Recruiting critical to building programs at Syracuse

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Robert Washington is SU’s prized recruit

Recruiting is the life blood of any major college sports program. The best coach in the world isn’t going to win anything without at least a modicum of talent. It’s amusing actually. Winning at the highest level in college rests with the ability of grown men to convince 17-year old kids to spend the next four to five years of their life donning a particular jersey. Many of these coaches are millionaires based simply on the power of persuasion. Their job security depends on it. Now, that’s not to say that any dope can simply roll the ball out onto the court of five McDonald’s All-Americans, sit back and wait five months for the playing of One Shining Moment. The same can be said for football too. Nick Saban and Urban Meyer aren’t simply great salesmen.

This brings us to Scott Shafer. To win in the ACC, Syracuse needs to continue upgrading its talent. Shafer scored his biggest recruiting win as a coach back in April with the commitment of RB Robert Washington out of North Carolina. According to his Scout.com profile, Washington had over 40 offers from the best of the best. Factories such as Alabama, Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Southern Cal all wanted Washington taking hand-offs in their backfields. In the end, the Orange beat out Bama, Florida, and Michigan for his pledge. The hope is Washington’s commitment would trigger the ability for SU to snag verbals from the type of prospects who wouldn’t have given SU a thought in the past. And securing commitments from other quality players would certainly go a long way to securing Washington’s arrival on campus as he plans to enroll early to be able to take part in 2016 Spring ball.

No position is more critical in football than the quarterback. He touches the ball on every offensive play. So when Anthony Brown spurned Syracuse for divisional foe Boston College at the end of May, wide spread concern overtook Orange fans everywhere. Brown was supposed to be the QB to go along with Washington in a monster 2016 pledge class. The current quarterback position for Syracuse has a lot more questions than answers after Terrel Hunt plays his final season later this year. Both Austin Wilson and AJ Long saw action last year after Hunt was lost for the season with a broken leg. Both players had mixed results and both players suffered injuries as well. Shafer’s 2015 class brings two QBs to campus in Eric Dungey of Oregon and potential sleeper Kenterius Womack of Alabama. The loss of Brown, who the staff informed he was Syracuse’s top quarterback target this year, to divisional rival BC was, at the time, a crushing blow. But to quote Lee Corso, not so fast, my friend! Enter offensive coordinator Tim Lester.

» Related: Tyus Battle to reopen recruitment, take visit to Syracuse

Lester secured a verbal commitment from Rex Culpepper of Plant High School in Tampa, FL. This was a commitment two years in the making. Culpepper currently plays in a system similar to what Lester plans on running at Syracuse this year. The 3-star QB, whose father played in the NFL, holds offers from Clemson, Florida, Miami, Mississippi State and Ohio State, among others, according to his Scout.com profile. And like Washington, Culpepper also plans on early enrollment.

Since Culpepper’s commitment, Shafer and his staff have secured three more verbals.

The Orange faces a daunting schedule in 2015 highlighted by home games against LSU and Clemson and road trips to Florida State and Louisville. And newly hired Athletic Director Mark Coyle will certainly have a keen eye on the season’s outcome. Even if Syracuse fails to reach a bowl game this year, Coyle would have to weigh the loss of a potentially loaded recruiting class if he decides to go in another direction than Shafer. And if Shafer keeps on hauling in players the caliber of Washington and Culpepper, that will only strengthen his case if Coyle isn’t satisfied with the on-field results.

Another quarterback situation worth watching involves Jim Boeheim’s basketball team, specifically, the point guard position. Highly sought-after 2016 recruit Tyus Battle has been a priority for some time now. Battle committed to Michigan back in May. But Evan Daniels of Scout reported that Battle has decided to re-open his recruitment and was scheduled to visit Syracuse this past weekend. Battle’s Scout.com profile now lists him having medium interest five schools; Duke, Louisville, Michigan, Ohio State and Syracuse. Sophomore-to-be Kaleb Joseph struggled at the point last season and senior Michael Gbinije recently hinted that Boeheim might employ him as the starting point guard when the season commences. That makes securing a commitment from Battle all the more critical. Dare I say, let the battle commence?

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About Steve Auger

Steve Auger is a freelance writer whose work has covered a variety of topics including sports, pets, parenting, healthy living, local government and human interest stories. His work has been published on Care.com, Tom’s of Maine, Purina’s Petcentric.com and the Westford Patch. Steve’s been a diehard Syracuse sports fan for over 25 years. To this day, the words “Smart takes the shot” still make him cringe. Follow him on Twitter @Corner_Cube.
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