Part of the appeal of having Scott Shafer take over as head coach of the Syracuse Orange when Doug Marrone left to coach the Buffalo Bills was that it would give the program stability and continuity, after Shafer served as defensive coordinator throughout Marrone’s four-year tenure. But with regard to how Shafer and the new staff have handled recruiting, there has been little continuity.
The first thing that’s changed is geography. Marrone, a Bronx native, put a lot of emphasis on recruiting New York City and the tri-state area, while Shafer has largely abandoned that area. Also, while Marrone tried to put Orange footprints up and down the east coast and establish a presence in the talent-rich states of Florida and Georgia, many members of Shafer’s staff, including Shafer himself, have ties in the Midwest. Syracuse hasn’t abandoned the southern states, but they have put more emphasis on states like Michigan and Illinois, which is a significant alteration in recruiting strategy and the types of athletes they go after.
There has also been a noticeable difference in the caliber of recruit being pursued by Syracuse since Shafer has taken over. Under Marrone, the Orange were apt to find diamonds in the rough that had been overlooked by other schools and recruiting services, but under Shafer, Syracuse is shooting for the top and recruiting three and four-star recruits.
Of course, Syracuse didn’t have a great track record of success when Marrone took over, while Shafer is working with a program that was a conference co-champion last year and has two bowl victories in the last three years. Syracuse also didn’t have a superstar recruiter that could compete for upper echelon prospects under Marrone, but they do now with new offensive coordinator George McDonald, who is considered one of the top recruiters in the country.
The Orange have already started to reap the benefits of their new approach, as they have already secured eight verbal commitments for the class of 2014. That may not be much compared to other programs, but it’s more than Syracuse has had at this stage in the recruiting process in more than a decade. Included in the group of commits are three-star linebackers Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett, as well as three-star quarterback A.J. Long and four-star wide receiver K.J. Williams, the four biggest fish that Syracuse has landed for the class of 2014.
Whether those recruiting victories will continue and ultimately lead to victories on the field remains to be seen, but it’s encouraging that Shafer and his new staff are having so much success on the recruiting trail, especially with an approach that’s so different from the way Syracuse recruited under Marrone.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him to your network on Google+.