Orange Watch: From verbal indications, Syracuse football recruiting headed upwards

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Closing fast to the Feb. 3 national signing day, Dino Babers and staff have assembled a geographically diverse and respectable initial recruiting class

Item: With eight days until the National Letter of Intent signing day Feb. 3, new Orange coach Dino Babers, his assistants, and recruiting staff have been racing to the finish line, going non-stop since the day Babers was introduced as the school’s 30th football coach on December 7. Despite the handicap of a late start recruiting for Syracuse University, the flurry of activity from impressed recruits following official visits this month has been palatable among those watching the program’s transformation.

As of Monday evening the number of verbal recruits in Dino Babers first Syracuse recruiting class had swelled to 21, the approximate number of scholarships open for the 2016 class, a give and take depending on the final number of returnees that keep existing scholarships or stay with the program through the off season.

That number includes a handful of players initially wooed to wearing orange by Scott Shafer’s staff, including highly regarded prospects quarterback Rex Culpepper and running back/athlete Moe Neal who were among three recruits to enroll for the spring semester this month, part of a ‘Cuse class that will be the second unit to take advantage of the indoor practice field at the Ensley Athletic Center during the next couple of winter months. That will be the base period to learn the new styles of play on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and the conditioning required to play “Babers Ball” at a speed we’ve been promised we’ve never seen before by the man himself during his Dec. initial bow.

» Related: Syracuse football receives seven verbal pledges over weekend

What’s been eye opening about the wave of activity over the past seven weeks, including a 31 day dormant (dead) period which ended Jan. 13, has been the number of players who have committed to Syracuse after taking official visits this month, including eight over this past extended weekend, the nine Florida players who have verbally committed (or in Culpepper’s case enrolled) keeping up the success of a must-have recruiting state to compete with ACC speed, and the strategy paramount to recruiting at Syracuse for decades, find a player that fits a need athletically regardless of star status among the ubiquitous recruiting services, will handle his SU academic responsibilities maintaining at minimum a respectable GPA, and follow the rules while respectfully representing the program in the community, i.e. staying out of trouble.

“You have to find a way to find your niche,” Babers said during an appearance on the Sirius XM College Sports Nation program last week in a rare media interaction since he has moved into Manley Field House.

“They may not be the five star or four star this late in the game,” Babers continued, “but you can still find outstanding prospects who not only win football games, but can be fantastic students.”

With perhaps a few more slots available in this class while the coaches await the final decision of a select few priority players, there’s no doubt in a short period of time Babers has planted the seeds of his recruiting philosophy.

“I’m really excited. Even though it’s a late stage in the game, there’s a lot of good football players out there in the country,” Babers said last week. “We just want to make sure we get our share so that in a half a year of recruiting we can come back with a full year of recruiting (next year) and be even better.”

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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