After a brief hiatus, we’re back with part 3 of hit or miss! In these series, we’re taking a look back at the 2016 class full of players that have all but graduated by now. Of course, a few still compete for Syracuse or elsewhere, but this series aims to evaluate the careers of the recruits and see if their careers were productive enough to warrant a hit, or disastrous enough to warrant a miss. So let’s get into the next five recruits from 2016!
11. Evan Foster
- Foster was a three-star safety recruit out of West Bloomfield, Michigan. Little tidbit, this school just won the Division 1 State Championship in Michigan under former head coach Ron Bellamy. Foster played for Bellamy who just left the program to become the wide receivers coach at Michigan. As a Michigan guy myself I have admittedly some implicit bias towards Foster.
- Anyways, let’s get into his Syracuse career. Foster played good minutes his freshman year, primarily on the kickoff coverage team. The Michigan native made the big leap his second year on the Hill. The safety started all 12 games and was third on the team in tackles with 64.
- As an upperclassman the momentum continued, he started every possible game between the 2018 and 2019 seasons and led all defensive backs in tackles both seasons as well. Foster’s first career sack came against Trevor Lawrence in the 27-23 loss to the Tigers in ‘18. As a senior, the defensive back recorded 5+ tackles in nine of eleven games, and two games with 10+ tackles. At the conclusion of the season, Foster won Syracuse’s Thomas S. Pirro Award for character and coachability.
- This decision is rather easy and not just because Foster is from Michigan. The Thomas S. Pirro Award Winner was a three year starter for SU at strong safety, led the secondary in tackles for three straight seasons, and is ninth all-time among Syracuse defensive backs with 234 tackles (140 solo).
- Hit or Miss: Hit
12. Devon Clarke
- Back-to-back safeties! Clarke was another three-star but from down south in Kissimmee, Florida. He was a top 100 recruit in his position group and also had offers from Purdue, Oregon State, and Memphis.
- At SU, Clarke didn’t appear in a game until his redshirt sophomore season. He had a role on the best kickoff coverage team in the ACC as well as in the secondary as he broke up a pass against Florida State. However, Clarke was injured after that game against the Noles and didn’t touch the field for the rest of the 2018 season.
- As a redshirt junior, Clarke was a backup strong safety behind the aforementioned Foster, and participated on the kickoff team once again. He appeared in eight games and registered a tackle against FSU. With Foster gone in 2020, many thought he could earn a spot in the secondary, especially with the new defensive philosophy that features more db’s on the field than the traditional 4-3. Instead, Clarke didn’t participate in any games, according to cuse.com, but was still listed on the 2020 roster.
- Clarke should have the option to return for one more season as last year (his senior year), essentially didn’t count. But, his career bio is written in the past tense as if he has left the program so at this point it’s unknown the status of Clarke’s future at SU. With so many young players in the pipeline and Eric Coley likely back after injury last year, the battle for playing time could be one that’s uphill. For now, Clarke has made little to no impact for the Orange so we have to label him as a miss, but he could change that.
- Hit or Miss: Miss
13. Scoop Bradshaw
- Back-to-Back-Back safeties! Bradshaw is also a Florida native hailing from Tampa. He played his ball at Plant High School, which should sound familiar. Yep, Bradshaw and former SU signal caller Rex Culpepper were teammates. That team was loaded with talent, including current Indiana players Juwan Burgess, Whop Philyor, and Thomas Allen. Bradshaw was a team captain his senior year and wrapped up his career with 300 tackles, 15 interceptions, and 13 sacks.
- As a freshman, Bradshaw saw more and more time as the season progressed appearing in 10 games as a cornerback. As a sophomore, Bradshaw took a huge leap and started 11 games and led the team with six pass breakups. He also returned a blocked extra point against Wake Forest for the first defensive two-point conversion in the history of Syracuse Football (literally a scoop and score).
