Syracuse got some great news yesterday when news that Qaadir Sheppard, one of the top prospects in the state of New York, had decided to take his talents to the Carrier Dome. Today, Sheppard made his commitment official, and all that’s left is for him to sign on the dotted line in about a month and a half. With that in mind, we wanted to give you a breakdown of what type of player Scott Shafer and his staff will be getting.

Prospect Info: 
#13 DE Qaadir Sheppard –Iona Prep High School  – New Rochelle, NY
6’4, 239lbs
4.98 40 yard dash

4.31 20 yard shuttle
29.7″ Vertical
38’ Power Throw
Offers from – Syracuse, UCF, UConn, Boston College, UMass, UNC, Pitt, Rutgers, UVA

Commit Context

Flashback to December 2012.  Syracuse Football has just beaten West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl.  The football program is said to be trending upward by many in the college football world.  Former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone had been insistent on creating a recruiting plan that “built a wall around the state of New York”.  Top recruits in the state Ebenezer Ogundeko, Augustus Edwards, & Laray Smith are all serious candidates to join the Orange.  Then Doug Marrone was lured down Interstate 90 to the Buffalo Bills.  Augustus Edwards decommitted from the Orange and decided to take his talents to Miami.  Laray Smith and his 10.4 100 yard dash time ended up in the state of Indiana.  The man so many Orange fans dubbed “EBO” signed with the wrong color orange and is currently playing for Clemson.  With Scott Shaffer being selected to lead the Syracuse Football program and many staff members joining Doug Marrone in Buffalo, the “wall around New York” was torn down right before our eyes.  The 2015 Syracuse recruiting class is the first time since December 2012 that we’ve seen the top prospects in New York decide to stay home, and the addition of Qaadir Sheppard and his impressive BCS offer list is a great coupe for Scott Shaffer and his staff.

Tale of the Tape

The difference between Qaadir’s junior and senior highlight tape is night and day.  This is the result you see when a prospect takes the offseason to completely transform his body.  He looks like a completely different player throughout his senior tape.  He is bigger, he’s stronger, and he’s most definitely more explosive.   Something that stands out to me, is how comfortable Qaadir is playing from a two point stance at the defensive end position.  There are times when he fires out a bit high in this two point stance, but he is very shifty and utilizes some great pass-rushing moves when he is trying to pressure the quarterback.  Qaadir reminds me of a poor man’s Chandler Jones.  He has very long arms, sneaky athleticism, and uses his long wingspan to his advantage when getting in the backfield.  If you look at how the New England Patriots use Chandler Jones, they love to bring him off the edge from a two point stance.  Chandler has some very good juke moves he uses to get the offensive tackle off balance.  Qaadir does a great job of using his juke moves to get around the tackle and make the play in the backfield.  Tim Daoust (Syracuse Defensive Line coach) must be jumping for joy with the early Christmas present he just got.

Let’s take a look at some highlights from Qaadirs’s tape.

1st play of the tape – Right off the bat, Qaadir is lined up in a 2 point stance and coming off the edge.  He gives the tackle a simple outside/in juke move which completely gets the OT caught on his heels.  He speeds by him without even having to use his hands.  The athleticism it takes to do that full speed is impressive to see.  This athleticism makes it easy to see why he was such an effective tight end in high school as well.
.46 mark – One key rule for many defensive ends is to allow anybody outside you.  On this play, Qaadir sees the play set up as an off-tackle run to the opposite side of the line.  This should make Qaadir a BCR player.  BCR meaning backside, counter, and reverse.  His responsibility is simple – he’s got responsibility on the backside to make sure nobody gets to the outside of him.  He darts down the line of scrimmage after the running back, and the quarterback makes the correct read to keep the ball and run to the spot where Qaadir just left from.  While he shows that great athleticism to get back to the play and recover the fumble/return it for a touchdown – he needs to remember to watch the development of the play. With many teams running that style of read option, it’s important for him to have the correct reaction when reading plays.  If he read that correctly, he’d be attacking the quarterbacks outside shoulder, which gives him the right angle to not get beat outside. 
1:12 mark – Let’s take a more clear look at the defensive juke move Qaadir loves so much.  He comes off the edge untouched, and with the offensive line setting up their blocking scheme down and to the left, the running back knows he has right side pickup.  Qaadir simply takes the RB to school when he takes two quick steps to the left and jukes back to the right.  This causes a missed block and allows a huge sack.  As said above, this is a great move to set up a rip or swim (which when you watch the tape, Qaadir loves as well).

1:25 mark – Qaadir fires out of his two point stance very low, and shows great power and speed to get to the quarterback.  If you watch closely, you see that the offensive linemen actually held him on the play.  Qaadir just out-powered him to get to the QB.  His power is very impressive.

