Syracuse signed an impressive haul at linebacker in the 2014 class. Despite that, it is a priority position once again this cycle.
Entering the 2015 cycle, the plan was to take four linebackers. Even with the class rapidly filling up, there is still enough room to complete the original objective.
Syracuse has landed three linebackers in the class in Shyheim Cullen, Doyle Grimes and Troy Henderson. Cullen was the first to pull the trigger, doing so after he looked like a “freak” during a summer camp according to a source. That performance forced the Orange to ramp up their recruiting pitch during the visit and did not let him leave campus without committing.
Grimes was a top target at the position from the spring evaluation period forward. He has committed without visiting due to his relationship with offensive coordinator George McDonald.
Henderson committed on Tuesday, choosing Syracuse over Nebraska, Rutgers and Cincinnati. He says he will not be visiting any other school and plans to get back on the Orange campus by the end of July.
The top remaining targets include three-star Kyle Pugh and four-star Anthony McKee. Pugh seemed to have Syracuse in the lead, but he recently stated he wants to take all five officials before deciding. The Orange will continue to recruit Pugh but may look elsewhere if they grow impatient with the progress of his recruitment.
McKee released a top-10 recently, and the Orange made the cut. In fact, he put Syracuse in the top five of that list. The key is getting him on campus, which may have to wait for an official this fall. Visiting over the summer is not out of the question, however.
Also, don't forget about three-star Jordan Fox. He has Syracuse in his top-five. While the Orange may be hard pressed to beat Stanford, you never know how things will work out. Syracuse will continue to recruit him.
Names to Keep an Eye On
If the scenario with Pugh comes to fruition, there are options for Syracuse to pursue. At the top of the list are two players from Alabama. Three-star Roy Yancey and two-star Doug Salter are talented players who could give Syracuse a serious look.
Emilio Gibbs holds an offer, and Syracuse could turn to him to take one of the two slots if they aren’t happy with the way things are progressing.
Other targets without an offer include London Cloud (three-star linebacker committed to Ohio), Jim Jones (three-star linebacker from Florida), Sterling Sheffield (three-star linebacker from New Jersey), Logan Hunt (two-star from Georgia) and Kareem McDonald (two-star from Washington D.C.).
In a perfect world for Syracuse, they would add four-star Anthony McKee or three-star Jordan Fox to their linebacker group this class. McKee would give them four talented linebackers and a four-star player for the second consecutive cycle. Fox would add to their New Jersey prospects in the class as well as add another talented player to the mix.
Realistic Optimistic Scenario
Syracuse is patient with Pugh, adding him during an official visit. That would give Syracuse two three-star linebackers to go with the Grimes and Cullen.
Realistic Pessimistic Scenario
Syracuse moves on from Pugh, but grabs either Emilio Gibbs or gets in on Doug Salter (or some combination of two players without offers listed above) in time to land the underrated linebacker talent. That gives Syracuse four players who are under the radar but have the athleticism and size to make an impact at the next level.
Syracuse misses on McKee and Pugh but is too late to grab Salter, Yancey, Gibbs or others listed above. They are forced to look deep into high school football talent and grab players otherwise considered secondary options. This could also result in Syracuse looking to the JUCO ranks, but that would strictly be in an emergency situation.
Syracuse has one slot available at linebacker to round out their haul this class. There are still plenty of options for the Orange without having to scramble. Of the scenarios outlined above, the nightmare seems the least likely. Ultimately, head coach Scott Shafer wants to have plenty of depth at linebacker, and Syracuse has spent the last two cycles trying to get the numbers to where he wants them.