Syracuse’s 2015 class is just about complete and is 25 players strong. Of that group, which players are likely to make an immediate impact? Here are our top five options on each side of the ball. This list is not the top five prospects, but the top five players most likely to earn significant playing time in their first year in Orange.
Immediate Impact: Offense
1. TE Trey Dunkelberger: With Tim Lester’s new offense seemingly placing more of a focus on the tight end position, Dunkelberger could carve out a significant role this season. His one year of junior college makes him more ready than most incoming players, and his frame is solid as well. Combine that with versatility and speed and you have a weapon that could make plays in the red zone.
2. K Sterling Hofrichter: Technically, Hofrichter should fall under special teams, but since he would be the kicker and contributing points to the Orange, we will slot him here. The kicker position has been inconsistent at best over the last two seasons. Walk-on Cole Murphy was solid down the stretch last year, but there is definitely room for a freshman to snatch this job. Hofrichter has a solid leg and decent accuracy, and could win the starting gig right away.
3. RB Jordan Fredericks: Fredericks is a dynamic runner, can make plays as a receiver out of the backfield and is skilled between the tackles. He put up monster numbers as a senior in high school averaging nearly 13-yards per carry and rushing for 35 touchdowns. Don’t be surprised if he works his way into the backfield mix this year.
4. RB Dontae Strickland: Strickland and Fredericks may be a nice one-two punch at running back in the future, but each have the potential to earn snaps this season. What separates Strickland is his ability to contribute as a return man. Displaying shiftiness in the open field, he could be a big special teams weapon for the Orange.
5. OL Andrejas Duerig: It’s tough to make the transition to the college level as a true freshman along the offensive line. But if any one of Syracuse’s five offensive linemen will get that shot, it may be Duerig. Mainly because Syracuse has experience at depth at tackle, while the center position is up for grabs. Duerig may end up finding his way into the mix or at least as the primary backup.
Instant Impact: Defense
1. S Marquise Blair: The highest ranked player in the class, four star Marquise Blair will compete for playing time right away. He has the size, speed and physicality that Scott Shafer loves in his safeties. Starting may be tough in his first year, but it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see him as the third safety and seeing significant snaps in the Okie package.
2. CB/S Daivon Ellison: Despite being undersized, Ellison may be one of the more physical players in Syracuse’s 2015 class. With the lack of proven depth in the defensive backfield, there is an opportunity for immediate playing time. Ellison’s physical nature and off field work ethic could force the coaches to put him on the field sooner rather than later.
3. OLB Shyheim Cullen: It will be tough for Cullen to make the linebacker rotation this season, but Syracuse is losing two multi-year starters there. That combined with the fact that Shafer likes to use linebackers on special teams means Cullen could see the field right away. Most likely on kick coverage and return units, but his athleticism will be difficult to keep on the sideline.
4. DT Tyler Cross: Every time I watch Tyler Cross’ film, I continue to see flashes of Jay Bromley. If that translates to the practice field this fall, Cross could find his way into see some snaps this season. His quick first step and athleticism give him a lot of upside along the defensive line.
5. DE Amir Ealey/Jake Pickard: Both Pickard and Ealey may not play this season, but it is reasonable to think one of them may. Both are long, athletic, talented kids who work hard off the field. Syracuse has room for one of them to make the defensive end rotation.