It’s only July 3, but the Syracuse football staff has already gotten more than halfway to filling the 2018 recruiting class. With 11 players committed in what will likely be a smaller than normal class, how will Dino Babers and his staff look to fill the remaining open spots?
Due to the low number of seniors on the upcoming season’s team, the Orange are looking at a comparatively small class, likely finishing up in the 18-20 range in terms of total commits. That means that, at this point, the openings left are limited, and the staff will likely become much more particular in who they push for and try to get committed.
There are some obvious positions that the Orange staff is going to target, the most noteworthy being quarterback. Chance Amie chose Houston over the Orange, but Will Levis remains a top priority for Syracuse. The Orange definitely want at least one quarterback in this year’s class, so let’s go ahead and mark of a spot for a signal caller.
Assuming we’re working with 20 scholarship openings, the addition of a QB would put the number of openings left down to 8. Got it? So, with that in mind, let’s move on.
Staying on the offensive side of the ball, the Orange will likely try to bring in one or two more skill position players, notably at running back and perhaps one more wide receiver – probably in the slot. After all, the Orange already have a pair of outside receivers committed with Anthony Queeley and Taj Harris, compared to just one slot guy (Cooper Lutz). Tyler Harrell continues to be a priority at receiver for the Orange, though if Ed Hendrix decided he wanted to play for Syracuse, it’s highly unlikely that the coaches would turn him away.
I mentioned running back, and while Syracuse does have two already committed in this class – Akeem Dixon and Jawhar Jordan – the Orange are still pushing for Hassan Hall, a speedster from Georgia who recently put Syracuse in his top six and should be considered an Orange lean at this point. If he were to pull the trigger, that would wrap things up at RB for this year’s class.
So, let’s go ahead and say Hall and Harrell (or Hendrix) commit, putting the number of available scholarships down to approximately 6.
Offensive line is another priority position for Syracuse, and Qadir White remains arguably the most important player on the board for the Orange at any position. The enormous tackle is a 4-star recruit from New York, and would be an absolutely monumental recruiting victory. Even if the Orange fail to land White, another tackle is likely to be added to the class, bringing the remaining scholarships down to 5. Again, that’s an approximation, since we have no idea yet how many open scholarships we’ll wind up with for this year’s class.
Moving over to the defensive side of the ball, the defensive line is an absolute priority for Syracuse. You can expect the Orange to try to bring in at least two more linemen during this cycle, and perhaps even more given the recent medical disqualification of Steven Clark. Clark’s medical DQ also makes landing a strong DT prospect essential, and the absolute top of the list of targets is Judge Culpepper.
Culpepper is being recruited by some schools as a tight end, but Syracuse views him as a defensive tackle, like his father was before him. Having Judge’s brother Rex at Syracuse is certainly helping in his recruitment, and per a recent report from 247Sports, the Orange are one of six schools he’s focusing on at the moment. The others on the list are impressive, and include Penn State, LSU, Georgia, Nebraska, and of course, his father’s alma mater, Florida. It will be difficult to land a target of his caliber, but the relationship he and his family have with Syracuse through Rex, as well as family friend Scoop Bradshaw, make him a realistic target.
So, let’s say that the Orange pull off a minor upset and snag Judge Culpepper. That brings us down to just 4 available scholarships left in the class, approximately. Let’s stay on the defensive line for the next opening.
The top priority at defensive end at the moment is Randy “Bam” Charlton, the 6-foot-4, 3-star edge rusher who is a former teammate of Nadarius Fagan’s at Miami Southridge. Charlton visited SU recently, and the Orange are considered one of the favorites to land him. Other offers for Charlton include Nebraska, Oregon, Baylor, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Maryland, among others, so he’d be another big recruiting victory for Babers and his staff – particularly Florida recruiting ace Nick Monroe.
Let’s go ahead and assume that the Orange are able to pluck Charlton out of the sunshine state. That puts us at approximately 3 scholarship openings for the class of 2018, assuming everyone else plays out the way I’ve got things above.
Another Florida-based defensive target to keep an eye on is Cameron Jonas, a 3-star prospect rated by Scout as the No. 9 safety prospect in Florida. Jonas, like most of the players that Syracuse has been targeting this cycle, has an impressive list of offers, including Florida State, Miami, Auburn, Wisconsin, NC State, and North Carolina, but the Orange are firmly in the mix for his services. Getting a defensive back from Florida away from any of the “Big 3” schools in the state is always difficult, but there’s a real chance that Syracuse is able to pull off exactly that feat with Jonas.
Alright, now for the sake of this endeavor, let’s imagine that Syracuse is able to pull Jonas out of SEC country. That leaves us with 2 more scholarships, approximately, in this year’s class.
So, where do we go with those final two scholarships? Another defensive back is certainly possible, as is another QB. Shoring up the defensive line a bit more is certainly a possibility, and there’s always a chance the staff could get both Tyler Harrell and Ed Hendrix at wide receiver, which would cut the number of openings down to 1, if we wind up with 20 total scholarships to give in this recruiting cycle.
My money is that we might pocket those final scholarships for either some JUCO talent, most likely on either the offensive or defensive lines, or simply go with a “best available talent” approach. Either way, the Syracuse staff has put itself in a terrific position this recruiting cycle, and with more than half the class already filled, they can turn their attention to retaining these commitments while also choosing the very best players they can land at positions of need.