Once upon a time, Syracuse Football used to bring in top talent year in and year out. At the turn of the century, SU was the place to be for both football and basketball. Clearly, things have changed twenty-one years later. The Orange struggle to bring in top talent nationally and even in-state.
Perhaps it’s because of the on-field results as Dino Babers and Company have only won a combined six games in the last two seasons including a 1-10 campaign last year. It might also be because more often than not, the blue chip talent has failed to produce. Today, let’s continue to delve into the history of SU Football recruiting to see what happened with ‘Cuse’s top 25 recruits of all-time. Click here if you missed part one.
6. Wayne Morgan, Class of 2012 / 4-star cornerback
Morgan was a highly sought after prospect out of Erasmus Hall High School in the Bronx. The blue chip recruit had offers from several bluebloods including Alabama, Michigan, and Miami. Morgan spurned those opportunities to play for the Orange. Coming out of high school, he was ranked the third best player in the state of New York and tabbed a 4-star, according to the 247sports.com composite rankings.
Morgan’s athleticism was off the charts as a teenager. He reportedly ran a 4.49 forty and had a 36 inch vertical jump, despite standing just 5’9”. Morgan was a two-way player at Erasmus Hall, he played both defensive back and quarterback and was projected to play safety or corner depending on the recruiting site.
Morgan’s SU career got off to a great start. He played in all 13 games and recorded 14 tackles as a reserve corner and special teams player. The sophomore jump wasn’t very large for the former four-star, Morgan once again played in all 13 games and recorded 21 tackles, but he also didn’t start any games or progress in the depth chart.
Perhaps things would click heading into Morgan’s junior season as he transitions from lowerclassmen to upperclassman, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the defensive back suffered a season-ending injury, but luckily was awarded a medical redshirt. Morgan played in three games and recorded five tackles in 2014.
Remember, Morgan could’ve played for Nick Saban at Alabama if he wanted too. The ability was never a question, but heading into his final two seasons, Morgan had done little to live up to his lofty expectations. Would that change? Well, not really. In 2015, the Bronx native played in all 12 games as a cornerback and on special teams. However, he didn’t start a single game. Morgan’s final opportunity was his redshirt-senior season in 2016 and he only played in five games as a special teamer.
That’s the problem here. These are just average numbers and average statistics for a guy that was projected to be a big time player for SU. As one of the few four star recruits in Syracuse history, Morgan’s career was very average and frankly disappointing.
So why did his five years at SU go so poorly? Well here are the circumstances that Morgan couldn’t control. The injury during his junior season was a huge blow to his progression. Typically, college players grow exponentially in that season because it’s usually a player’s third season at a school and in a specific system.
That’s a great segway into the next point which is that Morgan played for three different head coaches. What comes with the coaching turnover is system changes and really just adjustments across the board. That’s difficult to deal with and typically you’ll see players transfer nowadays when a coach leaves.
7. Larry McClain, Class of 2003 / 4-star cornerback
McClain was a prep football star out of Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. McClain was rated the fourth best prep prospect and the top corner. He was also given a 4-star rating which is rare for both junior college and prep recruits. McClain had offers from SU, Maryland, and West Virginia.
Before Fork Union, McClain was a high school football superstar. He was a four year starter in the secondary and two year starter in the backfield at Forestville High School. McClain set the Virginia state record with 34 career interceptions while also rushing for over 3,500 yards and 47 touchdowns in just two seasons as the starting tailback. McClain had the tools to be a spectacular player on either side of the ball in college.
McClain had all the athletic stuff taken care of. The problem was that he needed to improve his grades and standardized testing scores to qualify for admission at Syracuse. So with SU coaches guidance, the prolific two-way player took his talents to Fork Union to improve in the classroom.
Prep school didn’t solve everything though, in fact it may have been the catalyst for a career that never began. Military school reportedly took a toll on McClain and he seemed to have lost his love for the game of football. He ended up getting to Syracuse, but only participated in winter workouts and a few spring practices before calling it quits on football and life at SU. A shame, all that talent and potential gone by the wayside for ‘Cuse and Larry McClain.
8. Lavar Lobdell, Class of 2005 / 4-star wide receiver
Moving back to the offensive side of the ball, we have CNY native Lavar Lobdell. The wideout played at nearby Christian Brothers Academy and also fielded offers from Florida, Miami, and NC State. The blue chip talent decided to stay home and play for the Orange. Lobdell was rated the 183rd best player in the country, 20th among wideouts, and fifth in the state of New York.
We’ve had some poor reviews thus far in part 2, let’s see if Lobdell can flip the script. In his freshman season in 2005, Lobdell saw limited action just making two appearances before being sidelined by an injury. As a sophomore the wideout took a big step appearing in all 12 games and making five catches for 68 yards.
That monumental leap didn’t come between his second and third years. In 2007 Lobdell once again played in all 12 games but only totaled eight receptions for 86 yards. For a former four-star recruit those just simply aren’t good numbers.
