New Jersey, aka the Garden State. One of the nation's recruiting hot beds that routinely puts dozens of high school players into the highest level of college football. It was a state that Syracuse had success historically, but had fallen off in recent years.
When Scott Shafer took over the program, he placed an emphasis on recruiting in the northeast. He wanted to put an even bigger focus in this cycle towards that goal as well getting back into New Jersey.
Rewind to nearly five months ago when Syracuse announced the hiring of, what seemed to be at the time, a little known former division three head coach Bobby Acosta. The hiring did not get a lot of attention at the time, but has paid huge dividends less than half a year on the job.
His hiring was no accident. He had strong ties to the area from his previous coaching stops. As a result, coach Acosta was tasked with revitalizing Syracuse's ties to the Garden State.
It didn't take long for him to make a statement. The top players in the state are looking at the Orange as a legitimate option. Two of the top-20 Jersey prospects have already verbally committed in running back Dontae Strickland and safety Daiquan Kelly.
"He doesn't take no for an answer," Strickland said. "He goes that extra mile to get what he wants. And that's why he's such a good recruiting coach."
Kelly also pointed to his relationship with Acosta as a big reason why the Orange were the choice for him. Another top New Jersey target, Jake Pickard, also thinks highly of the Syracuse assistant.
"He's awesome," Pickard said. "He's a great coach but even a better guy. No matter who he talks to, he'll always make you feel comfortable and at home while also coaching you up."
Defensive back Daivon Ellison has echoed similar sentiments.
"He's the man," Ellison said. "He cares about his players and is also a really cool guy."
His ability to establish relationships with prospects quickly has been a huge factor in being able to make up ground in recruiting battles. The commitments of two of New Jersey's best have opened up the eyes of future prospects as well. The Orange will look to continue their momentum by securing more commitments this cycle as well as in the 2016 class.
For now, Syracuse fans should be quite satisfied with the strides coach Acosta has made in New jersey. The Orange are back as players in the state, even if Strickland and Kelly were the lone Garden State prospects in the 2015 class. After all, coach Shafer is quite happy with how things have gone.
"I know he's done a good job getting around," Shafer said. "I've had a lot of coaches that have called before we hired him and after we hired him and now that he's on the road recruiting. Saying, ‘hey great hire coach. Bobby knows New Jersey. He knows what type of people come from this part of the country and it's nice to know that there's somebody in Syracuse that understands this part of the country.'
"I've had a couple of calls from people saying, ‘hey Bobby just left. He's doing a great job coach. It was great to have him in our high school.' I think that speaks volumes to what we want to do in that part of the country."