Honestly, I’m not sure what many of us expected after Robert Washington committed back on April 25. And frankly, it’s funny to say “back on” since it was just over a week ago that Syracuse University got its biggest football verbal in at least the past 15 years, so it feels a little crazy to be treating it as though it’s deep in the past. But Syracuse fans are hungry for more, and while the ripple effect is being felt, it begs the question: how well will the Orange be able to maintain this recruiting momentum as we get farther and farther away from Washington’s pledge?
Now, it’s still extremely early in the 2016 recruiting cycle. Heck, just look back to last year and note that at the same point in time in 2014, the Orange had just two verbal commitments (Tyrone Perkins committed on 4/16, and Jordan Fredericks pledged on 4/24). And while it feels like momentum picked up in early May, that’s not really the case. Yes, the Orange got three commits in a single day on May 16 (Sam Clausman, Colin Byrne, and Cody Conway), Syracuse still had just five commitments prior to June.
And it’s a tricky time of year for the coaches, as well, since official visits are not allowed and the coaches are forced to maneuver around what is and isn’t permissible within the “evaluation period.” The fact of the matter is that Washington’s commitment most definitely caused a stir among other national recruits – look at the sudden increased interest of people like Dwayne Haskins and Jared Mayden, in particular – but how easily can the momentum be sustained when guys like Haskins and Mayden have never even been to campus, and at this point would have to pay their own way to get there?
It’s made even trickier given that hey, school is still in session for most high school students. Many of these recruits are participating in other sports, as well, like track and field. It’s not easy to find a weekend to fly up from, say, Texas, on your own dime, to take a look around campus.
Still, it feels like the momentum needs one more little push to keep rolling. Anyone who follows Washington on Twitter has seen that he’s been actively recruiting his elite friends to join him at Syracuse, and as long as he stays in the ears of those big time players they’ll most likely keep listening. But it would be a heck of a lot easier if that next domino would fall.
Obviously, Orange fans are hoping the next domino to fall will be Moe Neal, Washington’s good friend who just named Syracuse as one of his five finalists. Of course, Neal hasn’t specified when he plans on deciding, noting simply that it will be prior to his senior season. For Orange fans, the hope is that he decides sooner than later, because if he were to commit, it seems likely that Christian Colon could be close behind. And that’s when the momentum really begins to pick up, and this transitions from being a single big time commit, to the start of a trend, and hopefully eventually, a full fledged revival movement.
And of course, the momentum doesn’t simply need to be maintained by Washington and his friends, either. After all, Syracuse has been actively pursuing numerous New Jersey targets who have seemed poised to commit, but haven’t yet pulled the trigger, like quarterback Anthony Brown and wide receiver Gene Coleman. Both would be welcome additions to the team, and are high profile enough targets to keep bolstering the class and get more people noticing. New Jersey is an important piece in the Syracuse recruiting puzzle again, and just like Washington could set off a domino effect on a more national level, a commit from a player like Brown or Coleman could set off a similar chain of commitments in the Garden State.
With the academic year winding down, we should start hearing about more players looking to get on campus and check things out. We already know that Washington plans on visiting again, probably with Neal and Colon, and Mayden has said he wants to visit the Hill as well. Mayden has said he plans on deciding on a school at The Opening, which takes place in early July. That’s going to make things tough for the Orange, since the NCAA contact period begins on July 1 – that means that Syracuse coaches can go to Texas specifically to visit Mayden after that date – and official visits are not permitted until players begin their senior seasons. If an unofficial visit is going to happen with Mayden, it would seem that June is the most likely month in which it could occur.
Which means we’ve got more than a month until the next biggest dominoes could potentially fall in the recruiting class of 2016. Of course, it would be a lot easier to convince the guys like Mayden and Haskins to take a much closer look at Syracuse if a few other high caliber recruits were in the bag. Which is basically my way of saying: Uh, hey Moe Neal…right now is technically before your senior season starts. We’re more than happy to take a commitment any day of the week to really get this train rolling!