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Syracuse recruiting: One-third of 2015 football class already off campus

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Well that makes things difficult.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Since last fall (and probably longer), Syracuse Orange football fans have been keeping tabs on the team’s lack of depth at several positions. Current recruiting is looking to fix those gaps, but in the meantime, it’s hard not to wonder how the Orange seem shorthanded year after year.

Here’s one reason: One-third of the 2015 class is already off campus.

Of the 27 players that signed letters of intent that winter/spring, just 18 remain on campus. One (Marquise Blair) never even made it there, as he failed to qualify.

You’ll be familiar with many of these names, especially the ones that appeared in transfer news over the last couple months:

  • Marquise Blair, S
  • Kenny Carter, DE
  • Trey Dunkelberger, TE
  • Amir Ealey, DE
  • Jordan Fredericks, RB
  • Anthony Giudice, DT
  • Qaadir Sheppared, DE
  • Ted Taylor, LB
  • Kenterius Womack, WR

Rather than focusing on the “how” with these guys, it’s best to just focus on the simple fact that they’re no longer on the roster. Attrition happens, especially when coaching staffs shift. And the further away you get from a commitment year, the lower retention rates will get.

But that said, look at this data on SEC schools and retention rates for each class from 2012 through 2015, and then overall retention rates for a four-year period. While the numbers may have moved slightly here and there since publishing in April 2016, the lowest mark for any SEC school’s 2015 class is 79.3 percent here (South Carolina). The conference average is above 91.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Even if you remove the pre-2016 departures, Syracuse’s numbers are still lower than the norm, and have been for quite awhile now. Part of this is due to the coaching changes around the program for a decade. Another is the fact that they’ve had to take more (academic) risks on kids to get better talent in the door. But a 67-percent retention rate isn’t great. Neither is an 81-percent rate if you remove the kids whose transfers were directly related to the coaching regime change this year.

This isn’t how you build a roster.

On the bright side, Orange coach Dino Babers and his staff do seem to realize this already, though two more players (Jo-El Shaw and James Pierre) failed to qualify in 2016. With a full year to assemble the 2017 class, it could be assumed that qualifying will be less of an issue this time around for Babers. He currently has 21 players committed and one signed, with an eye on another four to six to get to the scholarship maximum of 85 for next year.

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With luck, these problems become a thing of the past for Syracuse football. But for now, when you look at the short depth charts, injury issues and high number of freshmen taking the field, this at least gives us a better glimpse as to how this all came about.