With the start of 2015 right around the corner, and in the mindset of the holiday season, here is a wish list for Syracuse football, Syracuse basketball and Syracuse recruiting.
Syracuse Basketball Recruiting
- CLOSE THE 2015 CLASS WITH THOMAS BRYANT
Syracuse already has one of the top classes in the 2015 cycle with four top-100 players committed. However, there is still one big fish out there in center Thomas Bryant. Syracuse has recruited him very, very hard throughout the process. Bryant recently picked up an offer from Kentucky, but the Wildcats are involved with several elite low-post prospects and have the top center in the class already committed.
Syracuse is still considered the favorite and this recruitment will last into the spring and the second signing period. A perfect scenario for the Orange is to land the prizes Bryant. They will continue to recruit him hard until a decision is officially made.
- TURN FOCUS TO 2016, SPECIFICALLY AT POINT GUARD
The point guard position will be a critical one for Syracuse in 2016. Their top target is clearly Gladstone (N.J.) Gill St. Bernard’s floor general Tyus Battle. The Orange jumped into the mix with Battle early and have hosted him for visits multiple times. Kentucky, Duke and several other elite programs are also involved, so this one will not be easy.
Other than Battle, two point guards are firmly on the radar. They include Howard Washington and Canadian prospect Jamal Murray. Syracuse will do everything they can to add one of these talented players. Any one of them will give the Orange a lot to look forward at the point guard position.
- ADD A LOW POST PLAYER TO THE 2016 CLASS
With Matthew Moyer already committed, and if they get their wish with one of the better point guards in the class, Syracuse will want to add a low-post prospect to the mix to round out the class. They have two offers out already in five star power forward Harry Giles and three star center Sedee Keita.
Giles is an elite talent and will be tough to pull away from in-state schools North Carolina and Duke as well as Kentucky. Keita is a center with natural shot blocking ability. Either one, or a third target that could enter the mix (keep an eye on Ekkie Ekiyor), would give the Orange another nice haul in 2016.
- MAKE PROGRESS WITH THE 2017 CLASS
Syracuse already has three offers out in the 2017 class including five star guard Trevon Duval, four star wing Jordan Tucker and wing Devin Gilmore. The Orange will likely add around three players in the class, with wings being a priority position.
Tucker and Duval will be the top priorities. Next year will give them an opportunity to make progress on where they stand with both. Landing in-state Tucker would be an especially strong start to the class.
Syracuse Football Recruiting
- CLOSE THE 2015 CLASS STRONG
Syracuse has two or three slots available this cycle and have clear priorities on who they want to fill them. Defensive back prospects Jazzee Stocker and Najee Clayton join defensive end Jake Pickard as the top targets for the Orange. In a perfect world for Syracuse, they will land all three before signing day.
Stocker has Syracuse as his top school while the Pittsburgh coaching situation is resolved. He has an official scheduled to Pitt in January, which could tell the tale of his recruitment. Clayton has become a priority recently as the staff fell in love with his senior film. He will officially visit for the weekend of January 23rd where Syracuse will have a chance to make a big impression. Pickard is currently committed to Wisconsin, but has an official scheduled for the weekend of January 16th.
- KEEP THE 2015 CLASS RANKED IN THE TOP 50
Syracuse’s 2015 class is currently ranked 37th. Last cycle, they finished 53rd. Finishing the class with the three players mentioned above, or even two of the three, will give Syracuse a nice haul. While keeping things in the top-40 may be difficult given how many schools will add prospects prior to signing day, a top-50 class is very realistic.
There is still another round of player rating updates, which could help where Syracuse stands. Safety commit Marquise Blair is in the mix for a fourth star as the Scout recruiting analysts review his senior tape. Defensive back Daivon Ellison is in the mix to add a third star. Both would help Syracuse’s ranking. If they land the three players on their radar, they would have 29 total commits in the class. Only the top 25 would count towards team ranking. Given that the staff had to work with a 3-9 season, it would be a very impressive recruiting effort.
- LAND A FEW EARLY 2016 COMMITMENTS
Syracuse has already done a good job starting to develop relationships with 2016 prospects. A big wish for the Orange next year would be to land some early commitments as they did this cycle. Specifically with highly touted players that other power five schools are pursuing.
Quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line and linebackers will be key positions of focus in 2016. Liam Smith, Parker Boudreaux, Will Fries, Jack Brotzki, Robert Washington, Tyler Thompson, Anthony Brown, Isaiah Wright, Donald Steward, Taysir Mack, Koby Quansah and Jamir Jones are among some top early targets.
- ADD AT LEAST ONE FOUR STAR TO THE 2016 CLASS
Syracuse does not have a 2015 four star prospect committed as of now, though Marquise Blair has an outside shot. The Orange will start their focus in the 2016 cycle with their eyes on some big names in the hopes of landing one or two four star players.
There are three early names where Syracuse appears to be in the mix. The top two are running back Robert Washington and offensive tackle Liam Smith. Washington continues to have the Orange near the top of his list. Smith has enjoyed developing a relationship with Bobby Acosta. The third name is offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux, though he may be the most difficult of the three to land.
