The Syracuse Orange’s 2017 National Signing Day has come to a close. Dino Babers talked about it. Tommy DeVito talked about it. And we gave you easy lists of every offensive and defensive recruit to sign with SU.
Now how do we feel about it?
Ari Gilberg and I, your guides through this long and eventful day, share some parting thoughts about how things went, and projections on what happens next.
How would you grade Dino Babers & his staff’s job in year two on the recruiting trail, now that they had a full cycle to pull together this class?
JC: B+... Year two saw progress from year one in terms of the arbitrary rankings, but Syracuse seemed to make tangible gains with regard to the caliber of player they’re taking in as well. Tommy DeVito’s the obvious headliner, but other guys like Nadarius Fagan, Ravian Pierce, Kingsley Jonathan and others had plenty of pursuit from “better” schools. At receiver, in particular, you’re also starting to see the vision for the program come together, which is encouraging.
AG: B+... Although Syracuse’s recruiting class may not receive that high of an overall ranking by the recruiting sites – Rivals currently lists SU’s class at No. 58 – Babers and his staff did an admirable job retaining many of their key prospects. While the Orange lost wide receiver Josh Palmer to Tennessee, they were able to hold onto star quarterback Tommy DeVito and keep safety Ifeatu Melifonwu from flipping to Michigan. As a whole, it is easy to envision how many of this year’s signees fit into Babers’ vision and offensive and defensive schemes.
The 2017 recruit flying under the radar who's going to blow away expectations will be…
JC: I feel like a lot of these guys have similar expectations being mostly three-star prospects. But Russell Thompson-Bishop really does appear to have the size and ability to be the next Amba Etta-Tawo, even if the numbers (three stars from ESPN and 247, two from Rivals and Scout) don’t indicate that. You can’t teach being 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds as a teenager. But you can help him improve as a wideout over the course of his career.
AG: You could honestly throw a dart and make a case for any of these guys as the vast majority are all three-star prospects, but I’m going to go with wide receiver Cameron Jordan. Jordan is already a prime red zone target, as he stands at 6’4”. If Jordan can bulk up, he only weighs 187 pounds right now, he can develop into a touchdown machine for the Orange.
Syracuse held onto Ifeatu Melifonwu even after Michigan offered. Did that surprise you?
JC: A bit, yeah. Perhaps it’s because Syracuse showed interest a very long time ago, while Michigan just recently showed up. Or maybe the Orange drew him in with the potential to play both ways (he seemed to indicate that they have). However they sold him on his final visit that helped outdo a Jim Harbaugh offer is fine with me.
AG: Yes. Honestly, when Melifonwu confirmed to me that Michigan had offered him last Friday during his visit, I was shocked he didn’t end up flipping on his commitment to Syracuse. This isn’t a knock on Babers or SU, but there is a vast difference between the two programs and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is widely viewed as one of the best recruiters in college football. Melifonwu told me Syracuse was just a better “fit” and he felt more comfortable here, so maybe Babers just made the three-star safety feel more at home during his visit.
Five years from now, the Class of 2017 offensive recruit we're going to miss most will be…
JC: I doubt there’s another answer here other than Tommy DeVito. Even if he doesn’t start right away, he possesses a lot of raw talent that indicate he’ll be getting it eventually. And while we’ve had some pretty good passers here of late (Ryan Nassib and I’d even argue Eric Dungey should be mentioned there too), they didn’t arrive with the talent DeVito has -- nor the offense he’ll be playing in.
AG: As of right now, how can the answer be anyone other than Tommy DeVito? The Don Bosco Prep prospect is one of the most highly-touted Syracuse recruit in recent memory, and it’s not like Syracuse has been a wasteland of quarterbacks (remember Ryan Nassib, and you know, how he got drafted in the fourth round?). However, DeVito has both the prototypical size and mechanics you want in a quarterback. Pair that with Babers’ offense and you’ve got one heck of a dangerous combination.
Five years from now, the Class of 2017 defensive recruit we're going to miss most will be…
JC: Fagan just seems like he has another gear as a linebacker that we haven’t seen in awhile, and that’s saying a lot for a school that’s had its fair share of quality linebackers in the past decade. He’s quick in pursuit, and seems adaptable in coverage. Him being on campus early should also help him not only figure out the defense, but assist its improvement, too.
AG: I hate to give the same answer, but the most obvious choice is linebacker Nadarius Fagan. The Miami three-star prospect is rated the No. 3 signee in Syracuse’s recruiting class by 247Sports, behind only DeVito and JUCO transfer Ravian Pierce. Fagan possesses both the size and speed to succeed at the collegiate level, and anyone who can record 141 tackles in a single season is worth keeping an eye on.
The Class of 2017 recruit who will have the biggest immediate impact this September is…
JC: It could be Chris Elmore. If he’s going to be used in a fullback/power back spot, then it fills one of Syracuse’s biggest trouble areas from 2016. Having someone to really move the line and punish the defensive line not only helps with scoring chances, but the run game’s overall success over the course of the game. It’s an intriguing wrinkle we should look forward to seeing in action.
AG: While I agree Elmore has the potential to contribute on both sides of the ball, I’m going with JUCO transfer Ravian Pierce. Syracuse returns zero – count ‘em, zero – scholarship tight ends, and the former four-star prospect is the presumptive favorite to work his way into the starting lineup. While Babers’ offense doesn’t necessarily feature the tight end position, he has rarely had a tight end with the level of talent Pierce possesses.
The Class of 2017 recruit whose Twitterfeed you're dreading following for the next four years…
JC: I make it my business to avoid following any of them if I can avoid. And to be honest, this year there’s no sure winner. Nearly everyone retweets everything about themselves, which… yeah, if I was a star high school football player, I would too.
AG: Allen Stritzinger. Only because he deleted his original Twitter account and forced me to spend like 5-7 minutes trying to find his new one, so now I have trust issues.
Is Dino done for the class of 2017? Or does he have more up his sleeve?
JC: There have been murmurs about some additional JUCOs who are going to sign late, wherever his destination may be. We have roster spots available, so don’t be shocked to see another two or three names added over the next week or so.
AG: Doubt it. Since there are still a few scholarships available, I’m sure Babers and his staff will attempt to sign a few more lesser-rated players. One name to keep an eye on is Iowa Western Community College DB Mykelti Williams. Williams reportedly visited Syracuse this past weekend, according to Syracuse.com’s Stephen Bailey. (UPDATE: Williams did, in fact, sign with Syracuse late Wednesday night)
How about you? Any any other National Signing Day happenings catch your eye? Share below.