Yesterday, I gave a quick recap of the incoming offensive players in the recruiting class of 2016. Today, let’s take a look at the defensive players Dino Babers and his staff brought in, several of whom are already on campus.
Just like with the offense, we’ll take a look at this from those who committed earliest, to the latest additions to the class…
DB Scoop Bradshaw (Tampa, FL)
The only defensive holdover from the original crop of recruits Scott Shafer picked up before being replaced as the head coach, Scoop Bradshaw stuck with the Orange alongside his high school teammate, QB Rex Culpepper. Bradshaw is an athletic, versatile defensive back who could play either corner or safety. The 5-foot-11, 175 pound player is a little smaller than Brian Ward would prefer for defensive backs in his Tampa 2 system, but he’s a heck of an athlete with great natural instincts.
Bradshaw chose the Orange over Indiana, Iowa State, South Florida, Utah, and Southern Miss, among others.
DE Kenneth Ruff (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Originally projected to play middle linebacker when he was in high school, the former Virginia commit will line up at defensive end for the Orange. He’s certainly got the size at 6-foot-2 and about 250 pounds, and he’s a terrific athlete who will see the field early thanks to the Orange having virtually zero depth or experience at defensive end. Ruff was an early enrollee and worked with the first team defense through the spring, though odds are he’ll wind up as a backup once graduate transfer Gabe Sherrod arrives on campus.
Ruff picked Syracuse over UVA, Clemson, Illinois, Kentucky, South Carolina, Ole Miss, North Carolina, South Florida, and Temple, among others. His cousin is highly-regarded Syracuse 2017 target and fellow defensive end Jordan Wright.
DB Carl Jones (Lakewood, OH)
A long, rangy athlete, Carl Jones projects as a cornerback for Brian Ward and Nick Monroe. The 6-foot-2, 175 pounder played a lot of wide receiver in high school (where he was a former teammate of redshirt sophomore linebacker Troy Henderson at St. Edward, a perennial power in Ohio), and is learning how to be a corner but his athleticism and size give him the potential to be a terrific addition to the secondary down the road.
Jones picked Syracuse over Army and Air Force.
DE Kendall Coleman (Indianapolis, IN)
Defensive end is an area of serious need, and Kendall Coleman is one of a few incoming freshmen who could make their mark early. The 6-foot-3, 240 pound player was rated by Scout as the second best defensive end prospect in Indiana, and was originally committed to Western Michigan. However, Vinson Reynolds and Mike Hart had recruited him to WMU and got him to flip to the Orange.
Coleman picked Syracuse over schools like Ball State, Western Michigan, and Miami (Ohio).
DB Devon Clarke (Kissimmee, FL)
One of the more interesting stories in the class of 2016, Clarke originally tried to commit to Scott Shafer and the Orange last summer but Syracuse wasn’t ready to accept his pledge just yet. The one-time Oregon State commit got another chance to join the Orange, however, when Babers took over the program. Babers and his staff and recruited the 6-foot-3, 190 pound safety at Bowling Green and continued to pursue him once they came to the Orange, and the rest is history.
Clarke chose Syracuse over programs such as Bowling Green, Marshall, UMass, Purdue, Temple, and South Florida, among others.
LB Andrew Armstrong (Youngstown, OH)
One of the easiest sells for Babers was likely outside linebacker Andrew Armstrong, who had previously committed to Dino and his staff at Bowling Green. The 6-foot-2, 215 pound linebacker immediately became interested in Syracuse and committed to the Orange following an official visit. Armstrong is a smart, athletic linebacker who played a lot of safety and receiver/tight end in high school, and will do well in coverage in the Tampa 2.
Armstrong chose Syracuse over the likes of Wake Forest, Cincinnati, and Bowling Green.
DT McKinley Williams (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Out of all of the defensive players in this year’s class, McKinley Williams probably most qualifies as the diamond in the rough. The athletic, 6-foot-5, 255 pound defensive tackle was a teammate of Kenneth Ruff’s at Dillard High and was flying pretty well below the radar when Syracuse offered, but shortly after that happened he started getting more attention and soon found himself rated as a 3-star prospect by Scout.
Williams picked Syracuse over offers from Idaho, Pittsburgh, Western Michigan, and Middle Tennessee State.
DB Evan Foster (West Bloomfield, MI)
Like Armstrong, Evan Foster was previously committed to Bowling Green before flipping to Syracuse once Dino Babers and his staff took over. A hard-hitting safety from Michigan, Foster has terrific size for the position at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, and is a good athlete who will have a chance to make an early impact in the Syracuse secondary. There’s not a ton of size among the returning players for Syracuse, so don’t be surprised if some of the true freshman crack the 2-deep. Foster could be one of them.
Foster picked Syracuse over Bowling Green, Purdue, Toledo, and Eastern Michigan.
DE Jaquwan Nelson (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Perhaps the most coveted player in Syracuse’s entire class, the 6-foot-4, 230 pound Jaquwan Nelson is a talented edge rusher who has a chance to get on the 2-deep basically as soon as he sets foot on campus. Nelson was originally a Miami commit, but decommitted from the U last fall and eventually picked Syracuse while on an official visit. However, that nearly wound up being a short-lived commitment when Georgia came swooping in, but Nelson chose to stick with the Orange on signing day.
Nelson picked Syracuse over Georgia, Illinois, Miami, Purdue, Oregon State, Kentucky, and Bowling Green, among others.
DE Joshua Black (Machesney Park, IL)
Rounding out the group of incoming defensive ends is former Illinois commit Joshua Black. The former offensive lineman transitioned to defense over his last two years of high school, and his size (6-foot-3, 251 pounds) and athleticism got him noticed immediately. In addition to being a big, powerful defensive lineman, he’s also a standout track and field athlete, finishing among the top performers in the shot put in Illinois this past spring.
Black picked Syracuse over Illinois, Toledo, Bowling Green, and Ball State, among others.
LB Tim Walton (Detroit, MI)
Like Black, Tim Walton was originally an Illinois commit who eventually switched his pledge to Syracuse. The 6-foot-2, 225 pound inside linebacker has good athleticism and instincts and could be a natural manning the middle in Brian Ward’s Tampa 2. The 3-star Walton comes from Detroit powerhouse Cass Tech, which is also home to one of Syracuse’s 2017 commits, defensive end Zach Morton. Unrelated to anything – it turns out one of my former roommates at Syracuse was one of Walton’s coaches his freshman year of high school, when he attended Brother Rice before transferring to Cass.
Walton chose Syracuse over Illinois, Cincinnati, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, and Kent State, among others.
DB James Pierre (Deerfield Beach, FL)
The last – and by far the latest – pledge in the class of 2016 also came from one of the most highly regarded players the Orange brought in as part of this group of newcomers. James Pierre was originally committed to Miami before flipping to North Carolina, and actually signed his NLI to play for the Tar Heels before learning that UNC was not going to admit him. Syracuse quickly became an option, and the 6-foot-2, 175 pound defensive back (who could play either corner or safety) just as quickly signed with the Orange after visiting campus in May.
Pierre signed with Syracuse over offers from UNC, Miami, South Carolina, Louisville, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Tennessee, among others.