Syracuse received one commitment from the 2013 class over the weekend, but they had another prospect from that class on campus as well. JUCO defensive end Tyler Marona out of Pasadena Community College (CA) took an extensive official visit to see what the Orange had to offer.
"First off Coach (Tim) Daoust came and picked me up," Marona recalled. "That was awesome. It was great to have him come to the airport, right outside the gate. He greeted my mom and I right off the bat. He drove us to campus, and from there we put our bags down. We went out to lunch at one of the best barbecue places I've ever eaten at called Dinosaur Barbecue. In California we have a lot of good food. I was really blown away with the places they took us to eat. There's a lot of quality places in town. The whole coaching staff was at every meal which was so awesome. It just showed they're fully committed to having us there.
"After that we took a tour of the facilities. I was really impressed with all the new facilities and the new building that they're putting up. The shrine that they have coming in it kind of gives you that feeling like you have something to work for and look up to and be a part of as far as the football program goes. From there we went to spring practice and that was awesome seeing everyone in action. Seeing the new defense that Coach (Chuck) Bullough is bringing in. I was really, really liking that. As far as practice goes, it was off the charts.
"We didn't go out to dinner that night," Marona continued. "I ate with my host, Charlie Loeb. We had dinner there to see what it's like with the meal plan as a player. Then we went and hung out at some places on Marshall (Street). Then we went back to the University Village dorms or apartments. I got to meet a bunch of players (Jarrod West and others), including former players that are going to the NFL now (Alec Lemon, Justin Pugh, Zack Chibane). It was cool to have that feeling of hanging out with the team."
With all the excitement Marona had over his trip, the part that stood out the most was spending time with the coaching staff. It allowed him to get to know them on a different level to see if they were coaches he could play for over the next few years.
"That was, in my eyes, the most important thing," the 6-foot-5 defensive end said. "When you're not living at home, those are pretty much who your parents are going to be for the next three or four years. With that being said, you've got to know who you're dealing with. They could be jerks or not have your best interest in mind. But that's not the case there. I got to spend an hour in the film room with Coach Daoust and I was blown away by these guys. I felt right at home with them and got to know them on a personal level. That's huge because you can't play for someone you don't like. You won't get the best out of yourself and they won't get the best out of you because you don't have that connection with them.
"Coach (Scott) Shafer, he's awesome. I spent a lot of time with him. My junior college coach, he keeps it real, but Coach Shafe, he's an awesome dude and he loves to coach. He said he wants to be there as long as he can. They're all super talented and they would be a big reason why I would choose to go to Syracuse if I end up there."
The visit was extensive, which was good for Marona. It allowed him to see what it's like being part of the Syracuse program. He also received some inside information from two former players that are currently playing in the NFL.
"I did get a feel for what it's like," Marona explained. "It's kind of an outside looking in type of thing because you're not really there. But you see the types of things that would happen on a daily basis and you see the academic part. You're in great hands during the day and then when you go to practice you're in better hands as far as football goes.
"Chandler Jones and Arthur Jones came back to hang out on Saturday. They were telling me a lot about first hand experiences and that they prepared themselves for the NFL. I think I could definitely see myself playing there. I got to see it kind of 360 degrees on what it would be like to be a student-athlete there."
The trip went so well for the junior college standout that it moved the Orange to the top of his list. He is still talking to two other programs, but Syracuse appears to be in great shape as a decision approaches.
"I have very high interest in Syracuse," Marona admitted. "They're definitely my number one. As Coach Shafer always says to me, I have to keep it real about everyone else. I'm going to kind of ask a couple questions to some other schools (Colorado and Miami), but Syracuse is definitely my number one right now. I'm supposed to (visit both school) but I'm not sure if I am."
Marona added that he does not have a specific date in mind for his final decision, but did say it should come "soon." Marona would be the 22nd player in Syracuse's 2013 class should he choose the Orange and has four years to play three.
UPDATE: Marona committed to Syracuse several hours after the posting of this article.