineman. He is already 260 pounds, and Blackston insists his star has the frame to grow into and the skillset to stop the run.
“He’s very long. He can get off a block, good lateral movement.”
It seems like a good system fit for a defensive scheme that has preached versatility. Wherever Geer plays, he should have an impact on the Orange defensive in the future.
Terry Lockett, DT
Terry Lockett was SU’s first commit of the 2021 class. In fact, he committed just one month after Tony White was brought in to coordinate the defense.
At 6-foot-1, 255 pounds, Lockett starts with good size and plenty of room to grow. For context, McKinley Williams came to Syracuse at just 245 pounds, eventually blossoming into White’s 291 lb nose tackle. Lockett’s fate might be similar.
Then again the three-star was often tasked with edge rushing duties in high school. Lockett could stay lean and zero in on his quickness. That would allow White to use Lockett as a swiss-army knife lineman. Lockett’s path depends on the team’s needs, which will largely depend on how many of the players take advantage of the extra-year of eligibility.
Malik Matthew, OLB
Leave it to Syracuse’s best recruiter Nick Monroe to keep the third-best New York recruit in-state. At 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, Malik Matthew promises to be an edge rusher, who might even be able to contribute right away if needed.
The three-star from the Bronx also had offers from Boston College, Buffalo and Rutgers, among others. Matthew committed in mid-May, so it’s no surprise that he made it official today. But Dino Babers has been notorious for losing in-state recruits, so this should come as a relief to Orange fans.
Austin Roon, OLB
Opposing run games plagued SU last year, and it looks like Dino Babers is trying to address the issue with Austin Roon. The linebacker held offers from Air Force, Arizona State and others. The ASU offer likely means that Tony White was keyed in on him prior to his arrival on the Hill.
Roon typically lined up in the middle as a high school linebacker. Based on the tape, he is best used as a weapon against the quarterback, staying in the box. Roon showed an ability to cover receivers, but it’s not his strength.
Malcolm Folk, DB
You never know which freshman is going to be thrown into the fire. At times last year, it seemed like all of the above for the Orange, especially in the secondary. Malcolm Folk seems like a guy that could produce immediately in Tony White’s 3-3-5 if he was called upon. The three-star showed an ability to play corner and safety at a high level. That versatility is key in the five-DB system. At 6-foot-1, 191pounds, Folk actually has pretty good size if he needs to play right away, but the tape shows a player who is still learning how to use his frame.
But his speed appears to be a strength of his, which he showed off as a receiver in high school. That along with his ball hawking skills should fit well in the SU defense that forced the most turnovers in the conference last season.
Elijah Fuentes, DL
Elijah Fuentes’ 6-foot-3, 260 pound frame draws a lot of attention in the trenches and for a defensive lineman in the 3-3-5, that’s the name of the game. Fuentes will draw a lot of double teams on the edge, and open up some pressure packages for SU.
The Bronx native is a three-star commit, who was projected to go to Boston College. He also held offers from Duke, Buffalo, Wake Forest, Rutgers and UMASS.
But what sticks out most about Fuentes might be the immeasurables.
“Elijah is a special kid”, said Cardinal Hayes High School Head Coach CJ O’Neil. “You know, not a big talker, definitely a leader. A man of not many words, a lot of actions. Works his tail off, really just works his tail off. The kid is relentless whether it’s in the weight room or doing fieldwork, you are not going to get a guy who’ll outwork him, guarantee you that.”