While the book is far from written on the 2022 Syracuse Orange football recruiting cycle, it’s clear that things won’t necessarily turn out as we’d like. Going into Wednesday’s early signing period, Syracuse is ranked 75th in the country and has just 10 commitments. Meanwhile, the team really needs to add 20-25 names this offseason with just 60 scholarship players currently on the roster.
Some of the issues for 2022 are obvious. Others, not so much. But as the early signing period is about to get started, here’s what we think went wrong during this cycle. At this point, the solutions to these problems are simply targeting JUCOs and hitting the transfer portal hard. TBD whether or not either works, of course.
Aiming (Too?) High
This isn’t even a bad thing, necessarily, but Syracuse aimed high at numerous positions — wide receiver, cornerback, safety — early on in this cycle, then waited until all the top options turned them down to get moving on a second wave of offers. By April, most of the top receivers offered had already committed elsewhere. Targeted defensive backs were largely locked in by early summer.
Obviously if you land a few of the big names early, then aiming high is fine and that carries your momentum the rest of the way. But with many of the high-three/four-star players deciding in the early third of the 2022 recruiting, there was time to recover. The staff simply didn’t. A glance at where offered players are going, though, shows that they did try to elevate the level of player coming in. But without a plan B, you don’t get much credit for that should the gamble fail.
Swinging and Missing on QBs Again
Since Dino Babers landed (then four-star) Tommy DeVito’s commitment back in April 2017, it’s been rough sledding on the quarterback front as Syracuse has offered fewer signal-callers than most of its peers, lost out on top options early, and then either settled late or wound up with no one. That’s not a knock on the guys that have arrived on campus since. But given the nature of QB recruiting, the later you land a commitment, the less likely it is they were your program’s top priority.
Look at the QB room since DeVito arrived. Eric Dungey graduated. Clayton Welch was brought in and put on scholarship before graduating. David Summers never played, then transferred. Same with Chance Amie. Dillon Markiewicz transferred after just a handful of snaps in a couple years.
At this point, there are just three quarterbacks on the roster — Garrett Shrader, JaCobian Morgan and Justin Lamson — and we’ve yet to see enough from any of them to think they’re the steady hand this offense needs. Yet the appearance is that Shrader’s entrenched, like DeVito and Dungey before him, and that speaks volumes to prospects. The Orange offering just seven QBs (five of which have been committed elsewhere for months) likely does as well.
Rutgers Is Eating Our Lunch Again
We all hate to admit it, but Greg Schiano returning to Rutgers presents a real problem for Syracuse on the recruiting front, and it showed during the 2022 cycle. Syracuse lost 10 different players in the Tri-State area to the Scarlet Knights, nevermind other options that narrowed their lists to include Rutgers before picking other schools. The Orange wound up with players over SUNJ, sure. But the overwhelming majority of players offered by both schools either went somewhere better than both, or to Rutgers.
This dynamic in New Jersey particularly was part of Syracuse’s program downturn back in the mid-aughts. As Schiano made inroads with New Jersey high school coaches, the Orange turned their eye nationally under GERG to little success, and the rest is unfortunate history.
Not that one game plays a huge role, but SU losing to Rutgers at the Dome this fall probably didn’t help matters either. Syracuse would be wise to simply avoid the return matchup in New Jersey, too. Not because they can’t beat the Scarlet Knights — they definitively can. But because it’s a no-win situation for either program to even play the game. And potentially giving Schiano more of a recruiting pitch than he already has when up against SU just seems like a recipe for more failure.
Air of Instability
This is the most obvious issue. Since the 2018 breakthrough season, Syracuse has failed to capitalize both on and off the field, and that’s bled out to everything about the program at this point. With a lot of players in the transfer portal, regular staff upheaval and a legitimate hotseat for Dino, it was never going to be easy to sell stability during this cycle. Winning, of course, would’ve helped.
They did for a bit, a 5-4 start and Sean Tucker’s success should’ve been enough to sell players on coming aboard. But the Orange failed to receive a new 2022 commitment between August and the end of the season, and actually lost two verbal pledges in the process. That’s a knock on the staff, for certain. It’s also a note about perception and when that perception is too much to overcome. A more capable staff figures it out. For whatever reason, the 2021 Orange recruiting team did not.
The biggest “whatever reason” beyond a lack of winning is the lack of a recruiting infrastructure within the program right now. Syracuse hasn’t had a complete recruiting staff in months, and the timing couldn’t have been worse. Most programs have several dedicated staffers on the recruiting front. Lacking them — like the recruiting director job that’s been posted for months since Kramer Cook departed — is a significant part of how you wind up in the current situation.
Hopefully all of this is a footnote to Syracuse recovering through the transfer portal. Or at the very least setting up the pieces to not repeat these errors again. But we’ll see....