Lobdell had two more opportunities to salvage his collegiate career (medical redshirt). His fourth season was his best as an Orange, but that isn’t really saying much because the statline reads 13 catches for 165 yards. This is the same Lavar Lobdell that was recruited by Urban Meyer to win national championships at Florida, now putting up meagher numbers against Big East competition. That’s just unacceptable.
Things didn’t change in his final season, in fact his digits fell again. In his fifth season at Syracuse, Lobdell tallied just ten catches for 67 yards, but hey he caught his first and only career touchdown. Look 36 receptions for 386 yards and one touchdown over five seasons of action just isn’t impressive. Especially not for a former four-star recruit.
Wow, make that 0-for-3 today on recruits panning out at Syracuse. Lobdell had so much promise coming out of high school.
9. Marquis Spruill, Class of 2010 / 4-star linebacker
Okay, when you search this name in google, the first thing that pops up is a wikipedia page for Marquis Spruill. We might be off to a good start here. Much like Larry McClain, Spruill was a prep school product and actually attended the same Fork Union Military Academy as McClain.
Much like SU’s seventh-highest rated recruit of all-time, Spruill earned top 5 recognition as one of the best prep school prospects. The Hillside, New Jersey native earned four-star honors and was named the best inside linebacker recruit amongst prep schoolers. More big expectations for a potential big time player, can Spruill live up to his billing?
Well he wasted no time answering that question. Spruill started all 13 games as a freshman in 2010 and ranked second among Big East freshmen averaging about 4 tackles per contest. Highlights include a 12 tackle performance against Colgate which led the team as well as a Phil Steele Freshman All-America selection. His final stat line read 51 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, two sacks, and one pass defended. A promising beginning to what could be an ultra-productive career.
Spruill elevated his level of play as a sophomore. The linebacker played in all 12 games and started eleven, while also earning All-Big East honors for the first time in his career (2nd Team). His best game was against USC when he made seven tackles and recorded a tackle for loss. His final stat line from his second season read 62 total tackles, eight and a half tackles for loss, three sacks, two passes defended, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries.
We mentioned the leap you’ll often see players take between their second and third years in college, let’s see if that theory is proven correct by Spruill. Well whether it be the development or the position change, Spruill didn’t really elevate to that next level, but he still put up solid numbers. His 2012 stats read 64 tackles, nine tackles for loss, a pair of sacks, and one pass defended. The linebacker played in all 13 games and only started 12 because he got into some trouble off the field that forced some disciplinary action ahead of the Pinstripe Bowl.
Spruill didn’t redshirt so 2013 would be his final year at Syracuse. Miraculously, the former four-star recruit put the legal trouble behind him and rose to the title of team captain. He started all 13 games in SU’s first season in the ACC and earned all-conference honorable mention honors. He had his best season yet tying for ninth in the SU’s record books with 14.5 tackles for loss in the ‘13 season. His final stat line was 66 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, five and a half sacks, and one fumble recovery.
Spruill ranks second in program history with 41 career tackles for loss and was a four year starter for the Orange. That’s the kind of impact a blue chip recruit should have at a place like Syracuse. Spruill went on to be selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. As a pro, Spruill had an ACL injury early in his career which hindered his career and he was released in August of 2015 and subsequently played in the CFL for some time.
Spruill met his lofty expectations and had a big impact on the SU football program. As a top 10 all-time recruit, that’s the benchmark for what fans expect of such highly touted prospects.
10. Adam Rosner, Class of 2006 / 4-star offensive tackle
Rosner is our third former prep star prospect of the day. As you’ve seen so far, recruits from these schools can be big hits or big misses. Which side of the board does Rosner fall on? Let’s find out.
The offensive lineman was a two-sport athlete at Depew High School in New York. Rosner earned all-region football honors and also set his schools record in the shot put and indoor weight throw. After high school, the New York native attended Milford Academy to try and play his way into a scholarship opportunity.
The recruiting services liked what Rosner did at Milford and gave him a four-star rating as the fourth best prep school offensive tackle prospect. The blue chip linemen enrolled early ahead of the 2006 season to get his SU career started.
It’s pretty rare to see a true freshman start on the offensive line anywhere in college football and that didn’t change with Rosner as he didn’t play in any games in his true freshman season. In 2007, Rosner got his first taste of division one action with eight appearances.
It’s like a broken record now, but let’s test our second to third year theory once again. Nope, not this time. Rosner played in nine games, but primarily on special teams. However, he did register his first career start against South Florida. Still, for a former four-star prospect this career synopsis is insignificant thus far.
Rosner had his best season in 2009 (redshirt-junior), he played in all 12 games and started half of those. Still not very noteworthy. Maybe in his fifth and final season he could put it all together and have a notable season. Rosner was projected to start at left guard in preseason camp, but he lost his spot to sophomore Zack Chibane.
During the 2010 season, Rosner played in just two games and didn’t start a single one. A disappointing end to another below average career. The former four-star only registered seven career starts across four full seasons of play.
So make that four busts today out of our five prospects. Marquis Spruill was the only notable success story from today’s five former recruits.