National Signing Day is Wednesday, February 5th. As that day approaches several recruits, some committed to Syracuse, some not, will be visiting the weekends of January 17th & January 31st. Here's a list of Syracuse targets and what they could mean to the program.
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Height & Weight: 6'8” 307 lbs.
Rating: 3 Stars
Other Offers: UCLA, Nebraska, South Florida
Ward is a huge offensive tackle prospect who committed to Purdue last June, but has since opened up his recruiting after decommitting on December 16th. Since opening up his recruiting, Ward has drawn significant interest from major programs. Ward is visiting Syracuse this weekend (January 17), and has upcoming visits at Nebraska (1/24) and UCLA (1/31). Offensive Tackle is a huge area of need for Syracuse. After starters Hickey & Foy, Syracuse has very few tackles who have seen game action. Michael Lasker filled in for Hickey at times during the BC game and played admirably, but drew a few penalties as well. At tackle, the roster only includes Hickey, Foy, Lasker, Kyle Knapp, Jamar McGloster & Jonathan Burton. Burton & McGloster were both considered significant projects who have the size to play at the BCS level but needed time to polish technique before they would see the field. So far, Syracuse's only offensive line commitment comes from guard Aaron Roberts. In my opinion, Ward is the most important recruit because once Hickey is gone after this season, the offensive line will need someone to step in & step up. Denzel Ward could be that “next man up.”
Isaiah “Zeek” Rodney
Hometown: Rock Hill, South Carolina
Height & Weight: 6'1” 265 lbs.
Other Offers: Wake Forest, Boston College
If Ward is the #1 most important recruit, than Rodney is #1a. ESPN summarized Rodney this way: “If Rodney possessed better natural size he would be among the top tackle prospects in this class, but size can present some concerns especially against the run. He is an explosive and disruptive player who could potentially develop into a heck of a steal for a program willing to take a chance on this under-the-radar DL prospect...” Given the breakout junior year of a similarly sized Eric Crume, its evident that a shorter defensive tackle can still produce in Shafer & Bullough's system. Like offensive tackle, depth at defensive tackle is lacking. Syracuse will lose Jay Bromley to graduation and the roster doesn't have that many other DTs on it, including only Crume, John Raymon (who is coming back from a dreaded lower body injury and may not be ready until October or so), Ryan Sloan and Marcus Coleman. Wayne Williams will be enrolling this January after prep school. The coaching staff may have the option of moving one of the bigger defensive ends inside like Micah Robinson or Isaiah Johnson, but that only hurts an already shallow depth chart at end. Rodney could come in and make an immediate impact as a rotational player at DT. Zeek is also visiting this weekend (1/17).
Hometown: Delray Beach, Florida
Height & Weight: 6'5” 215 lbs.
Rating: 4 Stars on ESPN/3 Stars on 247 & Scout/2 Stars on Rivals
Other Offers: FIU, Wisconsin, Wake Forest
Enoicy is a tall WR prospect who was getting some early attention from some major programs like USC, Florida, Florida State & Miami, but he has narrowed his choices to FIU, Syracuse and Wisconsin. The “knock” on Enoicy, if you will, is his lack of break away speed. There were concerns that he would have difficulty gaining separation from defensive backs. Enoicy in an interview with Dan Tortora didn't consider his speed to be a problem, but continues to work to improve his quickness. Enoicy is from the same high school and played with freshman sensation Brisly Estime who is heavily recruiting his former teammate to join the Orange. Enoicy is considered to have excellent hands and the ability to catch the ball in traffic according to ESPN and his size and strength give him a clear advantage over most DBs. One of the strengths of this recruiting class for Syracuse is its receiving corps that include KJ Williams, Corey Cooper (a 2013 commit who spent a year in prep school), & Jamal Custis. Enoicy will be visiting Syracuse January 31st.
Hometown: O'Fallon, Illinois
Height & Weight: 5'10” 185 lbs.
Rating: 3 Stars
Other Offers: Indiana, Iowa State, Michigan State
As with most Syracuse recruits, there is usually one attribute that major programs consider lacking as the reason why that recruit might not be getting as much interest or offers from those major programs. With Ward, its technique (although he has offers & visits with Nebraska & UCLA), with Rodney its height, with Enoicy its speed, and like Rodney, with Cotton its height. Cotton largely played linebacker in high school despite being 5'10”. A move back to safety is considered inevitable but Cotton lacks the reps at safety to be proficient. Cotton is considered a terrific wrap up tackler; but his coverage skills will need some refinement. Much like OT & DT, the defensive backfield is another need. Syracuse graduated three starters from the defensive backfield in Keon Lyn, Ri'Shard Anderson & Jeremi Wilkes. Left on the roster is a conglomerate of athletes who may play either cornerback or safety. Brandon Reddish will most likely be one of the starting corners & Durrel Eskridge will be one of the starting safeties, but the other positions will be filled by some combination of Darius Kelly, Wayne Morgan, Julian Whigham, Chauncey Scissum, Ritchy Desir and others. Syracuse has three verbal commitments from recruits who project to the defensive backfield in Rodney Williams, Lamar Dawson and Cordell Hudson, and a probable fourth in Naesean Howard. Cotton could add a dynamic play maker who can play up at the line scrimmage or drop in coverage.
Hometown: Suwanee, Georgia
Height & Weight: 6'3” 210lbs.
Rating: NR by ESPN/ 3 Stars by Rivals, 247 & Scout
Other Offers: Oklahoma, Cincinnati & Indiana
Like WR, linebacker is a position of strength both on the roster and within the 2014 recruiting class. Despite the major loss of Marquis Spruill, Syracuse's linebacker corps is still strong with the likes of returning starters Dyshawn Davis & Cameron Lynch, JuCos Luke Arcienga & Josh Kirkland who saw a lot of playing time this past year as well as Oliver Virgille & Marqez Hodge amongst others. Syracuse also has a trio of verbal commits at linebacker in Colton Moskal, Parris Bennett & Zaire Franklin. Thomas has some height to him that few of Syracuse's other linebackers or linebacker recruits have. While linebacker may not be a position of need, adding another solid LB prospect is never a bad thing. Thomas will visit Syracuse on January 31st.
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Height & Weight: 6'2” 185 lbs.
Rating: 3 Stars
Other Offers: Cincinnati, Louisville & Illinois
Ishmael is another Florida recruit who Coach McDonald has been recruiting heavily since his arrival at Syracuse. With good height & hands, Ishmael is a solid WR who could use to add some bulk and speed. Both of Syracuse's quarterback commits have talked about how important Ishmael could be to this class. Alin Edouard & Ishmael have known and competed against one another since their freshman year of high school and Edouard said it would be nice to have someone who he's familiar with at Syracuse with him. Ishmael will visit Syracuse this weekend, January 17th. Ishmael is scheduled to Cincinnati the following weekend. The question becomes, can this class sustain 5 commitments at WR with enough playing time to keep them all interested in the program.
Hometown: East Saint Louis, Illinois
Position: Athlete (WR/DB)
Height & Weight: 6'0” 180 lbs.
Rating: 3 Stars
Other Offers: Western Michigan, Kansas
Prater committed to Western Michigan back in May of 2013 but is considered a “soft verbal” (a verbal commit who will visit & consider other schools). Prater will in fact visit Syracuse this weekend (January 17th) along with several other recruits. He plays both WR & Safety for East Saint Louis High and would probably play in the defensive backfield at Syracuse, although athletes like Prater give the schools some flexibility to play Prater where needed. Whether on the offensive or defensive side of the ball, Prater could be just another piece to the puzzle for Syracuse.