7 takeaways from Syracuse football’s 2019 National Signing Day

Syracuse Orange defensive tackle Josh Black
Oct. 18, 2019; Syracuse NY, USA; Syracuse Orange defensive tackle Josh Black (85) celebrates during Syracuse's 27-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Syracuse inked 18 signees during the annual early signing period. And there were plenty of storylines and last minute surprises throughout the day. Here are the key takeaways from Wednesday:

1. ORANGE PICK UP A HUGE OL TRANSFER

Perhaps the biggest headline of the day came from someone who isn’t an early signee. Syracuse significantly bolstered its offensive line, adding Florida transfer Chris Bleich.

Bleich, who came from the class of 2018, was a three-star recruit out of Pennsylvania, and the Orange was the first school to offer him. He started eight games as a redshirt freshman at Florida, and entered his name into the transfer portal after he lost his starting job in November.

He will enroll in January and apply for a waiver to play immediately. Otherwise, he will have to sit out a year and will have two years of eligibility remaining.

“I’m happy to say I’m part of the Syracuse football program,” Bleich said on Twitter. “I want to thank Coach Babers and Coach Cavanaugh for giving me a second chance at this game I love. For that I will forever be thankful to them.”

2. SYRACUSE TAPS ITS GERMAN PIPELINE

The offensive line was obviously a huge concern for the Orange in 2019, with quarterback Tommy DeVito absorbing 44 sacks.

Syracuse addressed that issue not only with the addition of Bleich, but also flipping three-star JUCO offensive tackle Mark Petry. The Germany native spent a year at Ellsworth (IA) Community College and committed to Eastern Michigan in November.

But the Orange was able to pry him away, as Petry also held offers from Chattanooga, Eastern Illinois, Indiana State and Jacksonville State.

It was SU’s second commit from Germany, as the Orange also received a surprise commitment from 2020 tight end Maximilian Mang, another German native. He had only been extended an offer from Syracuse assistant coach Reno Ferri on Tuesday, but wasted no time in signing with SU.

Because of the time difference, Mang was able to submit his NLI at 8 a.m. in Germany, which translates into 2 a.m. in Eastern Standard Time. That meant he was Syracuse’s first official signee of the early 2019 cycle.

Among his other offers included Central Michigan, Penn State, and Toledo. Because he plays in Germany, he was not rated by the major recruiting services.

3. KINSLER FAKES OUT THE CROWD

There was a little bit of drama with Florida defensive end Latarie Kinsler‘s signing.

Kinsler was Syracuse’s top rated recruit in the 2020 class, at one point earning a four-star rating from Rivals.com (though he was at 3-stars during signing day). His offer list reflected that rating, with schools such as LSU, USC, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Louisville, Miami, Missouri and Pittsburgh pursuing him.

During a live ceremony at Pahokee (Fla.) High School, Kinsler initially picked up a Louisville hat before tossing it aside in favor of the Syracuse hat.

4. POITIER TO FLORIDA STATE; MESIDOR TO WEST VIRGINIA

It wasn’t all good news for Syracuse on Wednesday. Three-star Florida wide receiver Kentron Poitier was down to the Orange, Florida and Florida State, and made his decision at a live event on Wednesday morning.

Poitier ended up going with the Seminoles, choosing them over an impressive offer list that included Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Oregon, Auburn, Tennessee, Virginia, Pittsburgh, North Carolina and Louisville, among others.

Syracuse also lost out on Canadian target Akheem Mesidor, a three-star linebacker from Ottawa, ON. He picked the Mountaineers over other finalists Georgia Tech, Pitt, UCLA and the Orange.

» Related: 2020 wide receiver Ja’vontae Williams commits to Syracuse

5. SYRACUSE STILL IN SEARCH OF A QB

The Orange also lost out on a priority quarterback target, UNC transfer Cade Fortin, who committed to USF. Fortin chose the Bulls over offers from Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Kansas.

It’s the second year in a row that Syracuse has missed out on its top level quarterback recruits. Just in this cycle alone, Syracuse had quarterback Tyler Van Dyke at the top of their list before he pledged to Miami. Another QB, Christian Veilleux, is heading to the class of 2021 to try to get more high-major offers, though he remains a target for the Orange.