- As an elder statesman, Bradshaw started 10 games and appeared in all 13 contests in the 2018 season. He recorded at least one tackle in 11 games and served as a special teams captain against NC State. As a senior, Bradshaw lost his starting job to Iffy Melifonwu, but when he went down with injury, Bradshaw stepped up. He started against Western Michigan and Holy Cross recording a pass breakup against the Crusaders, but the injury bug derailed the closing of his senior campaign.
- Overall, Bradshaw had a solid career. You hate to see a veteran lose his job to a younger cat, but Melifonwu is on his way to being selected in the 2021 NFL Draft for a reason. Bradshaw was a two-year starter at cornerback and started 23 games between 2016 and 2019. He may not have put up big stats, but the 2019 season could’ve been even worse without Bradshaw being there to provide some depth. Plus he was an impact player for the 2017 and 2018 seasons which took SU to new heights.
- Hit or Miss: Hit
14. Andrew Armstrong
- Not a safety this time. Armstrong was a three star outside linebacker recruit from Ohio. Scout.com tabbed him the second best olb recruit in the Buckeye state out of Cardinal Mooney High School. He was a two-way player as a tight end as well, and played three sports in high school including basketball and baseball. Armstrong averaged 20 points a game on the court, and set the new Cardinal Mooney single-season record with an 0.81 ERA.
- Armstrong hit the ground running as a freshman appearing in all 12 games and recording 16 tackles. As a sophomore, he played in all 12 games once again and had four multi- tackle outings. Additionally, the Ohio native the first fumble of his career against Wake Forest on a blocked punt.
- As a junior, Armstrong still wasn’t the starter at the SAM linebacker spot, but he played in all 13 games and started in the game at Pittsburgh. He was used extensively on third down and in the kickoff and punt units that were tops in the ACC. Against NC State, Armstrong intercepted a Ryan Finley pass with the Orange up 44-41 in the closing minutes of the game to seal the victory.
- Wrapping up his career in 2019, Armstrong finally broke through and started 11 games but at the weakside linebacker position. He was second on the team in tackles with 78 and logged 5+ tackles in all 11 games he played. For his efforts, he won Syracuse’s Pat Miller Award as the program’s most outstanding athlete, student, and citizen.
- Overall, Armstrong played in 48 out of 49 possible games between 2016 and 2019. As fate would have it the only game he missed was the final game of his senior season against Wake Forest. He was a four year contributor and got the opportunity to start his senior year and made the most of it. He was an excellent football player and representative of both the school and the program.
- Hit or Miss: Hit
15. Liam O’Sullivan
- Switching gears to the offensive side of the ball and into the trenches. O’Sullivan was a midwest recruit from Illinois and also had offers from Bowling Green, Cincinnati, and the in-state Fighting Illini. He was a team captain as a senior and had 23 pancake blocks and allowed just one sack in 322 dropbacks in his final season.
- As a freshman, O’Sullivan redshirted as most young offensive linemen do. As a redshirt frosh, the Chicago native was second on the depth chart at left tackle and appeared in the first six games primarily on the PAT/Field goal unit. He did get in, in wins against Central Connecticut State and Central Michigan participating in a combined 29 snaps and recording a pancake block in each game.
- Following the 2017 season, O’Sullivan was medically disqualified from athletics participation at Syracuse University due to concussions. O’Sullivan joins Michael Clark from this 2016 class as two o-lineman whose careers were ended due to concussions and medical disqualifications. This could be a reason why SU has struggled with depth in the past few seasons, which ultimately can explain why this has been a position of weakness the past two seasons. Obviously, if O’Sullivan was healthy he was on a trajectory for big playing time over this next three years with the program, but that didn’t happen. I hate to label a prospect as a miss because of injuries but at the end of the day, the player made no substantial impact on the program on the field, and this is a results oriented business.
- Hit or Miss: Miss
Three out of five of today’s former (and potentially current) players were hits! Four of the five were defensive players, and three were safeties! Let me know what you think of these five players and comment on your favorite play they made, or even tell me who I’m wrong about! See ya next week with part four.