Coach Speak: Marquise Blair

What is Syracuse getting in safety Marquise Blair? We spoke to Wooster High head coach Doug Haas to find out.

Wooster (Ohio) High safety Marquise Blair committed to Syracuse on Monday. What are the Orange getting? His head coach, Doug Haas, thinks he is a versatile player who will thrive at the next level.

"His length is tremendous and that makes him a versatile player," Haas said. "For us he's an outside linebacker and I know coach Shafer and coach Lea have discussed that he's either an outside linebacker or a safety. That versatility for him puts him in a position where he can compete at either position to try to get on the field.

"It gives him the opportunity to make an impact earlier because he has that versatility and physicality. From an ability standpoint, he's a 4.4 (40-time) guy who is physical. That's what makes him even more versatile. We'll see how he matures. He's still young. He doesn't turn 17 until July. We will see how he matures physically at Syracuse."

Despite that attractive skill set, there are things Blair needs to work on in order to be ready to contribute right away.

"He's got to get stronger," Haas said. "He'll discover from a standpoint of strength, he needs to get a little bit stronger so he can use his hands to get off of blocks. To get into a position where he can get rid of a defender and go make a tackle. He likes to hit and he's a natural hitter from that aspect of it. In terms of being more specific with his hands and shedding blocks, those are the things that are a weakness for him.

"In his defense, this was his first year playing linebacker for us. He started his career playing safety for us. We made the switch to get more versatility. He had never been asked to use his hands three downs like a linebacker will be."

One of the biggest assets Blair possesses is his ability to blitz. That alone, combined with his physical play and speed, makes him an ideal fit in Syracuse's defensive scheme.

"He's a tremendous blitzer," Haas said. "The best way I can say it is he's a guy that can run and bend and still maintain that 4.4 speed. Where he can run and play low and cause havoc and blow things up in the backfield. He just has such a great first step and a great get-off on the snap of the ball where he's almost in the backfield before people even know it.

"From a man coverage standpoint, that's what allows us the versatility with him. He is able to, for us, walk out on the number two or number three (receiver) and match up with him man on man. His physical play causes disruption but fast enough that, if the guy wants to take the top off the coverage, he can run with him."

Off the field, Blair is the strong silent type. He continues to work on his leadership skills as he enters his senior season.

"In the locker room, he's kind of blossoming which is fun to see," Haas said. "Last year, as a junior, he just wanted to go out and play. He didn't want to do a whole lot other than that. As a senior, during summer workouts, he's the guy that's first in line. He's winning every sprint. Working hard in the weight room and changing his body in the offseason.

"From those intangible standpoints, he's come a long way. It's not his nature to be a ra-ra kind of guy. He will get after his teammates where we need to step up and make a play. He's not afraid to get in his teammates faces and he's a guy that wants to make that play."

Coach Haas admitted that Blair has some work to do academically. As of right now, he is a non-qualifier. But they have a plan in place to correct that and are hopefully he will be able to turn things around during his senior year.

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