When Wisconsin lost head coach Gary Andersen to Oregon State, the first thought on the minds of many who follow Syracuse recruiting was three star Millburn (N.J.) High defensive end Jake Pickard. Would the Orange have a shot at flipping the talented prospect?
The Syracuse coaches jumped at the opportunity and immediately scheduled an in-home visit. That took place before the dead period last month with both defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough and tight ends coach Bobby Acosta paying him a visit.
”It went very well,” Pickard said. “They were here for like two hours. We talked about football for a little bit, but also just kind of hanging out and talking. Their message was, it was the same as before, if anything ever happens they’ll always be there. They want me on the team no matter what.
”Obviously something did happen so they reached out and just wanted to say their interest was still the same as it always has been. They want me to take a visit and all the rest.”
The visit solidified the fact that Pickard would take an official visit to Syracuse on January 16th. He left the in-home with a good feeling about the Orange.
”It was very, very good,” Pickard said. “It was very positive. They were true to their word, I was true to my word. I said if anything ever happened I would definitely come take a visit. Explore the option. They said they’d always be there. So when something came up, we reconnected.”
During the summer, when Pickard chose Wisconsin over Syracuse and others, he cited his relationship with Bobby Acosta as a big reason why the Orange were so high on his list. That relationship has only improved since his original decision.
”It’s the same, even a little bit stronger,” Pickard said. “Even when I was committed, he still stayed in touch with me weekly. He would give me a call, same with coach Daoust and coach Shafer. They’ve all been reaching out, even after I first committed and even more now.
”It means a lot. Not just as coaches, but I definitely like them as people. So that was just good to see.”
Despite having visited Syracuse in the past, there is still one aspect of the Orange that Pickard would like to see. He plans on paying special attention to that during his official coming up in less than two weeks.
”The team,” Pickard said. “I haven’t really gotten to meet with anyone on the team. I’ve seen them in the hallway or in the weight room, but I’ve never really gotten to experience or be with any of them.”
The real question is whether or not Pickard is considering Syracuse or if the visit is just for show. Do the Orange have a legitimate shot at flipping the Wisconsin pledge?
”I’m definitely giving them a serious look,” Pickard said. “I’m not one to kind of just take a visit for fun. I’m definitely interested to see how the people are and everything else. It’s just kind of all up in the air right now.”
”Quite a bit,” Pickard said. “They’ve been texting me and DMing me. They convinced me to fly with them. We’re all taking our officials on the same weekend. So we scheduled it so we would all fly together and our families would drive. I’ve been in touch with them a little bit.”
Just because Syracuse is recruiting Pickard so hard does not mean the Wisconsin Badgers are out of the picture. In fact, Pickard said he has been in communication with new head coach Paul Chryst.
”Yes, I’ve talked to coach Chryst once or twice,” Pickard said. “The Wisconsin staff reaches out to me every day or every other day. Coach Chryst called me just to let me know how he feels about me. He definitely wants me on the team. He’s going to be out here whenever the dead period ends either the 14th or the 15th.
”We’re just waiting on who the new d-line coach is going to be. He’s just updating me on everything. Everybody just kind of keeps me updates and stays in touch.”
In addition to Syracuse and Wisconsin, Pickard is also considering Oregon. An official visit to the Ducks has not yet been set up, but one is in the works of being scheduled. Pickard added that Oregon reached out when the Wisconsin coaching change occurred just as Syracuse did. He wants to see how the next few weeks play out and go from there.
Pickard is ranked as the 74th best defensive end in the 2015 class.