Last night, Syracuse received its third verbal commitment for the 2013 class, and fourth new player overall in five days. Austin Wilson, a quarterback from East Pennsboro Area SHS in Enola, PA, chose Syracuse over Eastern Michigan. The 6'3", 205 lb QB was also reportedly receiving interest from Maryland, Pittsburg, Rutgers and Temple, although none has made an offer to this point.
While the quarterback's offer sheet and two-star rating from Scout do not dazzle, after watching his highlight film, I came away quite impressed with Wilson as a prospect.
Austin Wilson East Pennsboro 2011 highlights (via thatbull555)
Highlight tapes are often misleading for obvious reasons, but there are a lot of things to like about Wilson's game. He seems very comfortable working within a number of different formations and schemes, both under center and in the shotgun, and he is certainly the featured weapon in his offense, even as a junior. East Pennsboro doesn't seem afraid to let it fly, and most of the plays in this tape feature Wilson launching the ball downfield.
Wilson looks to have very solid mechanics, a quick release, and he throws a very catchable ball. One of the major criticisms of Ryan Nassib is that he doesn't really have a change-up, he tends to fire the ball in there in most situations. Wilson seems to be very accurate and he has a lot of touch on his long throws, although it doesn't hurt that his receivers seem to outclass the opposing defensive backs on most of these plays. Wilson also seems to have a lot of trust in his receivers, and he isn't afraid to make many throws. He puts a lot of balls into coverage, but fits them into spots where only his receiver has a great shot to make a play on the ball. He also hits receivers in stride.
Some of these attributes are very rare in largely unheralded high school quarterbacks, so I think Wilson may be a bit underrated.
Scout.com reports that Wilson runs a solid 4.8 40-yard dash, and he shows athleticism and escapability, but he says it best in an interview with Nation of Orange:
"I am a pocket passer," Wilson told us, "with decent speed so I can move the chains with my feet. But I'm primarily a thrower, I have a strong arm. I believe I am a good leader, hard worker, and love the deep ball."
...and that is the most interesting thing about the recruitment of Austin Wilson. He will be the first pocket passer we've brought in since Charley Loeb.
The last four quarterbacks that have signed with Syracuse are John Kinder, Jonny Miller, Terrel Hunt, and Ashton Broyld. All four are dual threat, mobile quarterbacks. These two (or three, as Broyld was a year late to campus, although he may not play QB at all) quarterback classes led me to believe that after the Ryan Nassib era wraps up this season, Syracuse's offense will be designed for a mobile quarterback. There have been hints that the offense is moving in this direction even this season, Nassib's last in Orange. However Wilson's recruitment, especially the apparent fact that he was our top quarterback target, seems to challenge this theory.
I expect Syracuse to take another quarterback in this class if they can, and the offers that they have out there cover a range of abilities at the quarterback positions. Perhaps the plan was never to push for a mobile quarterback. Maybe we took Kinder, Miller, Hunt and Broyld because they were the best players available regardless of their specific styles or talents. Right now, Ryan Nassib is the starting quarterback because he gives us the best chance to win today, the same reason why Marrone started Greg Paulus in his first season as coach. Maybe this is the prevailing strategy after all. No matter how they get the job done, the best player will win the job, and the offense will be put in a position to succeed based on his talents. Either way, I doubt many Syracuse fans will be upset as long as the results are there. If our signal caller can lead the team down (down) the field, I don't care if he does it with his arm or his legs.
Something tells me that four years into his tenure, Marrone is thinking the same way.