Orange Watch: Early signing period clear picture Syracuse football trending upward

Devin Butler
Syracuse football celebrates a touchdown. Mandatory Photo Credit: Rich Barnes, USA Today.
With about two-thirds of the class of 2018 recruits already in place, Syracuse has momentum towards the traditional February signing date

Item: The new early signing period has come and gone for Division I football, with 15 players committing to wear orange for Dino Babers and staff, comprising about two thirds of the 2018 class. With several more slots left to fill when the late (traditional) signing period begins on February 7, Syracuse has a composite ranking of essentially a Top 50 class nationally, and just above the middle of the pack of the 14 ACC programs, bringing in exactly the type of recruit needed to help shed the reputation of SU being an “afterthought” program among elite-level, Power 5 talent.

As with any recruiting class only time will tell where this first portion of the class of 2018, Babers third full cycle in the Syracuse recruiting process, ends up in the annals of the football rebuilding project.

First step, get back to consistent bowl contention and find a postseason destination for the first time since 2013 (only SU, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh didn’t go bowling from the ACC this year), and secondly get closer to being ranked in the Top 25 competing to play in the league championship game.

With Clemson building itself into one of the blue blood programs of this century, and the emergence of Louisville, North Carolina State and even Wake Forest and Boston College this season, not to mention the aberration of Florida State’s less than stellar 2017, that’s a tall order.

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But there’s already been a December victory without even playing in a bowl game. Simply the fact that the NCAA moved to institute an early signing period (this year it was December 20-22) has helped Babers and his staff already add the type of recruit that fits the school’s athletic, academic and community-based philosophies, without waiting for the traditional first Wednesday of February signing date.

“I think it’s good for an institution like Syracuse,” Babers said last week in expressing his pleasure of being able to add the 15 new commitments before the Holiday Season was in full swing.

“We got a hold of some individuals we feel are excellent football players, and I think as the recruiting process moves to the second part of it in February, I think we would have had a lot of difficulty holding on to some of these young men. But now they’re all signed, sealed and delivered, and some of them even have the opportunity to enroll here in January and start school which is a huge advantage.”

As with any recruiting classes there are the sub-stories of surprising additions and subtractions. In the case of this early signing period that was the lamenting of those in Orange Nation over the change of a verbal commitment from highly rated Michigan center Tyrone Sampson who’s opened up his recruitment to all suitors, to the “yes” from Texas quarterback Chance Amie, who was leaning at staying in-state with Houston until his official visit to campus earlier in the month.

“We don’t look at it as flipping people, Babers explained when asked about Amie’s change of heart.

“It’s like this is what we have to offer,” Babers continued. “If it feels right to you (the recruit), then come join what we’re trying to do. The one thing we will not do is try to convince or trick someone to come to Syracuse University. If you can’t figure out the academics that this school represents and what we’re trying to do here, then you need to go somewhere else. We’re going to have a team full of a lot of guys with a lot of common sense that can understand what’s good and what’s bad, and everything about this place is good.”

Preaching the positives is certainly one major aspect of staff’s recruiting pitch; the other is all about building the foundation with talent looking to make a name for themselves while wearing a Syracuse uniform.

“People (recruits and their families) are seeing what we’re doing here,” Babers said. “They can feel the excitement; they can feel the community starting to get behind us even more. They want to be a part of it. You have a choice when you come out as a young athlete; you can either go to an established place and be part of something that’s been rolling for a long, long period of time, or you can go to a place and start a new tradition or restart an old tradition, and I think we’re getting guys that are interested in blazing their own path.”

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth 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.