Anyone who has played an EA Sports NCAA Football game in the last decade or so has a general idea of the various factors that play in to a high school prospect's college decision. While video games are obviously, well...games, the series does a decent job of attempting to simulate the many things that may play into a recruit choosing one school over another. In a lot of ways, these can be similar factors to those which led to our own college choices.
A lot has been written about Syracuse's recruiting during the Doug Marrone era, and while many put down the recruiting efforts of Marrone and his staff for whatever reason, the players who will (hopefully) sign their letters of intent today make up what seems to be a very solid class. As the last few days have shown, Marrone has proven to be a pretty solid closer on the trail, and is bringing in coveted talent to Syracuse. To kick off today's national signing day, let's take a look at what Syracuse has going for it.
There is no one factor that is universally decisive for every recruit, but few are quite as important as the player's relationship with the coaching staff. From what I've gathered about Marrone and his staff's recruiting strategy, I really like the approach that they take. Rather than pushing for a decision, the Syracuse coaches tell recruits to make the decision that is right for them, and instead of trying to make a hard sell on why that recruit must choose SU, they present the positives about SU, and allow the recruits to make their own decisions from there. A common thread in comments given by our verbal commits in the Marrone era is that the staff feels "real" and tells it like it is.
A video from last year's recruitment of NYC standout Ishaq Williams, who ended up choosing Notre Dame over Syracuse and Penn State, gives a rare look into Doug Marrone's ability to pitch the school in the home.
City Gridiron Season 2 Sizzle2 (via CozziPix)
The recruiting among the staff seems to be a bit out of balance, with super-recruiter Tyrone Wheatley and recruiting coordinator Greg Adkins coming up with the highest number of recruits. Wheatley has been a key guy in breaking into Michigan and holding down Ohio, while Adkins has unlocked the fertile states of Georgia and California for Syracuse. John Anselmo is the key guy in New York, while Tim Daost has gained some traction this cycle as being popular with the incoming class. Doug Marrone and Scott Shafer generally act as the closer.
The Football Program:
No one will try to effectively sell Syracuse as a consistently winning program at this point, but there is an argument to be made for Syracuse as a program on the rise. While this season's collapse, which caused the team to finish 5-7 after starting 5-2 and miss a bowl berth, is a major issue, I don't know that it automatically erases all of the goodwill built up with 2010's tremendous Pinstripe Bowl win. The move to the ACC has also elevated the program's status, especially for those recruits in places like Georgia and Florida whose families will be able to see them play every year or so.
The current players have also proven to be almost as good at selling the school as the coaches. They form strong peer connections with the recruits, and show them the joys of Syracuse's nightlife. Don't underestimate the party scene's effect on a high school kid. The staff does a great job of matching up recruits with the right players. Lou Alexander and Deon Goggins have hosted the California kids, Brandon Reddish hosted his friend from home, Wayne Morgan. Prospects know that they'll need to spend up to four years with these guys, so a good impression is incredibly important, and it seems like our players play the part well.
One of the major advantages that Syracuse has over many schools is academic prestige. Schools like Newhouse, Maxwell, L.C. Smith and the iSchool have such good reputations that they are very attractive options for these prospective students, and more so, their families. Syracuse has been modeling some of their recruiting after schools like Stanford and Vanderbilt- schools who play D1 ball but have strong academic reputations. While Syracuse doesn't have quite the standards that those two schools have, schools like the ones I've listed above are at the top of their class, and can make Syracuse very attractive, especially for northeast recruits. Young players like Jarrod West, Shutang Mungwa, Kristofer Curtis, Deon Goggins, and Cameron Lynch all fit the bill as those who were enamored with the academic possibilities here at SU.
It's no lie, it snows in Syracuse a little bit, and for a lot of kids, that's a deal breaker. However, Syracuse doesn't seem to have much trouble plucking kids from Florida, Georgia, and California. Syracuse is fairly easy to reach from the surrounding states, which make New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania our bread-and-butter recruiting states. Much of the rest of our recruiting profile is based around Syracuse's Hancock Airport. Direct flights to places like Atlanta and Detroit have opened up the states of Georgia and Michigan as pipelines for SU.
This is the area that Syracuse struggles the most in. I actually think the Dome is okay for a 30-year old venue. The locker rooms, which I've had the pleasure of seeing, are in massive need of a revamping. Right now, some of the high school players who comes through will dress in nicer lockers on a weekly basis at their own games. However, the Dome itself is an asset because of the harsh Syracuse winter. If we played outdoors, no matter how nice our stadium was, it would probably do more damage than good.
The new field at Manley Field House is a nice makeshift facility, but we really need the dedicated practice facility which is under way. Some of the facilities that other schools have are pretty mind blowing, and seeing these facilities is one of the most tangible things a recruit can take away from his visit. Syracuse is taking the right steps to rectify the situation, but right now this is a gaping hole in our efforts to grab the best recruits.
The letters of intent should begin to roll in at around 7 A.M. Sean and I will be frantically updating this site as we hear the official word on the future Orangemen. It's signing day, get excited.