‘Apples to apples’

first_imgScott Shafer is talking about apples. Golden Delicious and Granny Smith, defensive backs from Florida and offensive linemen from the Midwest. All apples. “Golden Delicious. That’s a five-star apple,” Shafer, Syracuse’s head coach, said in his weekly press conference last Thursday. “You went to the market to get a dozen Golden Delicious apples and you got there and there weren’t any there. “And the handful that were there said, ‘We’re not going to let you buy us. We want to go in someone else’s sack.’”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIt’s an appetizing metaphor that Shafer used to articulate Syracuse football’s recruiting approach as it wraps up its second year in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In February, the Orange will bring in Shafer’s second full class and the recruiting trends that have accompanied his and his staff’s first two seasons will materialize onto SU’s rosters.Syracuse has made great strides in the Midwest thanks to Shafer, New Jersey thanks to tight ends coach Bobby Acosta and Florida thanks to wide receivers coach George McDonald. But McDonald’s demotion from offensive coordinator earlier this season turns Florida from fertile to questionable and SU has focused much less on junior college players — a staple of the Doug Marrone era — and Rochester, its own backyard.Shafer’s says he’s looking for the best apples he can find and hoping the rest takes care of itself. Said Shafer: “I’m talking apples. Apples to apples. So what you’ve got to do is adjust.”Junior college When Shafer took over as Syracuse’s head coach in 2013, he inherited a recruiting class cultivated by Marrone that included eight junior college players.In Shafer’s first two classes, though, that quantity has so far dropped to just one. That’s current SU junior nose tackle Wayne Williams, and he was originally a Marrone recruit.“Not to say that somebody like a Darius Kelly or Deon Goggins weren’t great kids for us, they came from the junior college opportunity,” Shafer said. “But we only have two years to help develop them.”Experience, maturity and specific needs are all reasons why a Division I school would delve into junior college for recruits, but Shafer has chosen to stray off that path. The Orange currently has seven JUCO products on its roster and has two on its radar for this year’s class, but four years to develop a player is more enticing for the SU head coach.“There is a tendency to want to maybe establish continuity within your program,” Pasadena City (California) College head coach Fred Fimbres said. “That’s why maybe a junior college kid wouldn’t be as desirable if you have the ability to withstand the time to develop a young kid.”Kelly, a senior safety at SU, was recruited by Marrone and said that he thought Syracuse wanted experienced junior college players to smoothen the transition to the ACC. Fimbres sent former SU defensive end Tyler Marona across the country to play at Syracuse. So too did Ben Noonan, who coached SU senior linebacker Luke Arciniega at Sierra (California) College.Noonan noted how the GPA requirement for JUCO players to transfer to a D-I school was recently raised from a 2.0 to a 2.5. This not only disqualifies a large amount of players with D-I potential, he said, but it also turns away coaches who fear academic ineligibility down the road.Shafer, while not touching on the academic aspect, said he most likely won’t dip into the junior college pool unless there’s an immediate need at a position. Class of 2015 tight end Trey Dunkelberger may be one of those, as he said Shafer told him one of this year’s tight ends will be moving to the offensive line in the spring, the time when Dunkelberger would arrive at SU.“I have the opportunity to come in and fight for a starting spot right away and the only way I could do that is if I’m there in the spring,” Dunkelberger said. “You can’t get that with high school kids so that’s why they’re looking for a JUCO guy right now.”Out of 122 recruits SU has shown interest in, Dunkelberger — who will visit SU on Dec. 5 — is one of only two junior college players to receive interest, according to Scout.com. But he only received an offer from Syracuse on Tuesday and JUCO running back Joseph Williams hasn’t received one at all.Sticking to high schools is a personal preference Shafer has made explicit.“I really love the process in collegiate football of bringing a kid in from high school and developing him,” Shafer said. “That’s my favorite part of the job.”Florida McDonald remains the key for Syracuse in Florida.“The only reason why Syracuse has a foot in the door down here is because of him,” said Hialeah (Florida) High School head coach Marc Berman, who has known McDonald for 10 years.Berman’s quarterback last season, three-star recruit Alin Edouard, committed to Syracuse after de-committing from Miami. He’s the caliber of player SU largely couldn’t get without McDonald. Six of the 21 players in the Orange’s Class of 2015 are from Florida. So were six of 25 in 2014. But SU’s position in the talent-saturated state was complicated by the demotion of McDonald, who remains Syracuse’s associate head coach and wide receivers coach, from offensive coordinator on Oct. 4. McDonald was a wide receivers coach at Miami in 2012, then added passing game coordinator to his duties in 2012. His relationships with coaches in South Florida have allowed him and SU to start conversations with players that just miss out on the top in-state programs like Miami, Florida and Florida Sate.It’s an in that most out-of-state programs like SU don’t have.