We're in the thick of the college football recruiting season and if you're like me, you've got questions. Why do we seem to land so many 300-pound lineman from California? What's with all these Georgia recruits? Do we have any future superstars among the 2012 group?
I went to the source on such matters. John Garcia Jr., writer/reporter for Scout.com and caretaker of CuseNation.com. Check out his answers to my questions below to learn a little something about SU recruiting.
We seem to have a propensity for snagging very large California JuCo linemen (Lou Alexander, Mark Garrick, Zian Jones). Who's making this happen and how are we convincing these kids to trek across the country to play for us?
Deon Goggins was a gateway out to the California JUCO guys, and he had a big part in the recruitment of Garrick and Jones while they were on the visit last weekend. Both JUCO guys were not the top-tier of talent before the season, as those guys were hit hard by the top teams in the country. For whatever reason, I would assume because most schools recruit actively throughout the season, unlike SU for the most part.
Also, the fact that the coaches brought all four JUCO guys in on the same weekend was solid. Jones and Garrick developed a friendship immediately, and they planned to go to the same school even if it would have been another school.
The appeal to ‘Cuse is kind of a last-second second-chance if you will. To my knowledge, SU gave verbal offers to these guys while the FCS teams and smaller FBS teams were, so it was perceived as a last chance to play big-time ball. For Garrick, the East-coast thing was big as well, considering he is from South Carolina and has family in New York.
Another area we seem to be making serious inroads in is Georgia, how are we pulling this off?
The Georgia pipeline has as much to do with strategic recruiting as much as it has to do with Coach Adkins. He was already known as a big-time recruiter in general, but he specialized in Georgia while working for Tennessee and UGA for a combined 12 years or so. Both of those SEC schools primarily recruit in the Peach State.
The strategy for getting Southern players to come seems to have been on a case-by-case basis. Josh Manley said he just wanted to get out of Georgia. George Morris loved the ACC move. Either way, once they all came up for the visit last weekend, the coaches set them up with hosts – along with TE Josh Parris – who often hung out together.
Manley was hosted by Georgian Cam Lynch, Morris by Siriki Diabate and Parris by John Kinder. The three SU athletes always hung out, so the Georgia recruits built a bond that dates back to the airport before even stepping foot in Syracuse.
Interestingly, they also linked up with Leroy Owens, who is from Florida. The group formed a bond while representing the South while in Syracuse – they almost have a chip on their shoulder in the sense that they were overlooked by the big boys from the SEC and ACC. I know a popular Florida feeling is that if the big three (FSU, UF and Miami) don’t recruit them, they want to leave the state.
How much of an impact are you seeing from the impending move to the ACC? It seems to come up often, especially with the Southeastern recruits.
Going along with the "overlooked" concept, prospects in the South love the ACC move. It brings in another dynamic in football recruiting, which is the sport with the biggest gain in terms of recruiting. Basketball obviously has built a national brand, so conference doesn’t matter much. But for football players, Syracuse has gone down south earlier in the recruiting season to be among the first schools to recruit certain prospects.
Some have told me they feel loyal to ‘Cuse because it was the first school to really show interest and offer.Several of those players, Julian Whigham in particular, have since been offered by big name schools.
The ACC thing serves as the conventional "my family can come see me play" theme and also provides those prospects with familiarity of the schools in the mix while giving them a chance to set their own path at a new school at the same time. Thank goodness for the Dome, because I would imagine that an open-air stadium would detract more southern prospects than not.
The only SE player who has told me the ACC move had nothing to do with the decision was Josh Manley.
Talk about the value of a guy like Greg Adkins and what he's doing for the Orange on a national scale.
What Coach Adkins brings to the program in invaluable. He has experience in SEC country during its rise to the top, while providing a foundation in Georgia that will only seemingly grow in the coming years. Florida has already been a target state for SU, but his national reputation helps with all prospects in the Southeast. Several prospects mention Coach Adkins when it comes to making a decision. Coach Wheatley deserves some credit as well, combined with Adkins, they make one heck of a team.
At the end of the day, winning wins recruits. But with Adkins and Whealtey, they have snagged some prospects that likely may have been a bit too talented for Syracuse in terms of the prospects being brought in by Big East schools that have fared better than ‘Cuse of late.
Adkins is a superstar. Wheatley, a rising star – helping to lock down running backs in general (George Morris) as well as Michigan talent (Ron Thompson).
Right now, who is our best Class of 2012 recruit? Anyone stand out as a guy who might surprise down the road?
As far as the best recruit, in terms of ceiling, it would have to be Thompson. We have him rated as a four-star, one of two in the class along with Ashton Broyld (QB), and he has the chance to play very soon.
I met him in person last weekend while he was on his official visit, and he is every bit of 6-foot-4 and his listing weight of 215 may be an under-shoot. From the film and evaluations I have seen, his skill-set is a much more athletic one than Nick Provo – and we saw what he can do as a tight end in this offense.
A close second, again in terms of ceiling, would have to be Morris. He is a pure running back with a versatile skill-set as both a runner and pass-catcher. At 6’1’’, 190 pounds, he has a great combination of speed and power – possibly enough to take the bulk of the touches sooner than later.
Down the road, I think Whigham can be a star. As a lanky safety, he has great range and top-notch ball skills. He is an underrated play-maker with the ball in his hands as well. The only bump in the road I see is if he starts out his career as a corner, which is the plan right now according to what he has told me.
Who are the big recruits that we have offers out to that we should keep an eye on?
With 24 commits already, including a pair of "soft" verbal commits, speculation is that there are only a couple of spots left. There is no speculation, however, as to who the priority recruit is – and has been – since Morris committed in December. It’s Wayne Morgan, a play-making defensive back out of Erasmus Hall in Brooklyn. He has incredible feet and can play effective man-coverage in both the press and off-man technique, something not common among incoming freshman.
He visited SU in early December and had a great time hanging out with childhood friend and SU frosh Brandon Reddish. Morgan will visit UConn this weekend and make a decision on National Signing Day.
The only other target worth keeping an eye on is Josh Glanton, a "soft" verbal to Florida International visiting ‘Cuse this weekend. He could be nice insurance as an athletic linebacker if Tashon Whitehurst (one of the "soft" verbals to SU) decides to flip to another school.
Other players with an offer still in the mix are JUCO D-linemen Markus Pierce-Brewster and Kyle Bailey – both from California. Even then, there may not be room for all four to commit. With Glanton, we may know sooner than later.