Closing Strong

With only a few slots left, Syracuse is looking to close the 2015 class on a high note.

Syracuse has 26 members of its 2015 class and only has a few slots left to fill. The key for the Orange coaching staff is close strong. Continue to turn over the roster by adding more depth, talent and athleticism at every position. Through the first two cycles of the Scott Shafer era, they have done a good job at achieving that goal.

Now the focus is on those final few slots with national signing day a little over a month away. Syracuse has three primary targets on the radar right now. Najee Clayton, Jazzee Stocker and Jake Pickard.

Najee Clayton

Clayton has been looked at by Syracuse for some time. He was offered a while back, and the Orange have recently reaffirmed their interest in the three-star athlete. Originally looking at him as a tight end or wide receiver prospect, Syracuse now likes him as a defensive back based on his senior film.

Clayton has been in contact with head coach Scott Shafer and tight ends coach Bobby Acosta, his primary recruiter. He has told both of his strong interest in Syracuse and has an official visit set up for the weekend of January 23rd.

There are several other schools in the mix, however. Recently, Clemson, Arizona and Penn State have reached out, among others. Should some of those schools offer, things could get really interesting. He is expected to take multiple officials before deciding, though his trip to Central New York could alter those plans depending on how well it goes.

Jazzee Stocker

Stocker left his December Syracuse official visit very impressed with the Orange. Standing in their way, however, was ACC rival Pittsburgh. Their coaching change (Paul Chryst left to take the Wisconsin job) seemed to work in Syracuse’s favor, as Stocker said the move put Syracuse on top for the time being.

Still, he wanted to see how things would play at Pitt before making any decisions. The hiring of Pat Narduzzi gives Pitt a good young coach who has a reputation as a strong recruiter. A key will be Narduzzi will be recruiting his home state. You have to figure that Stocker will be a key target for him and his new staff.

The problem is that Narduzzi does not have a relationship with him, which should help Syracuse. However, there is time to make up for that with an official visit tentatively scheduled for the weekend of January 16th.

This looks to be a two team race and should be an interesting recruitment to follow down the stretch of the cycle.

Jake Pickard

This is why recruiting is so much fun to cover. Pickard took several unofficial visits during the summer before making a decision between Virginia, Syracuse and Wisconsin. Ultimately, he chose the Badgers with the Orange coming up second.

But the loss of the Wisconsin coaching staff to Oregon State gave Syracuse an opening to get back involved with the three-star defensive end from New Jersey. Bobby Acosta jumped at the chance and quickly scheduled an in-home visit along with defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough.

From everything we have heard, that meeting went very well. That does not mean a flip is imminent, but Pickard is going to take an official visit to Syracuse during the weekend of January 16th. That trip will likely tell the tale of his recruitment.

New Badger head coach Paul Chryst did not recruit Pickard while he was running the show at Pitt. The lack of a relationship there could play in Syracuse’s favor.

The Tim Daoust Situation

Throwing a wrench into things from a Syracuse perspective is Tim Daoust being rumored to be a top candidate for the defensive coordinator position under new Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi.

Daoust and Narduzzi are close friends and worked together when both were at Cincinnati. It would be very difficult to pass up a promotion like that at a power five conference school.

Should he leave, that would definitely impact recruiting. Whenever a coach leaves there is always a concern about a commit flipping. The top candidate for that would be Amir Ealey. Daoust was his primary recruiter, and one would have to wonder if Pittsburgh would then make a strong push for his services. He cited Daoust as a big reason why he chose Syracuse.

Beyond that, Daoust’s departure would likely impact the recruitment of safety Jazzee Stocker the most. He is also Stocker’s primary recruiter, and such a move could push the three-star safety towards the Panthers.

That said, Syracuse will be OK if their only loss is Ealey and/or Stocker. Landing Clayton would ease the loss of Stocker as Pickard would for Ealey. Where things would get a bit sticky is if Syracuse lost Ealey, missed on Stocker, missed on Clayton and failed to flip Pickard.

Syracuse would then likely try to fill the last three slots with some of their other options. Jordan Fox would be a name to watch in that scenario as would wide receiver prospect and former Rutgers commit Freddie Simmons. Syracuse would also likely go after another defensive back. Someone who probably is not known to be on the radar.

Maybe three-star Aaron Covington, a high school teammate of kicker commit Sterling Hofrichter. Or three-star Derrick Baity out of Plant Senior High in Florida. Also keep an eye on cornerback Ronnie Hoggins, a name we've heard mentioned in recent weeks. Things could get very interesting if Syracuse has to scramble late.

Regardless, Syracuse has built a strong foundation in this class and has an opportunity to close with even more impressive talent. A testimony to the job the coaching staff has done, especially coming off of a 3-9 season.

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