- FINISH THE 2014-15 REGULAR SEASON STRONG
Syracuse may have four early losses, but they have made significant progress in recent weeks. They have shown a lot of promise and should have start conference play with a bang given the schedule.
The end of the season is extremely difficult with two Duke matchups, a game against Louisville, two against Pittsburgh, a home game against Virginia and others. Even with that, a 20-11 or 21-10 regular season is not unreasonable. Either should get them into the NCAA Tournament.
- MAKE A RUN TO THE SWEET-16
Given the weaknesses on this team, lack of depth at certain positions and significant issues they showed early on, a run to the Sweet-16 would be a victory for this Orange squad. You never want to limit such a run to only that stage, as matchups could suggest an even deeper run.
But you would be hard pressed to find a Syracuse fan who would be disappointed with this team winning two games in the tournament..
- KEEP CHRIS MCCULLOUGH FOR ONE MORE SEASON
McCullough is talented, but raw in a lot of ways. He has to add weight to his frame, develop a more consistent offensive game and work on mastering the zone defense. Some of those can only be done with more experience. Leaving for NBA money is very tempting, however, and McCullough may do just that in order to give his family a better life.
While no one can blame someone for making that type of a decision, Syracuse fans are hoping McCullough sticks around at least a second season. One would think head coach Jim Boeheim is hoping for the same. With who the Orange has coming back next season and coming in, he would certainly but Syracuse on the short list of preseason contenders.
- DEVELOP KALEB JOSEPH
The improvement of Kaleb Joseph is not only important for the rest of this season but for the 2015-16 campaign as well. On Syracuse’s wish list includes having Joseph take significant steps in his development.
More specifically, cutting down on turnovers, developing a more consistent outside jumper, being more aggressive off the dribble and becoming more comfortable on the defensive end of the floor.
- GET OFF TO A FAST START IN THE 2015-16 SEASON
As they have the last two seasons, Syracuse will have another strong non-conference schedule next year. That includes participating in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, which also features such teams as Connecticut, Gonzaga, Michigan, Texas, Texas A&M and Washington.
Syracuse also has a road game at Georgetown as that rivalry renews in addition to the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. The Orange’s opponent for the latter has not yet been named. If the Orange can play well in the Atlantis tournament, beat Georgetown on the road and win the ACC/Big 10 Challenge matchup, they would set themselves up for a high seed come tournament time.
- REACH A BOWL GAME IN THE 2015 SEASON
Syracuse took a step back in 2014, but can right those wrongs with a strong 2015 season. That includes, at a minimum, reaching a bowl game for the second time in three seasons under Scott Shafer. The schedule sets up nicely for them to do just that.
While a battle with LSU looms, the rest of the non-conference schedule is very manageable. Home dates with Rhode Island and Central Michigan should be wins. A road matchup with South Florida is another winnable game. Winning three of those would set up Syracuse well for conference play. A bowl game is a must next season and they should be able to achieve that goal.
- BEAT A RANKED TEAM
One thing Syracuse did not do over the past two seasons was upset a ranked opponent. Doing so accomplishes two tasks. Not only does it add a somewhat unexpected win to the schedule, but it gets the attention of the national landscape and recruits. There are multiple opportunities presenting themselves next year.
Syracuse faces LSU, Florida State, Clemson and Louisville. All four figure to be ranked at the start of the season. The Seminoles will be losing a lot, but winning in Tallahassee is never easy. Clemson comes to the Carrier Dome, which may be Syracuse’s best shot. LSU is an elite SEC program and will be heavily favored in that one. Louisville is still figuring things out under Bobby Petrino, but that road environment will be a challenging one.
- SHOW OFFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT
The Syracuse offense was one of the worst in the nation in 2014. The 2015 campaign will feature a change in both the system and offensive coordinator. The task for Tim Lester is to show significant improvement in this area in order to help the Orange become more competitive.
That starts with quarterback play, which having Terrel Hunt back should improve their production at the position. The offensive line hopes to be better as well. Syracuse must also find playmakers at wide receiver, running back and tight end. Steve Ishmael, Ervin Philips and Trey Dunkelberger figure to be the top options.
- STAY HEALTHY
Was there any team in the country more injury plagued than Syracuse? They faced significant injuries to the offensive line, defensive line, quarterback and wide receiver positions. The Orange were forced to use four different quarterbacks and a different starting offensive line seemingly every week.
Not to mention two of the top receiving options entering training camp, Brisly Estime and Ashton Broyld, were unable to contribute with injury plagued seasons. If Syracuse is going to have a bounce back 2015, health will be of critical importance. Especially at the safety position where the depth is primarily made up of true freshmen.
- CONTINUE TO HAVE THE DEFENSE PLAY AT A HIGH LEVEL
Syracuse was only in games last season because of their strong defense. It was one of the better units in the ACC. Not only did they force turnovers, but Syracuse pressured the quarterback consistently, used creative blitz schemes and stopped the run a majority of the season.
Entering 2015, Syracuse is losing three defensive linemen, two linebackers and two safeties from their starting 11. That is a lot of experience to replace, but the Orange have the defensive talent to do so. Keeping the defensive unit as a major strength is a big wish for Syracuse.