For Syracuse fans, Independence Day was extra special in 2013 as they added one of their highest rated targets in 4-star wide receiver K.J. Williams. Anytime Syracuse lands a prospect with offers from Michigan, Missouri, Rutgers, UCLA, and Wisconsin, it's reason for the Orange to celebrate.
Syracuse is reestablishing itself in Pennsylvania. Not only for lower rated prospects, but for coveted recruits. Williams is the 7th best player in the Keystone State according to FOX Sports NEXT's ratings. Zaire Franklin is one of the most talented players in the state as well.
When the Orange were at their recruiting peak in the 80's and 90's, Pennsylvania was a key pipeline. Getting back into the state to identify talented prospects and win those recruiting battles is big for the future.
Just like A.J. Long's commitment has helped recruiting, so does Williams' verbal. However, in very different ways. Long is one of the most vocal commits Syracuse has had in years. He is helping to lead the recruiting front to help the Orange land some of their top targets. That worked in this case as Long was able to convince his cousin to join him.
But Williams is a symbolic commitment that shows other highly rated prospects that Syracuse is a legitimate landing spot. While that doesn't guarantee anything going forward, it certainly helps. The Orange commitment can be used in recruiting pitches to other top targets.
Outside of the importance of a highly rated recruit is Williams' impact as a receiver. Syracuse was looking to add an influx of talented wide receivers in their 2014 class, and were able to land one. One of the priority positions for this cycle, the Orange were able to grab one of the most talented prospects on their board.
Williams is a big target at 6-foot-3 but also has the speed to get down field.
"Thick and strong," east recruiting analyst Brian Dohn wrote about Williams at a Pennsylvania 7-on-7 event in April. "He was a blur accelerating across the middle, and by the time Sunday rolled around, teams were using a safety to double him. He has big hands and snatched the ball well. Crossing patters destroyed cornerbacks on the first day."
Those types of skills will be welcomed additions to the Syracuse offense. Now it is up to Williams to work hard to develop those skills at the next level.
He will join his quarterback cousin, the aforementioned A.J. Long, The two relatives could be the QB/WR combination of the future of the Orange as they transition into the ACC.
But Williams' commitment means so much more than just receiving a verbal pledge from someone with a solid offer list or someone that can make an impact on the field. It signals that the Syracuse staff is ahead of their predecessors. It shows that the recruiting reputation of the staff Scott Shafer has compiled is not all talk.
Syracuse fans should expect to win some of these battles. That doesn't mean unrealistic expectations of several four and five star prospects year after year. But it does mean it's possible to grab a few of their top targets in each cycle.
The 2012 class was the last time Syracuse picked up a 4-star recruit. Both Ashton Broyld and Ron Thompson were rated as such. It took the Marrone staff three recruiting cycles to pick-up 4-star prospects. The Shafer staff only needed one.
FOX Sports NEXT's John Garcia Jr. contributed to this report