Every college football fan is guilty of getting caught up with the flashy positions like running back, receiver, and quarterback, and I’ll admit I’m no different. But we can get excited about Syracuse University receiving a commitment from Robert Washington all we want and still realize that, unless he’s got a bunch of big, talented guys in front opening holes, it doesn’t matter how many stars he’s got.
Football is won in the trenches, as the saying goes, and over the years I’ve really come to believe that pretty firmly. If you control the line of scrimmage, you control the outcome of the game. Without those big uglies up front clearing the lanes you’d have to have Barry Sanders back there making something out of nothing, and even with a back as quick and talented as he was, well, look at the wins and losses for those Detroit Lions teams.
So we can daydream about a backfield that includes Washington, and Dwayne Haskins, and maybe Moe Neal or Tyler Thompson as an H-back, but until the Orange can put enough big time players up front the offense won’t be able to get where it needs to be for Syracuse to climb toward the top of the ACC standings.
With that in mind, it’s time to look at a few of the prospects currently on Syracuse’s radar on the offensive line. For starters, the Orange already have one player committed in Cam DeGeorge, a 6-foot-5, 275 pounder who will probably play guard at the college level. DeGeorge was the first commit of the 2016 recruiting cycle, choosing the Orange over an early offer from Temple. He was an under the radar prospect who has since been rated as a 3-star talent by 247sports.com.
If there’s a top dog on the Syracuse wish list for 2016 as it pertains to the offensive line, it’s Will Fries. The 6-foot-6, 270 pound offensive tackle from New Jersey is considered a 3-star prospect by 247 and Scout, though Rivals pegs him as a 4-star talent. Fries seemed to be leaning toward schools like Penn State and Rutgers recently, and still probably is, but he also recently told Rivals that the commitment of Robert Washington has gotten him taking a harder look at the Orange:
— Scott Brown (@RivalsSyracuse) April 28, 2015
Another name to keep an eye on is a player coming up through the junior college ranks, Malcolm Pridgeon. At 6-foot-8, 285 pounds he’s an absolute mountain of a man, and is currently at Nassau Community College, where he’s considered a 4-star talent. Pridgeon just recently received an offer from the Orange, and also holds offers from Louisville, Rutgers, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, Missouri, Kansas State, and a host of others. He’s a potential NFL talent, and would be a phenomenal “get” at the offensive tackle position.
Chase Behrndt is another prospect the Orange appear to be high on, and the 6-foot-4, 295 offensive guard prospect from St. Louis is by all indications pretty high on Syracuse, as well. Behrndt is a 3-star prospect, according to 247 and Scout, and in addition to his offer from the Orange holds offers from the likes of Illinois, Kansas, and a few mid-majors like Ball State, Illinois State, Western Michigan, and San Diego State.
Patrick Kearns is a 6-foot-5, 270 pound prospect who probably projects to offensive tackle at the next level. Right now, Kearns, who is a 3-star talent on 247, and the Georgia native has offers from Air Force, Cincinnati, and Georgia State, among a few others smaller schools, as well as Syracuse. Another name to keep an eye on is Lucas Niang, a 3-star talent from Connecticut who appears to have more or less moved on from the Orange but could still be in play with the momentum carrying over from the Washington commitment. Niang is a 6-foot-6, 295 pound tackle prospect who appears to be favoring Boston College, Kentucky, Miami, and Penn State right now.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Johncarlo Valentin, a 6-foot-5, 290 pound guard prospect from Philadelphia. Valentin doesn’t yet have a Syracuse offer but has been blowing up lately, with offers rolling in from Arizona State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, UConn, and Temple. If Syracuse wants to get on board, they’d better do it now because over the weekend, Valentin earned an invitation to The Opening, arguably the most high profile camp of the year.
Speaking of The Opening, another player to stand out at the recent New York/New Jersey Regional was Raees Johnson, a guard prospect from DePaul Catholic who recently visited Syracuse but doesn’t have an offer from the Orange yet. Johnson, in a pretty big surprise, was actually named the NY/NJ Regional Offensive Line MVP at the event, as the 6-foot-3, 315 pounder displayed surprisingly agile feet and by all accounts was the only offensive lineman to consistently hold his own against Rashan Gary, the consensus No. 1 prospect at any position in America. Check out Johnson going toe to toe with Gary:
— Frank M. Failace Jr. (@RecruitLookNNJ) April 28, 2015
It had been looking like Johnson might be a backup plan for the Orange, but based on the recent buzz he’s getting and the way he performed against Rashan Gary, it feels like time for Syracuse to start taking a much closer look at the big man from New Jersey.