Last year, Syracuse lost out on Will Levis, who ended up at Penn State.

The Orange will almost certainly look to other options ahead of the February signing day, such as the transfer portal, since backup Clayton Welch exhausted his eligibility.

“We need to win some (recruiting) battles (at quarterback),” Babers said. “I don’t know what the real reason is.”

Babers mentioned that Syracuse might need to be more secretive of the quarterbacks they pursue early on, as to not let other high-major schools catch on to a diamond in the rough.

“We’ll start doing more research on that,” Babers said.

6. ATKINSON PUSHES OFF NLI

Syracuse also has a verbal commitment from defensive back Chase Atkinson, a Blythewood (S.C.) three star prospect. Atkinson reportedly is still on board with the Orange, but reports are that he is waiting until February to sign.

Atkinson committed to the Orange back in July.

7. THE FULL SIGNING CLASS

Babers said he wanted his team to get bigger. That seemed to be accomplished by adding eight players who are 6-foot-4 or taller.

“We really feel like this is one of our better classes,” Babers said. “It has a lot of length. What we were trying to do was get a lot taller and a lot bigger. I think it’s really imperative in this conference, especially on the ACC Atlantic side, that you have the type of size that you need to withstand the pounding that’s going on in college football today.”

Aside from the two German signees, the Orange also tapped into the Canadian pipeline once again, adding WR Damien Alford (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) and defensive back Ben Labrosse (Greenfield Park, Quebec, Canada).

Overall, the Orange inked three wide receivers, three defensive linemen, three offensive linemen, two defensive backs, two running backs, two tight ends, one linebacker, one specialist and one athlete.

The Orange got signees from nine different states, with Florida (4) being the best pipeline. The Sunshine State is where Babers’ top recruiter, Nick Monroe, has made his living. Surprisingly, the Orange only inked one New York athlete, Steven Mahar Jr. (Rochester, N.Y.). The rest of the states represented included Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Here’s what the full class looks like:

  • Damien Alford WR Fr. 6-5 210 Montreal, Quebec, Canada/McArthur (Fla.)
  • Garth Barclay OL Fr. 6-7 260 York, Pa./York Suburban
  • Justin Barron WR Fr. 6-4 210 Tolland, Conn./Suffield Academy
  • Robert Hanna DB Fr. 6-0 170 Miami Gardens, Fla./Miami Palmetto
  • Josh Ilaoa OL Fr. 6-3 295 Charlotte, N.C./Mallard Creek
  • Latarie Kinsler DL Fr. 6-3 215 Pahokee, Fla./Pahokee
  • Ben Labrosse DB Fr. 6-2 200 Greenfield Park, Quebec, Canada/Vanier College
  • Kevin Lemieux DL Fr. 6-4 235 Ashburnham, Mass./Governor’s Academy
  • Leon Lowery DL Fr. 6-4 225 Elizabeth, N.J./North Brunswick
  • Steven Mahar Jr. TE Fr. 6-5 225 Rochester, N.Y./Aquinas Institute
  • Maximilian Mang TE Fr. 6-7 250 Nuthetal, Germany/Leibniz-Gymnasium Potsdam
  • Trebor Pena ATH Fr. 6-0 185 Ocean Township, N.J./Ocean Township
  • Mark Petry OL So. 6-4 265 Hochheim am Main, Germany/Graf-Stauffenberg-Gymnasium/Ellsworth CC
  • Stefon Thompson LB Fr. 6-0 225 Charlotte, N.C./Vance
  • Sean Tucker RB Fr. 5-10 200 Owings Mills, Md./Calvert Hall
  • Marlowe Wax RB Fr. 6-0 225 Baltimore, Md./Mount St. Joseph
  • James Williams P/PK Fr. 6-1 185 Watkinsville, Ga./Athens Academy
  • Ja’Vontae Williams WR Fr. 6-0 200 Wellington, Fla./Glades Central

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Wes Cheng
About Wes Cheng 2497 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.