On Tuesday, the Syracuse Orange received some pretty excellent news on the football recruiting front. Four-star center (No. 2 in the class) Tyrone Sampson Jr. committed to SU pretty early in the 2018 cycle. And in doing so, he sets what could be a very positive tone for the Orange as they target a few more highly-regarded recruits.
Sampson being an offensive lineman is even more important than him being a four-star commit (probably). Because while the Orange have had some talent at skill positions over the years (and even right now), protecting those players has been another challenge entirely.
Obviously Eric Dungey’s been injured in each of the last two seasons, and Terrel Hunt before him. Same goes for Austin Wilson, briefly. Ryan Nassib didn’t really take many hits, but he took snaps behind several future draft picks (including first-rounder Justin Pugh). That’s the main reason Sampson’s so important.
The standout center actually getting to campus is important too, however, because it reverses a trend for the Orange going back to the beginning of star ratings.
Since 1999, 11 players rated four stars or better by the 247Sports composite (a combined score from 247, plus the other services) have been official parts of Syracuse’s recruiting classes. Of those, five were not long for SU. You’ll likely remember their names: K.J. Williams (2014), Averin Collier (2008), Andrey Baskin (2006), Larry McClain (2003) and Cecil Howard (2001).
Another six did stick around, however. The stars of the 2000 class, Diamond Ferri and Johnnie Morant, had productive careers with the Orange(men). Ferri was a legend for what he did against Boston College. Morant was drafted by the Raiders and had a short NFL career.
Lavar Lobdell was another guy who stuck around from the 2005 class. And 2008’s Marcus Sales was a fantastic receiver for SU who I personally enjoyed watching throughout his career.
Since 2008, there have been just three four-stars. Williams (mentioned above), Wayne Morgan, and Ron Thompson. Morgan unfortunately vanished by the end of his time with Syracuse. Thompson actually declared a year early, but went undrafted. We could’ve used him as a pass-rusher on last season’s team, to be honest.
That last trend is really what Sampson will be bucking -- not one of making it to campus. Of the 11 players mentioned, six stuck around. That’s better than 50 percent. But of those that stuck around, the success rate for them hasn’t been awfully high of late. And the rate of getting four-stars to campus since the program’s downturn is the real struggle.
Sampson being an early commit, and the only offensive lineman of this bunch, changes that conversation for him and Syracuse, though. As mentioned, being early means he has a chance to set the tone and help attract even more talent, similar to what Tommy DeVito did for the class of 2017 (though a bit later in the process than April).
For a time, the Orange have only been able to attract four-stars that were big academic risks, or questionable team fits or behavioral question marks. But that time may be coming to an end. Dino Babers rolled the dice a bit last year on some late talents (James Pierre, Michael Moore) that didn’t make it. And our four-star JUCO adds weren’t that early in 2017, either.
Things can change in a hurry in college football with the right players, though. DeVito wasn’t a composite four-star, but was a four-star elsewhere. Ravian Pierce is a four-star JUCO tight end already on campus. Nadarius Fagan was a three-star, but had offers indicative of a much higher rating.
It’s early, but Sampson could be a trend-breaker, and then a trend-setter for Syracuse. We’ve said that about guys like Robert Washington, Alin Edouard and others, sure. With Sampson playing a non-skill position, though (and one that signed so early), there could be a higher likelihood of holding on when larger offers inevitably arrive. And the longer he’s committed, the longer this 2018 class can gain some real momentum this offseason.
Given the string of quality additions already for next year’s recruiting, we could be in for a very fun summer of positive Syracuse football news.