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Syracuse football recruiting: Top 2021 QB target Riley Leonard picks Duke over Orange

Another whiff on the quarterback front for Dino Babers & Co.

NCAA Football: Miami at Duke James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange football program hasn’t received a quarterback commitment before December since the 2017 cycle, when Tommy DeVito gave his verbal pledge in April. Since then, it’s been last-minute flips and late diamonds in the rough. We were hoping the 2021 cycle would be different, as Dino Babers’s staff had told Fairhope, Ala. passer Riley Leonard that he was our top target.

A week later, Leonard apparently headed to Duke...

Though Leonard remains unrated for now, he’s still a taller pro-style passer (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) with offers from a handful of Power Five programs including SU, Duke, Nebraska and Vanderbilt. We thought we had a pretty good shot here. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Now, I’m not here to hammer the staff too bad. And we also can’t hold Sterlin Gilbert accountable for previous recruiting misses at quarterback. But this is still an unfortunate thing to happen for Syracuse, and the latest in a long line of struggles to get commitments from the top QBs they’re looking for.

As you may recall:

  • 2018: Chance Amie flips from Houston to Syracuse during early signing period; transfers in 2019
  • 2019: David Summers flips from Maryland to Syracuse in January after Terps coaching change
  • 2020: In January, Syracuse takes two quarterbacks — both previously unrated — in Jacobian Morgan and Dillon Markiewicz

Part of the issue comes from the idea that incumbent quarterbacks (DeVito, Eric Dungey) have appeared entrenched under Babers, and that’s not what top QB prospects want to see when stepping on campus nowadays. But with DeVito going into his redshirt junior season, that shouldn’t necessarily be a concern anymore. Still, the recruiting struggles continue.

Leonard wasn’t the only available QB with an offer from Syracuse, so attention will once again have to move elsewhere. New Jersey dual-threat Tahj Bullock could be next up, but could also wind up at Rutgers. SU also has offers out to five other 2021 QBs, though pursuit hasn’t been as serious of late as what we saw with Leonard.

Annoyed? Concerned? Share your own pressing thoughts on this topic below.