With the December signing period taking much of the suspense (and likely a lot of anxiety on the part of the coaches) out of the traditional National Signing Day, the Syracuse Orange came into the day with only a few spots left open and no real surprises expected.
As expected, running backs Akeem Dixon and Jarveon Howard signed with the Orange, and as most people expected, Mychale Salahuddin signed with Pitt. The only prospect who seemed to be truly up in the air heading into the day was defensive lineman Caleb Okechukwu, and fortunately for the Orange, they were the team that landed the Under Armour All-American.
The 6-foot-4, 240 pound Okechukwu capped the 2018 recruiting class off at a position of serious need. Now, where exactly he winds up on the defensive line remains to be seen given his versatility, but he’s got great size already and the frame to grow into a defensive tackle, which would probably be ideal at this stage given that’s the area where Syracuse has the least depth on defense.
Okechukwu, who attends St. John’s College High in Washington DC, is rated by 247 as the ninth best player in DC in the class of 2018 and a 3-star prospect. He chose the Orange over offers from Arkansas, Arizona, and Tennessee, among others, and was getting strong interest from Texas.
Overall, inking Okechukwu boosts an already strong class for Dino Babers and his staff, particularly when you factor in transfers Abdul Adams from Oklahoma and Trishton Jackson from Michigan State, two former 4-star recruits with Power 5 experience already under their belts.
While the staff will begin to move onto the class of 2019 full-time going forward (not that they haven’t already been active with that class), we could still see some pieces fall into place to finalize next year’s roster. Remember, Alton Robinson didn’t emerge until extremely late in the process, for example. Watch for the Orange to look for perhaps a slot receiver, offensive lineman, or maybe another interior defensive lineman before it’s all said and done.
And there’s also the continued possibility of adding JUCO cornerback Duwayne Johnson, not to mention the (albeit remote) possibility that Jawhar Jordan’s academics could get squared away in time for him to enroll this summer. Now, do I think that’s going to happen? I’m skeptical, to say the least. And if Jordan’s academics do suddenly get up to par, you can bet the NCAA will take a look to make sure there was no funny business involved, because players suddenly becoming eligible always strikes a chord with them… outside of Chapel Hill, anyway.
We should all be pretty happy with this class, though. The staff addressed a number of needs, and for the most part landed targets they locked in on early, and managed to keep almost the entire class solid throughout the process. This is a really nice job by Babers and his crew, and continues to build the foundation for what will hopefully be Syracuse’s return to national significance sooner than later.