22 letters of intent are in for Syracuse football, more could be on the way. But for now, let's break down the class based on categories and what we know as of National Signing Day.
Hear me out. I did envision him heading to Syracuse all along, but the fact that he dragged the process out to National Signing Day reflected his consideration for Connecticut. The suspense grew once his commitment leaked out to scattered news outlets, all pointing to SU – seeming something like a setup for a big letdown once the letter of intent was to come in.
Obviously, that didn't happen and he faxed to Doug Marrone and company. The surprise is the relief after Morgan followed suit despite waiting until the 11th hour to do so.
Though he flipped to Missouri and seemed like a lock to sign with the Tigers after a long commitment to the Orange, it was worth following up to make sure. It wasn't a National Signing Day disappointment, but it was a Class of 2012 disappointment for SU to lose him three days before Letter of Intent Day – and Brantley following suit with an early letter to Columbia.
Brantley would have been one of the few true freshmen defensive linemen with the chance for an instant impact, maybe even on offense at fullback – a spot that has been given to Myles Davis, who shared yesterday that he was excited to basically be penciled in as the starter heading into Spring Ball.
Instant Impact Contenders
Pierce-Brewster has the chance to be a special pass-rusher based on his experience, athleticism, speed and versatility. Even if he isn't deemed big enough to be an every-down defensive end by the time August rolls around, MPB has a shot to blitz from the second-level and come off the edge on the way to the team lead in sacks.
Morris should get carries as a true freshman. He is among the best backs on the team immediately, and he has the best combination of run and pass-catching ability from the backfield. Morris also has the size (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) to take on a considerable rushing load Day 1.
Thompson will see early playing time in all likelihood because of the circumstances. Yes, there are older tight ends on the roster that have the chance to replace Nick Provo – but none compare to Thompson as a receiving threat. He needs to add some weight in order to play every down, but the Southfield (MI) standout should be utilized sooner than later – maybe even as an occasional wide receiver.
McFarlane is the most versatile offensive play-maker in the class. He made big-time plays in high school as a quarterback, running back, linebacker and as a defensive back. The Spring will dictate his position in all likelihood, but the thought of him getting occasional carries and lining up on the outside may pay the most dividend s for the Orange – though linebacker shouldn't be ruled out with Davis being moved to fullback and only one incoming second-level player (James Washington) in the class.
Norton is already penciled-in as the kickoff specialist, and Marrone confirmed that he would push Ross Krautman for field goal duties as well.
Morgan is one of the headliners of the class, and he may get a shot to play in the defensive back rotation as a freshman – but his biggest shot for an instant impact may be on special teams. He said he will have a shot to return punts and/or kicks as a freshman. His top-notch speed will be an asset no matter where he lines up in 2012.
Broyld is one of the better athletes in the class, but he will get a shot to play quarterback first. While no one expects him to leapfrog Ryan Nassib as the starting quarterback, he will certainly push him – maybe to the point that he has a package in the offense.
Cornelius, like Thompson, has a shot to play sooner than later with the lack of depth returning at his position. With Van Chew graduating, Dorian Graham moving on and Alec Lemon rehabbing from shoulder surgery – there is a shot for a freshman wideout to make an early splash. Cornelius is the best of the shallow group of newcomers – and would be considered a lock for PT had he enrolled in the spring to help snag some of Lemon's reps along with returning WRs Jarrod West, Jeremiah Kobena, Kyle Foster and Michael Acchione (the only healthy returning WRs to have a catch in 2011).
Whigham's impact may depend on where he plays. He has a shot at the two-deep as a cornerback, where he will play initially. The lanky 6-foot-1, 185-pounder may project better as a safety – but in due time.
Jones has the experience to play sooner than later, though the there are some players in his way. He will have to beat them out upon arriving for camp, but his combination of size (6-foot-5, 310 pounds) and athleticism should make him a situational rusher at worst.
With Morgan on board and Whigham similar in versatility on defense, the possibility of giving Ford another year would be wise. He has the size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) to pan-out on the back-end, so the luxury of sitting him a year would only help. Ford has said he feels comfortable if redshirted, especially while pursuing a degree in engineering.
Hilliard just doesn't look ready for BCS football just yet. If he is able to put on some weight and work to improve in 2012 practices, the 6-foot-6 potential play-maker will have his career maximized at SU.
Barrett, like Hilliard, needs time to add healthy weight in order to compete in the Big East or ACC. At 255 pounds, he is not ready to contribute any time soon as an offensive lineman.
Coleman has under-the-radar talent and played both ways in high school, but the depth on the inside of the defensive line is decent – especially with Jones coming in. A year to focus solely on defense will help Coleman potentially become a starter down the road.
The aforementioned players have the talent, but their chances to impact practices and/or games as a freshman depend on others, and in some cases – each other.
Knapp, Emerich and Palmer have good size that can be utilized on special teams, but they all play the same position. Knapp may be the best blocker of the bunch.
Manley has situational pass-rushing ability, but his services may be better served as a scout team player initially. With work early, Manley could be one of the freshmen who see late-season playing time thought Pierce-Brewster won't be out of the way for him over the next two years.
Lewis is in a similar boat as Manley. WR is a thin spot on the team, so the possibility of playing time is there – though Cornelius will get a shot first in all likelihood.
Parris, like Lewis, is contingent on the ability of a player who comes in as the more coveted prospect. Thompson is a headliner to the class, but Parris may be a more complete tight end as a blocker and pass-catcher.
Washington may have a tough time making the switch to outside backer, but he is athletic enough to get it done with time. Look for him late in the 2012 season if he is to make a splash.