Every time head coach Scott Shafer discusses recruiting, he stresses the importance of keeping New York players home. Sheppard is rated as the seventh best player in the state. They already have eighth and ninth best in Tyrone Perkins and Jordan Fredericks, a pair of three-star running backs.
Sheppard helps Syracuse achieve their goal of keeping in-state talent. While they are still missing on the top player in the Empire State, that will come if they continue to be strong in New York.
For the rest of 2015, Syracuse is likely done in their home state. In 2016, there are several prospects on the radar. The top targets include linebacker Jamir Jones, wide receiver Taysir Mack, offensive tackle Noah DeHond and quarterback Jack Brotzki.
It’s always important to land players from New York for Syracuse to be successful, and Sheppard helps in that area.
With the loss of starting defensive ends Micah Robinson and Robert Welsh, Syracuse certainly has turnover at defensive end. In fact, they only have four players returning at the position. There are reinforcements coming, however, and Sheppard adds to their haul.
Syracuse has already landed three-star defensive ends Amir Ealey, Brandon Ginnetti, Dana Levine and Keivonnis Davis. Ealey gives Syracuse a fifth, though Ginnetti has deferred his enrollment until January 2016. That gives the Orange eight defensive ends entering next season.
It is a solid group with more pass rushing skills than they have added in recent years. Natural, gifted athletes who project well towards being able to put consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback. Eight players at the position is plenty for next season. Especially with the upside of the incoming freshman and redshirt freshman Chris Slayton.
Recruiting wise, Syracuse is pretty set at defensive end. However, there is one big fish still out there in Wisconsin commit Jake Pickard. He currently has an official visit scheduled for January 16th. While it may be tough to flip him, the Orange was in strong consideration when he made his initial decision.
With the Wisconsin coaching staff turnover, Syracuse is at least in the discussion. Getting him on campus is all they can ask for at this point.
If Syracuse misses on Pickard, they are still done at defensive end.
Where Does Syracuse Go From Here?
Two of Syracuse’s top targets, Jonathan Crawford and Donovan Hale, committed to Indiana on Thursday. The thought was to finish up the remaining three slots in the class with those and safety Jazzee Stocker. Stocker becomes an even more important target with the loss of Crawford. Three slots being available to finish the class after Sheppard may have been overestimating, but more on that shortly.
Stocker’s teammate, Amir Ealey, committed earlier this week and will only help Syracuse land the three-star safety. Pittsburgh’s coaching situation is in flux, and they appear to be Syracuse’s biggest competition.
If Syracuse lands Stocker, then things will be fine after missing on Crawford. If not, Syracuse may have to get back in the market for another defensive back. If Syracuse decides to go after another two-way prospect that projects better at defensive back if they were to miss Stocker, they will likely look for under the radar type prospects. There is an intriguing player in Alabama named Holt Keeding that has the talent to play division one ball.
The opening of those two slots could make way for other prospects that may have been in danger of falling victim to the numbers game. Jordan Fox is a prospect that has had Syracuse near the top for a while. It will be interesting to see if Syracuse makes a stronger push as a result of these slots opening.
Another prospect to keep an eye on is wide receiver Freddie Simmons. The former Rutgers pledge has had Syracuse reach out to express interest. If they make a big push, they could be one of the favorites to land him. Keep an eye on how his recruitment progresses.
Overall, we are hearing that there are only two more slots available this class. If Stocker takes one of them, that leaves very little room at the inn. Obviously, they would like to fill that final slot with Pickard. But if that does not happen, Simmons, Fox and others would all be in the mix there. Syracuse is not posiition specific, though they would like another safety/linebacker type.
Daiquan Kelly would be nice, but it is doubtful he flips from Penn State. Najee Clayton is another name to monitor. Syracuse is looking at him as that safety, linebacker hybrid. He has a tentative official visit set up for January 23rd. Whether or not he takes it may depend on if Syracuse still has an available slot.
Syracuse is also recruiting Wisconsin commit Nate Howard, a three star defensive end. But he will be tough to flip and may not want to go so far from home to play college football.
Sheppard is a bigger win than a typical three-star that Syracuse won over UCF. He represents much more being from New York. Sheppard is good kid with a lot to like as a football player. Syracuse is doing a nice job closing the class strong despite the 3-9 season.