Breaking down Syracuse football’s 2017 NLI Signing Day

Syracuse has plenty to be excited about with the 2017 class
Syracuse has plenty to be excited about with the 2017 class

Every February people from all over the country focus their utmost attention on one specific day that determines whether the remaining winter season will be a walk in the park or a stark reminder not to put the snow shovel away yet.

Wait, you thought this was going to be an article about Punxsutawney Phil and his stupid shadow? Puh-lease. We’re talkin’ National Letter of Intent Day aka football recruiting; the new year-round sport. If your team scores big in recruiting, who cares what the rest of the winter brings? The focus turns to spring ball. However, miss on a few must-have kids and it’ll be a long wait until April showers bring May flowers.

So with another National Letter of Intent Day in the books, let’s make some observations.

The Foundation

Dino Babers once said that he prefers to land a quarterback early in the cycle and build his class from there. Enter Tommy DeVito. He’s the only signal caller of the group and based on the hype, it appears that Babers got his man. DeVito said his plan isn’t to redshirt next year, but, given Eric Dungey’s apparent stranglehold on the starting job, it would seem to be the logical choice. DeVito could be ready to earn the job as a redshirt sophomore. If he lives up to the expectations, DeVito will be remembered as a transformational recruit who was instrumental in helping Babers turn the program around.

Not Just a Catch Phrase

Syracuse landed four wide receivers in the class; Nykeim Johnson, Sharod Johnson, Cameron Jordan and Russell Thompson-Bishop. Both Johnsons and Thompson-Bishop are speed guys while Jordan, who stands at 6’ 3”, will be able to use his height against smaller corner backs. Given how fast the offense plays and how much it relies on the pass, upgrading the speed of the receiving corps was essential. After all, #OrangeIsTheNewFast.


Syracuse clearly needed help last year on both sides of the ball but especially on defense. Three of the four junior college players who signed play defense and should all have a chance to contribute immediately. Defensive end Brandon Berry, linebacker Ryan Guthrie and defensive back Mykelti Williams. Both Berry and Williams have three seasons of eligibility. And Williams will be reunited with former Irish teammate defensive back Devin Butler, a grad transfer already enrolled for the Orange. The fourth junior college player is tight end Ravian Peirce. With minimal roster depth at that position, Pierce will have every chance to seize the starting job.

Ground and Pound

The run game was another area where Syracuse struggled last season. Dino’s style of play calls for bigger backs who can handle themselves between the tackles. The staff landed two backs in Allen Stritzinger and Markenzy Pierre. Stritzinger has big-play ability while Pierre is a powerful back who will make defenders pay for trying to tackle him.

The Competition

Remember the days of He Who Shall Not Be Named fighting off lower level D1 schools for recruits? Yeah, I try not to either. Well, Dino’s having none of that. The Orange beat out a lot of schools on roughly the same competitive level: Boston College, Rutgers, Wake Forest, Virginia, Minnesota, Purdue, South Florida and Maryland. Syracuse also landed players with offers from the likes of Michigan, Florida State, USC, LSU, Alabama, Louisville, and Nebraska.

Remember that cake Babers said he’s baking? Well, it’s still not ready to eat. But the ingredients sure look good. Time to start focusing on the Class of 2018. National Letter of Intent Day is only a year away.

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About Steve Auger 165 Articles
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. 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. And according to Rutgers' fans, he's "not a take."