Syracuse Orange football's 2016 class was just finalized last week. So it's time to shift focus to 2017 and what should be an important class for Dino Babers's tenure as head coach.
Obviously with just two months to work with when securing the 2016 class, Babers and his staff had to work quickly and efficiently to secure a full bring a full group in the door. They succeeded, but the regions and athletes they targeted may not have been indicative of the final strategy at SU. And they definitely represent a big departure from what Scott Shafer & co. were recruiting for.
Without digging into each and every individual player for 2017 (over 100 offers have gone out already, after all), we examine some key trends developing based on who the team's pursuing.
Quarterbacks will be pass-first (and maybe second too)
Obviously current incumbent starter Eric Dungey is a dual-threat, but he may be the last of those Syracuse pursues heavily under Babers. Of the eight QBs with offers right now (according to 247 Sports), six are pro-style passers standing at 6-foot-2 or taller. Running quarterbacks can still have a place in this new Syracuse offense, of course. And they very well may, especially if SU finds early success with Dungey running. But this offense is evolving to rely heavily on a passing QB. Based on current offers (including one out here in California), no distance is too far to find the right one, either.
Running backs are bigger again
While Shafer's recruiting seemed to move toward smaller, speedier options at running back, Babers has already signaled a shift in philosophy that could potentially even signal the return of Doug Marrone's tank package. Jo-El Shaw's a big, bruising back already for 2016, and he could be joined by a similar runner in 2017 -- probably from Florida too, based on the early targets. That doesn't mean backs like Jordan Fredericks and Moe Neal are gone, either. But the team's lack of size in the backfield has been part of its recent red zone struggles and this staff is addressing that need.
Wanted: Wide receivers
Syracuse's wide receivers are getting faster, but it's going to take some time to really fill the depth chart with a mix of quick slot options and bigger, possession receivers -- both of which are staples of what Babers did at Bowling Green. The previous regime already got SU started in this department by locking down Daewood Davis out of Florida. Expect this position to be a focus in 2017, especially keeping in mind that their time to shine on campus will largely come after Steve Ishmael and others depart.
Expect a lot of defensive linemen
As we've mentioned, Syracuse's current defensive line depth situation is a bit perilous. To prevent that from happening again, you can bank on a lot of players coming at end and tackle for 2017. They're just getting started offering players at those positions, but you can see a difference right off the bat, aligning with 2016's additions too. Defensive ends are slightly larger outside linebackers -- athletic players that have enough size to hold their own on the line, but also have the speed to protect against outside runs and cover against the pass too, if needed. Tackles are enormous incoming prospects (285-plus), specifically focused on clogging the middle and rushing the passer.
Secondary turnover continues
If Babers and Brian Ward know what they're walking into with these defensive backs, expect them to grab as many athletes as possible until they find the right blend. The Tampa-2 employs smaller defenders and puts a big emphasis on corners being experts in coverage. That hasn't been the case of late, so every incoming recruit has either exhibited that skillset already or the staff believes they can be coached up into that role (as is typically the case with any player and position). Safeties could actually be in a better place for 2016, but corners are still in need of help. A lot of Florida-based players in a similar (5-foot-11ish, 175 pounds) are being targeted right now, with more to come.
The above is far from the full book on what we're doing, but it's a good bird's-eye view of what's coming as the 2017 cycle gets going. Babers has stated that 2017 is where the evaluation of incoming talent should start. So these are largely the guys that will shape your view of the program's direction 12 months from now.
No word on who will be in attendance at the recently announced Junior Day on April 2 (same as the Spring Game), but you can expect at least a couple of the more important names on Babers's board to find themselves on campus that day.