“I think it’s going to be very difficult for him to stay,” said Jeff Bertani, North Miami Beach (Florida) High School head coach, referring to his friend McDonald. Bertani sent senior safety Ritchy Desir and freshman wide receiver Steve Ishmael to the Orange.Booker T. Washington (Florida) High School head coach Tim Harris Jr. said Syracuse made an offer to his Class of 2016 wide receiver, Vaquan Small, two weeks before McDonald was demoted. The junior receiver is 6 feet, 1 inch tall, weighs 162 pounds and is not rated by Scout.com.Harris said he continued to hear from McDonald about once a week after the offer was made, but hasn’t heard from McDonald since.“I’m not sure if the recruiting situation has changed at that point with that particular team or not, which is fine either way, but that’s just the last time we spoke with anyone from Syracuse,” Harris said.Five days after the demotion, Shafer said McDonald’s role in recruiting won’t change. The assistant coach has not been made available to the media since.Three-star Class of 2015 offensive tackle commit, Sam Clausman, who goes to Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and verbally pledged to the Orange in May, said he heard from McDonald about once a week after committing. He said he last heard from McDonald about two weeks ago.Clausman said his offensive line teammate and classmate, Colin Byrne, who is also committed to SU, has had a similar experience.McDonald briefly talked to Clausman about his demotion, Clausman said.“He said that sometimes your family gets into a fight but at the end of the day you hug it out and still love each other,” Clausman said.Clausman’s teammates and classmates, three-star linebacker Chris Hart and three-star running back Deltron Sands, have offers from Syracuse too, he said.Berman said he’s disappointed in McDonald’s demotion as he knows him personally and that coaches in the area feel the same way, but that it doesn’t affect how likely he is to point a recruit toward Syracuse, as long as McDonald’s still with the Orange. Said Berman: “If Coach (McDonald) said that ‘I’m not going to be there anymore, I’m going to another school,’ then obviously wherever he would go, that would be the place that I’d want to send my student-athletes.”RochesterShafer told Stephen Lian that it was important for Syracuse to recruit in Rochester. But the Brighton (Rochester) High School head coach said he doesn’t know if he believed that was true.“There are some other schools around that have given us a lot more attention and that have been a lot more present in the area than Syracuse,” Lian said. “(In the past couple years), I have not physically met with anyone from the Syracuse staff.”Syracuse has two players from the Rochester region — receiver Ashton Broyld and defensive back Chauncey Scissum — on its roster, despite it being just 85 minutes away. SU didn’t bring in many Rochester products during Marrone’s tenure, but high school coaches in the area are now disappointed in the Orange’s decreased activity there.Lian said that Rutgers, Buffalo and Connecticut have been in constant contact with him, as was former Syracuse running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley before he left with Marrone for the Buffalo Bills.“… They would check in regularly,” Jason Benham, the head coach at Gates Chili (Rochester) High School said. “Whereas the new staff, we really have not been in contact.” Syracuse used to run practice clinics in the spring on Saturdays, in which high school football players, coaches and Orange fans could come out and interact with the team. Since Shafer took over the program, that clinic has been discontinued, Lian said.Both coaches said that there has been less Division I talent in Rochester the past couple of years, but also pointed out it hasn’t hindered other schools from continuously checking in.“During the season, it’s tough because you’re getting ready for the next game,” said SU defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough, who is in charge of recruiting in the Rochester area. “You’ve got to win games. “I don’t know what it was like back then.” Benham said the last time he saw Bullough was in the spring. Bullough also added that the Orange has offered to a couple players from Rochester. Scout.com indicates two players in the Class of 2016 have received offers.Benham added that he’s seen players go through his program that he thinks were SU-caliber players, but never received much interest from the Orange. Lian said that student-athletes in the Rochester area don’t have the same type of allegiance to Syracuse as they have in past years.“If they want to come meet with us, we’d love to meet with them,” Lian said. “Selfishly, if we have a D-I kid, I’d love to have him at Syracuse because I can go see him at games, go check up on him. It’s an easy thing.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 12, 2014 at 12:20 amlast_img

Leave a Reply