It’s time once again (or for the first time, who can remember?) for another round (unless it’s the first) of everyone’s favorite (just go with it) feature. That’s right, it’s time for some Wild Ass Guesses! This week, let’s take a look at the upcoming group of official visits and try to get to the bottom of how things will play out for the Syracuse football program on arguably the biggest recruiting weekend of this cycle for the new coaching staff.
It really is a big weekend for Syracuse football, with a number of high priority recruits checking out campus this weekend. In a stroke of somewhat ironic luck, with a winter storm hitting the east coast, Syracuse is being mercifully spared while other schools, like Virginia, have been forced to cancel all visits this weekend. Considering Syracuse still has half a class to fill, the lack of severe weather in January in upstate New York is incredibly fortunate.
This morning, Scout.com’s Mike McAllister did a great job breaking down who is, and who isn’t visiting the campus of Syracuse University this weekend. Let’s just recap quickly, first with the targets Syracuse is still trying to get t commit:
Tim Walton, 3-star LB (Illinois commit)
Rashad Smith, 2-star LB (FAU commit)
Joshua Black, 3-star DE (Illinois decommit)
Jaquwan Nelson, 3-star DE (Miami decommit)
McKinley Williams, unranked DT (uncommitted)
Evan Foster, 2-star DB (Bowling Green decommit)
Devin Butler, 3-star WR (Maryland decommit)
Jo-El Shaw, 3-star RB (WMU decommit)
Michael Clark, 3-star OL (Maryland decommit)
And now, here are the official visitors already committed to the Orange:
Sam Heckel, 3-star OL
Airon Servais, 3-star OL
Kendall Coleman, 3-star DE
Syracuse currently has 13 commitments, and will likely be hoping to snag 10-12 more to close out the 2016 recruiting cycle. That’s going to be awfully tough with such a tight window, as National Signing Day is coming up quickly on February 3. So let’s just jump right into who is, and isn’t, likely to commit this weekend.
First things first here, there is a realistic possibility that any one of this weekend’s visitors could pledge to the Orange. All have high interest, though since Walton is a brand new surprise visitor, his interest level is obviously more of an unknown, and he’s the least likely visitor to commit. For right now, let’s leave him off the board, since it’s unlikely he’s going to flip so quickly after his initial contact with the staff.
Clark and Williams, meanwhile, are at the opposite end of the spectrum in that they don’t currently hold Syracuse offers, and both could be viewed as backup plans, to a degree. In Clark’s case, Syracuse already has three offensive linemen committed and the Orange are in a good position with 4-star talent Stewart Reese, so it remains to be seen if the staff is willing to bring in five offensive linemen in this class. If they feel they have room to bring in both Stewart and Clark, and decide to offer Clark this weekend, I think there’s a very good chance he commits.
Williams, meanwhile, is the only defensive tackle that Syracuse is currently going after, and is a complete sleeper recruit from the same high school as 2016 linebacker recruit Kenneth Ruff. Let’s not beat around the bush here: if Syracuse offers Williams this weekend, I’m predicting he’ll commit more or less on the spot.
Now, let’s go to the guys with offers who might decide to wait a bit before making a decision. At the top of that list is Jo-El Shaw, the running back from Pittsburgh who still has high interest in his hometown team. The Panthers already have four running backs committed, but it’s awfully hard to sway a hometown kid away from Pittsburgh, and he’s got an official visit set for January 29 to Pitt. I think that no matter what, he holds off and takes that visit before making his final decision. He could surprise us all and pull the trigger to SU this weekend, but I think it’s unlikely.
Devin Butler, meanwhile, is an intriguing option at wide receiver. The 6-foot-3 track star is a former Maryland commit who played safety and quarterback in high school, but SU loves his potential as a pass catcher. My gut feeling is that he holds off on a commitment for now, though I hope I’m wrong on this one. He’d be a terrific addition to the class and give the staff some outstanding speed (4.44 in the 40) at the outside receiver position.
Jaquwan Nelson is one of the gems visiting this weekend, and is someone at a position of real need for the Orange. There’s a chance he could commit to Syracuse on his visit, but I’m going to go ahead and predict that won’t happen. He could still pledge to the Orange in the near future, but my gut instinct is that he at the very least goes home and mulls things over first.
That brings us to three players I’m predicting will be all Orange by the end of the weekend: Joshua Black, Evan Foster, and Rashad Smith. Syracuse is high on all three, and all three are high on the Orange. A week ago, I would have predicted that Foster is the most likely to commit, but right now the vibe I’m getting is that the most likely commitment of the trio is Black, a defensive end with the size and ability to play right away. He just recently decommitted from Illinois and things have been trending in Syracuse’s direction for a few weeks now.
Smith is a guy I’ve had on flip watch for a bit now, and the athletic, hard-hitting linebacker is a guy I fully expect to be pledged to the Orange by the end of the weekend. Now, obviously as a Florida kid, his trip to Syracuse could make him realize he just really doesn’t like the cold weather and wants to stay in the Sunshine State. That’s certainly a possibility. But my gut is telling me he flips to Syracuse.
And finally, that brings us to Foster. The former Bowling Green commit has been high on the coaching staff’s list ever since Dino Babers was hired by the Orange, and he seems like he’s been on the verge of joining up with Syracuse for the past month. Now that he’s getting on campus, it still feels like it’s bound to happen. Now, Iowa just reached out to the 6-foot-2 safety, so that could give him pause. But he’s been sold on this coaching staff for awhile, and like Andrew Armstrong last week, I think he’s going to realize that he wants to stick with Babers and Nick Monroe and verbal to the Orange by Sunday afternoon.
So there you have it, folks. Another (or, again, maybe the first…who can remember?) round of Wild Ass Guessing is in the books! Pay close attention to how this weekend plays out so that you can point and laugh at me when the majority of what I’m predicting goes wildly wrong.