A year ago Scott Shafer and the Syracuse football staff were scrambling to complete their 2013 recruiting class roughly a month after Shafer took over the program from Doug Marrone, who left to become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. They lost a few key recruits and ended up filling out the class with unheralded players and junior college transfers. But everything is different this year, as the Orange have finished strong, with seven recruits committing between this past weekend and National Signing Day, giving Syracuse its best recruiting class of the Marrone-Shafer era. Let’s take a position-by-position look of who signed with the Orange and how they fit in moving forward:
Quarterback – For the second straight year, the Orange signed two quarterbacks. A.J. Long is already on campus and will participate in spring practice, while Alin Edouard was a big-time recruit that Syracuse stole away from Miami, among other name-brand programs that offered him. It will be tough for anyone to unseat Terrell Hunt, but the backup quarterback job is wide open, so Long and Edouard will join Austin Wilson and Mitch Kimble in the competition to backup Hunt next season and perhaps challenge him for the starting job.
Running back – Ervin Philips is the only running back the Orange are signing this year. With Prince-Tyson Gulley, George Morris, and Devante McFarlane, Syracuse is set at running back for 2014. Unless there’s an injury to one of those three, Philips is a redshirt candidate, while Syracuse will be looking to sign at least a couple of running backs in 2015.
Wide receiver – This was an area of need for the Orange, and a position they did well to address in this recruiting class. Syracuse held onto Corey Cooper, who went to prep school after originally being a part of its 2013 recruiting class. Syracuse also held onto four-star receiver K.J. Williams, who had other suitors after verbally committing last July. Syracuse also adds the tall and versatile Jamal Custis out of Philadelphia, and got a late commitment from Steve Ishmael out of Miami. Both Williams and Ishmael are among the top 100 wide receivers in the country coming out of high school, but all four will have a chance to compete for playing time as freshman, as Syracuse searches for answers at wide receiver. With the addition of these four, the Orange will now have more than a dozen receivers worth keeping an eye on during spring practice and fall camp.
Tight end – This wasn’t a position of need for Syracuse, as they return four tight ends that have either freshman or sophomore eligibility, but Adly Enoicy was too good of a player not to pursue. The Orange pried him away from his commitment to Florida International, although Enoicy also had offers from Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Miami, and USC. Adding him late gave this recruiting class a big boost.
Offensive line – Syracuse will return four starters along the offensive line in 2014, but developing a competent second string is still an issue for them. Joining the mix will be the underrated Aaron Roberts and Denzel Ward, a huge 6’8’’ lineman that is low on football experience but high on potential. Both players would benefit from a redshirt year in 2014, but they both could have a chance to compete with the players the Orange signed last year for spots on the two-deep.
Defensive line – A week ago, the interior part of the defensive line was a concern for Syracuse due to lack of depth, but Shafer and company have relaxed those concerns substantially after earning commitments from Jalen Harvey and Kayton Samuels within the past week. Both are rather unheralded two-star prospects, but they both have a lot to prove and both have a chance to earn playing time as true freshmen. Syracuse also added junior college transfer Wayne Williams, who is already on campus and gives them a lot of size along the defensive line. The addition of those three should give Syracuse at least a half dozen interior linemen heading into the 2014 season. At defensive end, Syracuse has four dependable players returning, but they also add Chris Slayton as a potential pass rusher.
Linebacker – The Orange don’t have an immediate need at linebacker, but they will have four senior linebackers in 2014, and as of right now Marquez Hodge is the only under classmen with meaningful game experience, so Syracuse has signed four quality linebackers knowing that they’ll need them in 2015 and beyond. Shafer and company went after linebackers early and often in this class, as Zaire Franklin, Colton Moskal, and Parris Bennett all committed last June. In search of one more linebacker late in the process, the staff landed Jonathan Thomas this past weekend, giving them four three-star linebackers that may not see much of the field in 2014, but who will be essential to the Syracuse defense in 2015.
Secondary – The Orange are scheduled to bring back six experienced defensive backs in 2014, but with depth being a concern and three of those six players being seniors in 2014, the secondary was a point of emphasis for this recruiting class, and the coaching staff responded by signing seven players. Which players end up at cornerback and which end up at safety will eventually be sorted out, but most of the seven will have a chance to see the field in some capacity this season, as Syracuse did well to boost the depth in its secondary with this recruiting class.
In total, this is a rather impressive 25-player recruiting class for the Orange. The class will be middle of the pack in the ACC and will likely crack the top 50 nationally, which is a meaningful accomplishment and a significant step forward for the program. The coaching staff has attacked the Midwest and the South, areas they’re familiar with, and brought in a talented and well-rounded class that will help the Orange address a majority of their needs heading into 2014. It’s not a class that will make national headlines, but Syracuse should feel good about the recruiting class they’ve signed today and the future of the program.
Bryan Zarpentine covers Syracuse Orange football and basketball for ChatSports.com. You can follow him on twitter @BZarp and @ChatSyracuse. Also, add him to your network on Google, and keep up with Syracuse at ChatSports.com/Syracuse-Orange.Back to the Syracuse Orange Newsfeed