During a pretty mellow early signing period on Wednesday, the Syracuse Orange football program signed 19 of its 20 verbal commitments. The final player (as of right now), Jaelin Moss, has already stated he’ll wait for National Signing Day in February, so no surprises there.
Still, in the immediate aftermath of the biggest day on the recruiting calendar, it’s worth contextualizing this class a bit — both for right now and in the future. So the TNIAAM football staff did just that in this roundtable below.
Which offensive recruit has you most excited?
Andy: Enqirue Cruz. A 4-star along the line is the kind of depth this team desperately needs after so many years of recruits failing to get on to the field. With the return of Servais and the expected addition of Belich, along with Matthew Bergeron, Cruz won’t have to be thrown to the wolves. He will however be a prime candidate to be Bergeron 2.0 and use a full season to grow and earn a depth slot and be a starter in 2022.
Kevin: Umari Hatcher seems like he could become a playmaker for Syracuse on offense. A 6’3” outside receiver with speed is the type of player that demands attention and could open up the passing game. In today’s college game you need players who can turn the quick throws into touchdowns and Hatcher’s film shows glimpses of that ability.
John: Josh Hough. We’ve seen a glut of solid backs come through the doors at Syracuse lately, though productivity has been hampered by the line. What we’ve lacked, though, is a true power back in that time. Enter Hough, who had a huge senior season in high school and COMES IN at 235 pounds. Sean Tucker has the running back job going forward, but having a short-yardage back to help lighten the load here and there should benefit all parties involved.
Steve: Kelan Ellis. Ellis is a body ready made to step in and make an impact. He likely won’t be ready day one, or even season one, but part of the issue in recruiting is that you can’t teach size, and Ellis has a lot of it. He moves better than you’d expect someone of his stature to, which also lends itself to the Babers offense. I liked what I saw from his film, so here’s to hoping that translates to the field. Bonus Points: He chose Illmatic by Nas as his album cover.
Christian: Landon Morris. It almost feels like he’ll be a matchup nightmare no matter where he lines up on the line. His height alone means that he’ll tower over most defenders covering him. He has the potential to be a dynamic option in the receiving game. Hopefully Sterlin Gilbert notices his playmaking potential and uses him as such. Imagine this guy over the middle or down the sideline going up to get passes.
What defensive recruit has you most excited?
Andy: Jatius Geer seems like a Syracuse defensive lineman: a bit underweight, but with height and length to create some serious issues. He fits the mold of a lot of the current starters, and with none of the current second team d-lineman jumping off the page, Geer could see some time on that unit.
Kevin: Jatius Geer has been described as an athletic freak. After watching what Tony White’s defense was able to do in terms of creating havoc and turnovers the thought of how he can scheme to utilize a 6’6” pass rusher is something to be excited about.
John: Duce Chestnut appears to be the sort of defensive back that has thrived at Syracuse of late, acting as an aggressive, play-making ballhawk who is a highlight reel all his own. As we’ve seen recently, there is no shortage of quality players in this secondary, no matter who leaves. Having Chestnut continue that legacy — and do it as a four-star guy — serves the Orange well both now and in the future as a recruiting push.
Steve: Malcolm Folk. We’ve seen a lot of young safeties get some run and succeed at the new “DBU,” so it will be good to see Folk in the mix. I think the experience of the class in front of him can only help his development as well, getting reps and work with a lot of guys who have had game experience. At 6-foot-1, 191 lbs, he’s already working with a big frame for a safety and working at the boundary or rover, he’ll be bringing it in some of those flex packages.
Christian: Duce Chestnut. What impresses me the most about his tape is his ability to position himself between the receiver and the ball. That ability isn’t easy to develop. Couple that with some great angles to ball carriers to secure a tackle and Syracuse is looking at another NFL-caliber defensive back. Much like John said, Chestnut looks primed to build the foundation made by Andre Cisco and Trill Williams.
Which recruit will we miss most when he’s gone?
Andy: Probably Duce Chestnut, if only because he seems to be next in line in the Defensive Back U pipeline Babers has built up. If he’s even 90% of Andre Cisco/Trill WIlliams, he’ll be an impactful player who won ’Cuse a few games.
Kevin: For this one I’m going with Enrique Cruz. He’s highly-regarded and at a position of need. While I’m not expecting a lot from him in 2021 I think that he’s likely to end up a four-year starter and solidifies the line as the Orange return to bowl eligibility.
John: Kalan Ellis. The 350-pounder on the line is the type of player the Orange have needed for awhile — and the absence of it has been pretty obvious in recent seasons. We’ll be bummed to lose him and the presence he should provide both in terms of protecting SU passers and powering the inside run game.
