Shortly after shocking the college football world by making a last second change from the University of Florida to Syracuse University, Robert Washington detailed his reasons for committing to the Orange, in an interview uploaded by Syracuse.com that you can check out above.
In his video, Washington ran through the typical platitudes while discussing the other schools and mentioned early playing time at Syracuse as a major factor as he found himself being drawn to Syracuse. But there’s something else that should serve to tip off Orange fans about what Robert Washington has in mind when he heads to Syracuse in 2016, and it all goes back to an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary.
The film in question is “The U,” which Washington references midway through his interview, which chronicles the story of how the University of Miami football program went from nearly being disbanded to becoming one of the most dominant forces in college football. If you’ve never watched the documentary, check it out. I was born in 1980 so I’ve only ever known Miami as a football powerhouse, which makes it fascinating to look back at the struggles the program faced in the 1970’s when the Hurricanes played to empty stadiums, giving away free tickets with Whoppers at the local Burger Kings. And yes, the very real possibility of disbanding the program was floated by the People Who Make Decisions at Miami. That is, until Howard Schnellenberger took the reins and turned Miami into a perennial power.
But while Miami was already on a bit of an upswing in the first few years under Schnellenberger, it wasn’t until the recruiting class of 1983 that the Hurricanes went from being an afterthought on the national football scene to being, well, The U. And it all started with two recruits who got together and decided to play for Miami, and proceeded to take it upon themselves to recruit a wealth of talent to join them. The rest, as they say, is history.
The two recruits in question were Alonzo Highsmith and Melvin Bratton, and it should be very interesting for Syracuse fans that Robert Washington was so quick to bring up what one recruiting class did to turn around the Hurricane football program. Clearly, Washington has something similar in mind, and that’s something that should have Syracuse football fans very, very excited.
You see, Robert Washington is not only an elite talent, but he’s also friends with a lot of elite talents. And if his plan is to gather as much of that talent around him as he can and make Syracuse a national power, then this is indeed an exciting time to be a fan of the Orange. Now, obviously you’re probably wondering who he might be able to bring with him.
It all starts with the quarterback position, because this is football and let’s face it, that’s where everything has to start. I talked a little bit last night about Dwayne Haskins, one of the most highly coveted quarterbacks in America. He’s rated as the No. 3 quarterback prospect in the country by ESPN, and the No. 25 player overall. In other words, he’s ridiculously good. To put it bluntly, Syracuse has never signed a quarterback with the kind of national reputation that Haskins enjoys.
And so what, you’re thinking. Just because Washington is friendly with Haskins – and he is, through their years of playing for Team USA together – doesn’t mean he’s going to even consider Syracuse because his friend has committed. Right? Well, don’t be so sure. Washington has already publicly said he plans on recruiting his friend to come to Syracuse alongside him, and from what I understand, some contact has already been made…and Haskins is listening. Just listening, for now, but considering the Orange weren’t really even on his radar until yesterday (he had a Syracuse offer and had expressed some interest before, but both sides had seemingly moved on) that’s an encouraging sign. Suddenly, the Orange could potentially head into 2016 with a top 10 running back and a top five quarterback recruit. Washington and Haskins could, conceivably, be Syracuse’s versions of Highsmith and Bratton.
And it doesn’t end there, either. Christian Colon is another former teammate of Washington’s, and the 3-star defensive tackle recently received an offer from the Orange. He’s also got offers from North Carolina, Penn State, Boston College, and Louisville, among others, but with his good friend Washington verbally committing to Syracuse it puts the Orange directly in the mix for the 6-foot-3, 325 pound talent.
Another player that immediately becomes a priority target is Moe Neal, a 5-foot-10 running back/wide receiver hybrid who is rated as a 3-star right now but has previously been in and out of the ESPN300. He and Washington are close friends, and could form something of a thunder and lightning pairing in the Orange backfield. Neal has offers from schools like NC State, Duke, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, and Boston College, among others. He also holds an offer from the Orange, meaning that with his friend Washington on board, his interest level in Syracuse could see a pretty big spike.
Will Eason is another player I’ve talked about a bit before, though he’s still waiting for a Syracuse offer. The 5-foot-8 defensive back/receiver has speed to burn, and could be a dynamic kick returner. He had high interest in the Orange even before Washington committed, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that if or when he’s offered, he’ll jump on the scholarship.
Looking ahead to the class of 2017, there are a few names that jump out as possible dominoes to fall. The first, most obvious one is Washington’s cousin Aapri, a lockdown corner who could wind up being one of the top defensive back prospects in his class. It’s not hard to think that with his cousin committing to Syracuse, Aapri – who already holds a Syracuse offer, as well as offers from TCU, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Ole Miss, and Boston College among others – could wind up being Syracuse’s to lose at this point. Another name in the 2017 class to keep an eye on is Eric Gallman, a 5-foot-8 receiver prospect from SouthLake Christian who is garnering plenty of interest from Syracuse along with Boston College, Duke, NC State, Virginia, and Wake Forest, though he’s still waiting on the high major offers to start rolling in. One more name to keep an eye on in North Carolina is TJ Sanders, a 5-foot-9, 180 pound running back/defensive back prospect from East Gaston which, if that sounds familiar, is Robert Washington’s new school. Sanders was also on hand yesterday at Washington’s commitment, and Washington has already publicly said he’s going to work on getting Sanders to SU.
And that brings us to the ultimate class of 2017 pipe dream recruit. Anthony Hines is a name you might have already heard simply because of his absurd number of scholarship offers. As it stands, Hines is hovering in the high 60s in terms of offers. The 6-foot-2, 215 pound outside linebacker is one of the hottest commodities in the class of 2017, rated as a 4-star recruit and the No. 75 overall prospect in the class of 2017, according to 247sports.com. Hines is from Plano, Texas, so what’s the connection to Washington, you ask? It all goes back to Team USA Football. Specifically, Hines has been playing with Aapri Washington over the past few years, including this year as members of the U17 team in the International Bowl in Arlington, Texas. It’s probably a longshot to land Hines right now, and it should be noted that right now none of the SU coaches are following him on Twitter, but obviously a lot can change in a year.
And thats the big thing about having secured the commitment from Robert Washington: it’s opened a lot of doors that Orange fans probably didn’t realize could actually be opened. Miami in the 1970s was in a tough position, limping through seasons in which they would win three or four games, and then a new coach with a new attitude, and a few recruits who took it upon themselves to change the culture turned that program into a national power.
Sound familiar? I know I sure hope it will when we look back at the 30 for 30 on how Robert Washington restored 44 to the field, and glory to the Orange football program.