Syracuse football might be on the cusp of ACC relevance — and college football contention as well — for the first time in a long time.
Right now, the Orange boast the No. 30 recruiting class in the country for 2018 according to 24/7 Sports, with eight total commitments. That's better than Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan State, West Virginia and a slew of other big-name Power 5 programs.
Now before all of you rabid SEC fans start blowing up my Twitter account with angry rants about how stupid I am, let me tell you I fully understand the situation at hand. When it's all said and done, most of those powerhouses will have much better classes than 'Cuse. Those programs really start ramping up their efforts in the middle of the season into next offseason and the majority of the nation's top prospects won't commit until next year.
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That doesn't make Dino Babers' early push any less significant though. He fully understands he's not going to land the blue-chip talents who will choose between Alabama and Michigan, but has found a way to sell quality 3-star prospects on the direction of the Syracuse program while occasionally landing a 4-star talent. That's not easy to do at a school that hasn't won more than four games in a season for three years and is best known for its elite-level basketball team.
In February, ESPN ACC reporter David Hale wrote a piece about Babers' magic on the recruiting trail. The fiery, charismatic head coach won't reveal his secrets, but it's clear his strategy is working.
Look no further than Tommy DeVito, the No. 8 pocket passer of the 2017 class according to ESPN. While DeVito wasn't garnering serious looks from programs like Alabama and Ohio State, he had a core group of well-respected programs sending him letters and offering meetings. He received offers from Maryland, Wake Forest, Boise State and others — but opted to sign with Syracuse.
"All the negative stuff," DeVito told ESPN of the conversations that sprung up after he committed to 'Cuse. "You give them a few facts, but for some people, it's in one ear and out the other. My friends though, they can tell you exactly the reasons I'm going to Syracuse."
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Only Babers, the Syracuse coaching staff, other Orange players and DeVito understand the why. No, Babers isn't assembling a monster class laden with four and five star prospects, but he's finding a way to secure kids who might have been overlooked — while still landing a few that are heavily recruited by notable programs.
"A lot of people say they have a process to recruiting but they don't," Babers told Hale. "We know what we want, and when we see it, we don't care whether six people have offered him or nobody has."
That's the mindset that has led 'Cuse owning the No. 30 recruiting class for 2018 before the 2017 season even kicks off. Babers and his staff have been able to land commitments before other schools take notice, while stealing a few players who are heavily pursued.
Sure, it's fair to note a lot will change between now and the time Syracuse kicks off in 2018, but it's a hot start nonetheless.
The highlight of Babers' 2018 class so far is offensive linemen Tyrone Sampson Jr., the lone 4-star prospect in the class. 24/7 Sports lists Sampson as the No. 4 center in the country and No. 5 overall player from the state of Michigan. He has offers from Notre Dame, Michigan, Louisville and several other programs, but for now, is committed to follow Babers' promise.
The other seven early commits are 3-star talents, but don't let the star ranking fool you. There's plenty of talent that Babers hopes will translate into wins on the field. Look no further than wide receiver Atrilleon Williams, who has offers from Penn State, Ohio State, Miami and Michigan. There's running back Jawhar Jordan, who has offers from Arizona and Missouri. Another running back, Akeem DIxon, has an offer from Louisville.
The biggest trend amongst the eight commits? There are seven different states represented as close to Syracuse as New York but as far as Florida and Arizona. It's clear Babers isn't scared to travel to find the kind of player he wants while placing no restrictions on the recruiting trail.
We won't know if Babers' relentless efforts will pan out the way he hopes, but for the first time in a long time, there is optimism surrounding Syracuse football. That's a giant step in the right direction.