Syracuse snagged 20 players in the 2016 class on National Signing Day. Here are our thoughts and observations from the day.
Syracuse finished 59th in terms of team recruiting rankings. While that may not seem like a huge improvement compared to the last few years, consider this. Syracuse is actually 41st nationally in stars per player (2.95). That's another way to measure the strength of the class. Compare that to the 2015 cycle when Syracuse finished 50th nationall, but had only 2.64 stars per player.
In fact, the 2.95 stars per player is the highest in the Scout era (since 2001). Quite a feat considering they were a new staff only on the job for a couple of months.
On that note, further compare this class to the last two coaching transitions. When Doug Marrone took over, he had to piece meal a class in the 2009 cycle. That class ended up ranked 102nd in the country and with 2.14 stars per player. Scott Shafer took over in the 2013 cycle and finished with a class ranked 73rd and with 2.45 stars per player.
That should give Syracuse fans a lot of hope going forward.
Battling with the SEC
For the second year in a row, Syracuse was able to fend off some SEC schools in order to hold on to their players. In the 2015 class it was defensive tackle Steven Clark with Florida and Vanderbilt in pursuit. This cycle it was defensive end Jaquwan Nelson with Georgia and Kentucky after him. Georgia hosted Nelson for an official over the weekend, but he stuck with his commitment from the week prior and signed with the Orange.
Kentucky had been involved for a while with Nelson, hosting him for an official in December. Georgia came in late, but their program can be quite attractive. Still, Syracuse's relationships and direction of the program under the new staff were able to win out in this case.
On the flip side, Syracuse lost to SEC power Mississippi State on four-star offensive lineman Stewart Reese. Syracuse has other talented offensive linemen in the class, four to be exact, but snagging Reese would have been the icing on the cake. The fact that they were close and in the final two bodes well going forward. More on that later.
Syracuse lost 11 players who were committed to the old staff while adding 16 new prospects. Comparing them simply by ratings and rankings and it appears the Orange were able to upgrade the quality of the player they are bringing in. Whether or not that ends up the case will depend on a variety of factors, including player development.
The ability to snag 15 three-star prospects, several at key positions of need, is impressive for a staff that basically had only two months to put together a class. Especially when the viewed many that were already committed as not good fits for their system.
Syracuse had three big needs entering this season. Adding depth to the defensive line, adding playmakers on offense and improving the size in the secondary. They accomplished all three of those.
The aforementioned Nelson joins Joshua Black, Kendall Coleman and McKinley Williams as defensive linemen in this class. Linebacker prospect Kenneth Ruff also has the ability to move to defensive end if needed.
Offensively, Syracuse retained Moe Neal while adding speedsters Sean Riley and Devin Butler. Throw in power back Jo-El Shaw and that gives Syracuse some nice offensive weapons to use in their new system. Oh, and they got a pretty highly thought of quarterback in Rex Culpepper as well.
More Talent Up-Front
Syracuse snagged four more talented offensive linemen in this class, ones that have length, athleticism and a lot of upside. That is on top of taking five in 2015. In 2016 they added Sam Heckel, Airon Servais, Liam O'Sullivan and Michael Clark. There is a theme here. A lot of length, lean frames, quick feet and the ability to add weight without losing those attributes.
With the nine offensive linemen the Orange has added in the last two cycles, the future looks promising up front.