National Signing Day is always a day where programs talk up the guys they were able to sign and promote a positive outlook on the future of the program. In 2017, the Syracuse Orange are no exception. Here is a look at what they were able to accomplish on the recruiting trail.
Beating Power Programs
It seems more frequent than in recent memory, but Syracuse beat some powerhouse programs with their 2017 class. Start with quarterback Tommy DeVito, who turned down offers from Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Washington State in order to stick with the Orange.
Or Ravian Pierce, the four-star junior college tight end, who was heavily pursued by the likes of Mississippi State, LSU, Florida, Oregon and Oklahoma State among others. The Orange beat those programs straight up to land a supreme talent who could start right away.
Linebacker Nadarius Fagan visited both Syracuse and LSU over the summer, but opted to pick the Orange even after the Tigers got the last visit.
One of the more interesting battles down the stretch was for defensive back Ifeatu Melifonwu. Michigan started to get involved late as Melifonwu had a family connection to their staff. Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown recruited and signed Ifeatu's brother Obi at UConn. That connection led to Ifeatu taking an official visit to check out the Wolverines.
Despite that trip and an offer to become part of their class, Melifonwu's official visit to Syracuse the weekend prior to National Signing Day reminded him of why he picked the Orange in the first place. He turned down Michigan and the Big House and Jim Harbaugh as he signed with Syracuse.
These, among many other recruiting wins, are positive steps in the right direction for the program. As they try to improve the talent on the roster and build depth, recruiting wins like these are critical.
Syracuse was able to do a nice job hitting areas of need. The tight end position was going to have a complete overhaul. Gone are all of the scholarship players from the previous season. Enter Ravian Pierce and Aaron Hackett, both of whom should see the field this season. Pierce will likely start and become a focal point of the offense.
Also included in that mix will be Chris Elmore, who play an h-back role.
The Orange also needed help up front along the defensive line. They lacked a consistent pass rush last season, and added three talented defensive ends in this class. Brandon Berry is expected to step into the rotation right away as a gifted edge rusher and impressive athlete.
Zach Morton has a lot of potential, as does Kingsley Jonathan. Both may need some seasoning, but will provide talented depth down the line and could enter the starting lineup with some development as well.
The Orange receiving group needed an influx of talent. Several in that group entering the 2017 season will be upper classmen. Enter four receivers in this class to help bolster that position.
Improving Speed and Length
One of the things lacking in order to play the systems' put in place on both sides of the ball on last year's roster was speed and length. Syracuse has worked in recruiting to improve both over the last two recruiting classes. In 2017, they added some speedy playmakers at wide receiver in Cam Jordan, Russell Thompson-Bishop, Nykeim Johnson and Sharod Johnson.
In addition, Cam Jordan is listed at 6-foot-4 with long arms. Brandon Berry has a tremendous wing span. The frames of both Melifonwu and Coley are great for cornerbacks. Likewise, the Orange linebacker signees have excellent wing spans and frames.
Not only is Syracuse working on better overall speed throughout the roster, but more length and better frames as well. That even correlates to their offensive linemen, where Patrick Davis and Dakota Davis have solid frames.
All of these things help Syracuse improve the quality of the athlete on the roster, and they seem to have succeeded thus far.
Syracuse added several players who have versatility. They can play multiple positions, which helps combat injury and depleted numbers at some spots.
Look at a guy like Eric Coley, who could play cornerback, safety, wide receiver or running back. Melifonwu was a gifted offensive playmaker in high school. Patrick Davis can play anywhere along the offensive line.
Wide receivers Nykeim Johnson and Sharod Johnson could also be impactful weapons in the return game. Running back Allen Stritzinger was offered by Michigan as a cornerback, showing he has talent on both sides of the ball.
Chris Elmore was recruited by many as a defensive tackle, but will likely be a fullback/h-back for Syracuse. Still, he can move if needed.
Linebackers Ryan Guthrie and Tyrell Richards are talented enough to play any of the three linebacker positions. Kadeem Trotter could develop into a linebacker or safety, though linebacker appears to be the most likely path.
We already know Dino Babers likes to cross train his players. Adding players with versatile skill sets makes for a roster that is better able to absorb injuries or unexpected departures.