Tomorrow is a big day for the Syracuse University football program, as one of the coaching staff’s highest priority targets will be making his college decision at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Moe Neal will be deciding between Wake Forest and the Orange, and will announce at Forestview High School. With one of the biggest dominos in Syracuse’s 2016 recruiting cycle ready to fall, which way is it leaning, and what happens if it doesn’t fall the way Orange fans would like?
At this point, it’s almost too tough to tell where Neal is leaning. To use a boxing analogy, the first two judges have split their scores between Syracuse and Wake, and it all comes down to that third judge. If I had to guess, I believe that Syracuse may be holding a slight edge, and when I say slight, I mean in the neighborhood of 55/45, but obviously we won’t know for sure until a college name comes out of Moe’s mouth tomorrow.
If Neal chooses Wake, my guess is that two things will have played a significant factor: the fact that Wake is close to home, and the fact that with the Demon Deacons, he’d have a chance to be “the guy” at running back. Location and the running back versus hybrid factor were the key contributors in Syracuse missing out on Tre Bryant, and if the Orange are unable to land Neal, I think they’ll be contributors again.
That said, at this point I do think that Syracuse is in a very good position to land Moe Neal. For starters, the Orange have a commitment from Neal’s close friend Robert Washington, and the pair have talked about being a tandem in college for a long time. With Team USA, they’ve already basically previewed how they’d be used at Syracuse with Washington lining up in the backfield and Neal in the slot, and the new express back position is certainly an ideal way to take advantage of Neal’s strengths.
Specifically, Neal has exceptional speed (4.39 in the 40) and agility, and does incredible damage on the edge and in the open field. At around 160 pounds it doesn’t make sense to run him up the middle, so putting him in the slot or getting him in motion on jet sweeps and other methods to get him the ball on the edge is a terrific way to put his talents to their best use.
But, I’m sure you’re asking, what happens if Neal doesn’t pick the Orange? Where does Syracuse go next? The two names that immediately jump to mind are Amir Tyler and Tyler Thompson, though it’s hard to say how recently Syracuse had been in touch with the latter. Both players come from New Jersey, and bring a little bit of a different skill set than Neal. Amir Tyler is 6-foot, 195 pounds and uses his strength more than his lateral quickness, and is closer to current Orange commit Darius Stubbs than he is to Neal. The same could be said for Thompson, who is a little smaller than Tyler (5-foot-11, 180) but plays closer to Tyler than Neal.
Tyler is rated as a 3-star talent by 247sports, with his best offer coming from Temple. Thompson is rated as a 3-star prospect as well, and interestingly, they’re ranked right next to each other in 247’s running back rankings (46 for Tyler, 47 for Thompson). Thompson claims a longer offer sheet than Tyler, with offers from Boston College, Pitt, Temple, Virginia, and Vanderbilt. Frankly, I’m kind of expecting Thompson to ultimately follow his good friend and former Syracuse quarterback target Anthony Brown to Boston College, making Tyler a much more viable option should Neal head elsewhere.
All that said, I still predict that Moe Neal will pledge to Syracuse tomorrow. Still, it doesn’t hurt to look ahead a little bit and figure out where the Orange stands based on multiple scenarios. Neal is a key part of Syracuse’s plans for the future, and in my opinion would be the best pure athlete at a skill position since Marvin Harrison was running around the Carrier Dome turf in the mid 1990s.