It’s enough to make you refresh the page and make sure you’re not misreading the headline. “Syracuse beats Alabama for 4-star lineman Francois Nolton.” That level of talent rarely comes through SU, but more than that, almost never beats powers like Alabama, LSU, Penn State and A&M to a recruit. All of those schools, among many others, were chasing Nolton.
The next Signing Period is February 2nd, a little more than two weeks away. Some worried the Orange would need to keep him on the hook until then, but he tweeted that he’ll sign Wednesday, which would lock him into SU. ESPN ranks him in the top 30 of all DEs in the country. In spring of ’20, some services called him a top 10 edge rusher in the country. The 6’4″ 225-lb. edge rusher finished with 25 sacks this season at Miami Edison, and was a finalist for the Anthony Munoz Award for the nation’s best lineman.
SU almost never nabs this level of talent. So what gives? Let’s look at the reasons:
- Nolton was a free agent because of the Dan Mullen firing. Florida was trucking right along with a top 10 ranking when the season unspooled into disaster. If Mullen didn’t get fired, Nolton is still a Gator.
- The transfer portal has made player movement popular. There’s no worry about a scarlet letter if high-ranked recruits transfer to lesser programs. Today, the modern player is constantly looking for a better opportunity, even if it means dropping down a level. SU landed Michigan quarterback Dan Villari, and is luring Michigan State’s CJ Hayes.
- Some services have Nolton as a 3-star athlete. SU has 13 other 3-star recruits for this class. 247 Sports places him as the 626th overall recruit. After the 375th player, it’s all 3-star kids. Three slots after Norton is an Appalachian State commit. These are the types of players SU has every right to be attracting.
- Dino Babers has invested in recruiting Florida. There are plenty of high school ties for the Orange there, and other teammates for Nolton will also hail from the Sunshine State.
When it’s analyzed closer, it’s not some miracle that SU landed Nolton. It’s some good fortune, but also a solid fit. Syracuse and Nolton should feel good about the relationship. SU should feel great about some important recruiting wins this offseason.