We’re in the heart of the 2017 recruiting cycle for the Syracuse football program, so it’s only natural that fans may have forgotten a little bit about the 2016 class, much of which is already on campus getting ready for the upcoming season. With that in mind, today and tomorrow I’ll be throwing together a quick cheat sheet for this year’s newcomers, beginning today with the offensive side of the ball.
Let’s go in order of when they committed, from earliest to latest…
QB Rex Culpepper (Tampa, FL)
The lone quarterback in the class of 2016, the 3-star Culpepper is the son of former NFL defensive lineman Brad Culpepper. At 6-3, 216 he comes in physically read to play at least from a measurables standpoint, but Culpepper missed all of his senior season with a torn ACL. However, he enrolled early and has already competed in spring practice, and could very well find himself at number two on the depth chart behind Eric Dungey at some point this season.
Culpepper chose Syracuse over offers from Florida, Miami, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and more. His younger brother, Judge, is also a big-time recruit as both a tight end and defensive end, and will likely be a 4-star prospect by the time it’s all said and done.
OL Sam Heckel (Waukesha, WI)
The versatile offensive lineman could play either tackle or guard, though odds are he’s going to wind up playing on the interior. The 6-foot-5, 265 Heckel will get a chance to earn playing time early on given some questions about offensive line depth (though there’s some talent in the class of 2015 that will likely emerge this season). Heckel was one of the top offensive line prospects in the midwest, being ranked as the number two offensive guard in the state of Wisconsin by Scout.
Heckel chose Syracuse over the likes of Illinois, Iowa State, Northwestern, Northern Illinois, Virginia, and Bowling Green, among others.
ATH Moe Neal (Gastonia, NC)
Of all the players in the class of 2016, Moe Neal is probably the one who least needs a re-introduction. The lightning quick athlete who enrolled early and wowed during spring practice will almost certainly see the field this season. He was recruited to play in the slot, but this spring he worked almost exclusively with the running backs. Neal has been laser timed at 4.39 seconds in the 40, already making him one of the fastest players on the roster. He’s a game breaker and a home run threat every time he touches the ball.
Neal picked the Orange over Wake Forest, Boston College, Duke, NC State, Mississippi State, West Virginia, and Georgia Tech among others.
OL Airon Servais (Green Bay, WI)
Another talented incoming offensive lineman, Aaron Servais was the first recruit of the Dino Babers era. Servais was completely off the radar before Babers came in, and committed as soon as he was offered in December. The 6-foot-6, 290 pound prospect is likely going to play tackle for the Orange, and boasts very good athleticism for his size. He was ranked by Scout as the third best OT prospect in Wisconsin in the class of 2016.
Servais picked Syracuse over the likes of Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Wyoming, and several Ivy League programs.
OL Liam O’Sullivan (Park Ridge, IL)
Yet another good, young offensive line prospect, Liam O’Sullivan was originally committed to Cincinnati but flipped to the Orange after taking an official visit to CNY. He’s got great length at about 6-foot-7, but he’s very thin at about 240 (at last check) and will likely need a year in Syracuse’s strength and conditioning program before he sees the field. However, the 3-star prospect (who could play either tackle or guard) was one of the top OL talents in Illinois in the class of 2016 and is a player to keep an eye on moving forward.
O’Sullivan chose the Orange over Cincinnati, Illinois, Northern Illinois, New Mexico, and Bowling Green, among others.
ATH Sean Riley (Harbor City, CA)
Like O’Sullivan, Sean Riley started his Syracuse recruitment process committed to a different school – in this case, Arizona. However, the Wildcats wanted the speedy athlete to greyshirt as a freshman, which opened the door for Syracuse to swoop in and snag him. Riley is small at 5-foot-9, 165 but has elite quickness and agility, and like Moe Neal is a home run threat every time he touches the ball. He’s been recruited to play the slot for Syracuse, and could be a difference maker in the return game as well.
Riley picked Syracuse over Arizona, Hawaii, Utah, San Diego State, and Wyoming.
OL Michael Clark (Exton, PA)
The final offensive line pickup in the class of 2016, Michael Clark is yet another player who started out committed to a different school before ultimately signing with Syracuse. Clark was originally committed to Maryland before backing off that pledge, and pledged to the Orange while on his official visit. The 3-star prospect has great size at 6-foot-7, 281 and was one of the top offensive line prospects in the football-crazy state of Pennsylvania.
Clark picked Syracuse over the likes of Maryland, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Carolina, Wake Forest, and West Virginia.
RB Jo-El Shaw (Pittsburgh, PA)
If Moe Neal is going to be the lightning, Jo-El Shaw is the thunder to this running back tandem. At 6-foot-1, 225 he’s a big, strong, grinding running back from one of the biggest powerhouse programs in the northeast, Woodland Hills in Pittsburgh. Shaw gives Syracuse a big short yardage back, something the Orange certainly lacked last year. He would almost certainly have had a higher profile, but was overshadowed a bit by his teammate Miles Sanders, a Penn State commit who happened to be the number one RB prospect in the country.
Shaw, who still rushed for more than 1,200 yards despite sharing ball-carrying duties, was originally a Western Michigan commit and also picked Syracuse over the likes of Kansas, Pittsburgh, and Temple.
WR Devin Butler (Upper Marlboro, MD)
A theme once Dino Babers came in was to finish up the class of 2016 with numerous players who had previously been committed to other schools, and Devin Butler falls in that group. Butler was originally committed to Maryland, but the 6-foot-3, 195 pound athlete decommitted and later chose Syracuse shortly after his official visit. He spent most of his HS career playing QB and DB, but will play receiver for Syracuse. He’s also a track star and will compete on the Orange track and field team, boasting a 4.44 in the 40.
Butler picked Syracuse over the likes of Maryland and Temple.