Steve: Duce Chestnut. With the early enrollment and the highly talented defensive back pipeline Syracuse has somehow turned into lately, he may be the most likely to be missed. I would have opted for one of the linemen but they tend to stay four years, and our DBs haven’t lately.
Christian: Duce Chestnut. If Syracuse’s defense looked somewhat decent with six freshmen starters, most who wouldn’t be considered immediate contributors, how do you think Syracuse’s defense will look when you add a potential immediate impact player? Chestnut looks to be that type of guy that can just slot in right away. Like Nick Monroe said, “This guy gets on campus, we’re already better.”
Can’t thank this class enough for the FAITH they have in the ‘Ohana. Touring campus through Zoom, not having their official visits, not being able to meet us in person. They joined us through faith - and I have faith in them.— Dino Babers (@CoachBabersCuse) December 16, 2020
Welcome to the family - now let’s get to work pic.twitter.com/yIkjZGEPqg
Best name in the class?
Andy: Wes Hoeh is the name of an offensive lineman, and I love that he’s right in the middle of the line.
Kevin: Terry Lockett’s name just fits that defensive line role he’s expected to have with the Orange.. Just think of all of those “Lockett down” puns when he makes tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
John: This isn’t a strong name class on paper, though Duce Chestnut gets the top spot by way of his nickname “Duce” (real name is Darian).
Steve: Tyler Magnuson. The strongman vibes are there on this one. Maybe I just watched too much World’s Strongest Man on ESPN back in the day...
Christian: Malcolm Folk. We talk a lot about Duce but Folk just sounds like a DB’s name that is ready to be read by an NFL broadcaster. Or maybe I’m thinking too much about Marshall Faulk...
Which recruit has the best chance to start (or at least make the most significant contribution) in 2021?
Andy: Landon Morris, if only because the tight end position is such a mystery right now. Is it a position that simply didn’t have the players the system asked for, or were we looking at a phasing out of the position in general? Lamson is coming in with receiver size, so if the tight end is needed so much to support the line play, he could become a part of the arsenal.
Kevin: Duce Chestnut is likely jumping right into the two-deep in the secondary and if he’s as good as advertised he’s going to be involved a lot next fall. I don’t know if he starts from the opener but he’ll be heavily in the mix on defense.
John: If Syracuse can’t get a ready-to-go outside receiver in the transfer portal this offseason, could see Kendall Long potentially competing for that role. Doesn’t mean he’ll start, since we do have some guys on the roster with the right size (Damien Alford comes to mind off the bat). But at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Long does seem like the type of player who could be in the mix very early provided he learns the offense quickly.
Steve: If the line continues it’s struggles, it may be Kelan Ellis and Enrique Cruz. There’s a lot going on there, and injuries seem to happen as often as possible between the tackles. If any of those bodies don’t come back healthy heading into next year, you may see a real young name on a depth chart.
Christian: Josh Hough. Babers has wanted a big running back for a long time now. With the bruising-run game that he likes to run, someone with Hough’s physical stats makes him a perfect candidate. I’m not saying he’s immediately in for Sean Tucker, but maybe Hough becomes someone like Jarveon Howard: a running back needed for short-yardage situations.
Which recruit has the toughest road to playing time?
Andy: I’m going to go Josh Hough. He seems to have all the raw tools, but the running back position is firmly Sean Tucker’s, with lots of other H-Back pieces around who saw playing time and impact this season. Unless Hough comes out with an excellence in pass protection and an ability to catch out of the backfield, he’s not usurping Tucker as the feature back.
Kevin: Wes Hoeh and Tyler Magnunson because it seems like the coaching staff will want to give them time in the strength and conditioning program. Their fellow OL freshmen Kalan Ellis and Austyn Kauhi have the size where they could be involved in special teams units from the start.
John: Derek McDonald could take the longest to see the field just from a size perspective. In the old scheme, a 230-pound defensive end could plug in right away. But in the 3-3-5, we really need everyone up front to have a little more size from a run-stopping perspective, and it’s likely that edge rushers in future classes are geared more toward that idea.
Steve: Probably Landon Morris, with Luke Benson and Steven Mahar there ahead of him there, both with years to play. Depending on a few things though, you may see him or Benson used outside, so I just talked myself both into and out of this selection.
Christian: Malik Matthew, Derek McDonald, and Austin Roon. The advantage of having a young linebacker corps is that those guys stick around for a long time. The disadvantage is that it’s that much harder for guys deeper down the depth chart to get playing time. All of Syracuse’s young linebackers were key contributors who look to be sticking around for a long time. It might be awhile before we see a linebacker from this class hit the field in some significant way.