2:19 mark – Here is Qaadir’s first clip of the highlight with his hand down in a three point stance.  His stance is a little sloppy, which causes him to stand up off the snap, rather than fire out low.  Even though he fires out high, he still gets his hands on the tackle, reads the play, and makes the sack in the backfield.  That can work in high school, but can cause you to get blown off the ball when standing up high at the college level.

2:30 mark – Qaadir puts his juke together with a swim move which completely fools the offensive tackle.  This move is a “NFL Sunday” type move.  He fires out very low and quick, makes the OT believe he is going to the outside, and then comes across the OT’s shoulder with a swim move to hit the QB as he throws to cause an interception.  Something to take note of now is that we’ve seen Qaadir juke both outside/in and inside/out.  This means he is not over utilizing one move to get into the backfield.  He has a full arsenal of pass-rushing moves at his disposal.

2:43 mark – Qaadir shows us his brute strength with this move.  A simple bullrush, when used correctly, can be such an effective tool.  Why is controlling the line of scrimmage so important?  If the defense can move the LOS backwards, it gives the running back no lanes to operate from and can cause the QB to force the ball into places before he wants to. When the offense pushes the LOS forward, gaining 3 to 4 yards whenever you want opens up the playbook.  The offensive coordinator can call a more aggressive game plan, because he knows he has the option to get good yardage on any running play.  On this play, Qaadir gets his hands on the inside of the offensive lineman, and simply pushes him back 4 yards. While using this bullrush, he runs directly into the reverse-pass that the offense was trying to complete.  We now see another move that Qaadir has in his pocket to help beat offensive linemen.

4:15 mark – Let’s take a look at one of the dangers of firing out from your stance high.  Qaadir does a good job of getting his hands on the offensive player, but he fires out high and is not moving his feet.  This causes him to be stagnant and can lead to the offensive line winning the battle if they have even physical tools.  He eventually gets to the quarterback on this play, but there’s a notable difference when Qaadir fires out low and fires out high off the snap. Qaadir must continue to move his feet in small, quick steps when engaging offensive linemen.  This will help him set up his pass rushing move much more easily. 

7:10 mark – Lastly, we see Qaadir’s bullrush/swim combo in greater detail.  I get from this tape that Qaadir’s football IQ is very smart.  He tries to get the linemen he is engaged with off-balanced before committed to a move.  Qaadir loves the swim move, and in this clip, we see why – it’s because he sets it up correctly.  In this clip, when Qaadir is bullrushing the offensive linemen, he waits for him to lunge forward to close the distance between the two players.  When the offensive linemen lunges forward, Qaadir notices the loss of leverage, and immediately swims around him.  It causes the QB to step up into pressure, which ultimately leads to a sack by his defensive teammate.  Qaadir has very advanced pass rushing technique, which he can operate from both a two point and a three point stance.

Final Analysis

Strengths – Over the course of this highlight video, we see Qaadir use many different moves.  He utilizes the rip, the swim, a bull rush, the juke, and even a spin to end the video.  Combining those moves with his power and speed makes him a very intriguing prospect.  His athleticism jumps off the tape, and I actually feel he could make an impact during his freshmen year, similar to what Isiah Johnson did his freshmen year at SU. 

Areas of Improvements – It’s clear to me that Qaadir is more comfortable from a two point stance.  SU does not use their defensive ends in a stand up position, so he’s going to need to get more comfortable with his hand on the ground.  His stance needs some work, but I’m sure Tim Daoust will get that shored up.  When his stance is fixed, it will be easier for him to fire out low when the ball is snapped.  When evaluating his stance, I think moving his down hand forward could be an easy fix to get his back angled more and his backside down.  With the correction of his stance, his issues with standing off the ball snap will become fixed naturally as well.

Qaadir has the potential to be a multi-year starter at Syracuse.  He’s got great measurables, and has the frame to pack on more weight.  He has very advanced technique when getting after the passer, and I can see him on the field during his freshmen year.  Overall, I believe the recruiting rankings got him right as a 3 star prospect, but feel he has very high upside.  One thing is for sure:  The commitments of Tyrone Perkins, Jordan Fredericks, and Qaadir Sheppard (all who should be top 5 recruits in the state of New York when the final rankings are released) marks the return of Syracuse keeping the top prospects home.

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Justin is a 2011 graduate from SUNY Buffalo State. Since that time, he spent several years coaching high school football in North Carolina while also working at NC State, and has also served as a head and assistant tennis coach at the Division III and Division I levels. During this tenure coaching high school football, he sent players to continue their football career at Alabama, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Purdue, North Carolina State, East Carolina, and other Division II and III schools.