Over the next month plus, Syracuse has several important milestones rapidly approaching. These critical events will help shape the direction of the Orange program both on and off the field.
On the Field
The opener against Penn State is only eight days away. Eight days from when we finally get to see what a Scott Shafer led team looks like. Until the starting quarterback is officially known. The matchup with the Nittany Lions can set the tone for the season. A win sets the Orange up for a strong season. It means at least a 3-1 start heading into ACC play. It creates some buzz around the team and means a win on a national stage.
A loss sets Syracuse up for a potential 0-2 start with a visit to Northwestern looming after the opener. It deflates a fan base that is starting to come back to the program. The opener could be the most important game of the season.
A road game against the aforementioned Wildcats will be a big test for Syracuse. Northwestern is one of the better teams in the Big-10 and are looking to build on a strong 2012 season. After that, Syracuse has home dates with Wagner and Tulane, two games the Orange should win.
Off the Field
While the team prepares for success on the field, recruiting never stops off of it. Upcoming are official visits, important targets taking in Syracuse games, and commitment announcements.
Thomas Holley and Chris Clark will be in attendance as the Orange face Penn State in MetLife Stadium. A strong performance could help the Orange on both fronts as each prospect is considering both schools.
Holley recently delayed his decision until after the season, which only helps Syracuse's chances. A return trip for an official visit would be huge for the Orange as Holley has said he wants to take more visits with his mom in tow.
Clark is one of Syracuse's top targets in 2015 after showing an enticing skill set as a tight end. He will be attending the season opener as a guest of Syracuse despite having interest from both the Orange and Nittany Lions. Syracuse is doing a lot of early work with Clark and are sitting in a good position right now.
Deion Hallmon is set to announce on Monday. This could go one of several different directions, but Syracuse won't go quietly either way. If he commits to Syracuse, the staff will stay on Hallmon until signing day. If he chooses another school, the Orange will continue to recruit the Sunshine State prospect to try to get a flip.
At least one official visit will take place when Aaron Roberts travels to Syracuse to take in their home opener against Wagner. A commitment on the trip is possible as Roberts considers both the Orange and Illinois. Roberts is one of Syracuse's top targets left on their board. He says he is 50/50 between the two schools, but many still consider him a Syracuse lean.
Beau Benzschawel could come for a visit before the end of September. Syracuse is in the driver's seat here as he has indicated the Orange are the only official he is looking to take. Once Iowa State pulled their offer, the Orange became the heavy favorite. Benzschawel is important for Syracuse as it gives them the offensive tackle they desperately need in the 2014 class.
Ish Witter is still trying to work out an official visit date, and should have one scheduled sometime soon. A visit for the opener against Wagner is possible, as is when Syracuse faces Tulane in the Carrier Dome. He has eyed the Clemson game as a potential target date as well. Syracuse appears to be in the driver's seat here as well. Rutgers picked up Jonathan Hilliman and are now three deep at running back in this cycle.
If Witter does visit for the Clemson game in early October, Nile Sykes could be joining him on the trip. He is currently working out an official visit date with the Orange staff. Getting him on campus is critical for Syracuse if they want a shot at the three-star linebacker.
Jamal Custis visited Syracuse nearly two weeks ago and put the Orange up top. While he may not come on a return trip to the hill, a visit to Pittsburgh is possible. That trip could be the deciding factor on whether he chooses Syracuse or the Panthers.
While the start of the season is in full focus, the Orange have a lot to do on the recruiting front as well to ensure the future success of the program.
The two often overlap as on the field results only helps with their efforts on the recruiting trail. Still, Syracuse sits in a good spot with several talented prospects. It will be an eventful month and CuseNation.com will have it fully covered as always.