In the 2015 recruiting cycle, Syracuse put a premium on reestablishing themselves in the talent rich state of New Jersey. That strategy made a lot of sense. Not only does the Garden State routinely produce division one talent, but it is only a short few hour drive from Central New York.
”I think it's essential,” head coach Scott Shafer said over the summer. “New Jersey, back when I was a young coach at the University of Rhode Island, the top players were either going to Penn State or Syracuse. You saw a few leave, maybe out to an Iowa. But really, coach Pasqualoni and George DeLeone, they really owned that territory.”
Syracuse wants to get back to owning the territory. Enter assistant coach Bobby Acosta. Hired shortly after signing day for the 2014 cycle, Acosta has gone to work over the past year and developed strong relationships with recruits. It was a hire that Shafer knew would pay dividends.
"You wanted somebody from that area that knew it inside and out," Shafer said. "Bobby is that type of a guy. Also, from a schematic point of view, he did a great job doing a lot of clinics down in that area. A lot of coaches that he's now recruiting are guys he helped actually implement some offensive schemes throughout his years on the trail as a coach both in the clinic series and also recruiting.
"He has good relationships and it's really refreshing to get phone calls from those guys saying, ‘hey it's really great that Syracuse is back in Jersey. We'll send you guys some good kids.’”
In his first cycle with Syracuse, coach Acosta helped the Orange land four scholarship players in New Jersey and one preferred walk-on. Each raved about how important he was in their recruitment.
3-star DE Jake Pickard: “He was very important. He was the first and strongest relationship I had with that staff. He’s just very easy to talk to and a great person.”
3-star RB Dontae Strickland: “He was important because he never stops until he gets what he wants. And he is a great coach. I cannot wait til I am there for my next four years. His strong relationship comes from him being himself and getting comfortable with us. Being able to talk to us about anything and vise versa.”
3-star CB Daivon Ellison: ”Coach Acosta was a big factor. He’s the man! We’re really close. We talk a lot. I just see how much he cares and loves his players and I just love that. It’s a lifetime relationship.”
DE Kenny Carter: “Coach Acosta makes it his business to concern himself with you as a person just as much as a football player.”
Three three-star prospects at important positions who were coveted by other power five programs and an under the radar player with huge upside. Not a bad haul in his first year. And it could be argued that without Acosta, Syracuse is not able to land each of those players.
Coach Acosta is developing a relationship in New Jersey as a strong recruiter who recognizes talent early. With even more time to recruit talented players for the 2016 class, Syracuse could reach even bigger heights.
With coach Acosta now the recruiting coordinator, an even bigger emphasis is expected to be placed on New Jersey. It would not be a surprise to see Syracuse hit or exceed double-digit commitments in the state in 2016.
For now, the four man (five if you include walk-on Kyle Kleinberg) is an impressive haul for the Syracuse staff in year one of their renewed focus on the Garden State.