In the last two months Syracuse has lost two important potential players. Yesterday, it was made public that five-star tight end Chris Clark would not in fact be transferring to Syracuse University after-all. Similarly, a commitment for a four-star running back Robert Washington also fell through recently.
In the world of college football recruiting, things can and often do change pretty quickly, whether you’re working with an uncommitted high school star or a potential transfer. There’s a lot to consider and the stakes can change without warning.
The thing is, Syracuse could use a few four- and five-star recruits right now. So who, if anyone, is dropping the ball here?
Washington at least claims trust issues came into play when making his decision, especially with the coaching staff. According to Washington, Syracuse’s running backs coach, DeAndre Smith, spent too much time talking to his father, Robert Washington Sr., even though he had asked the coach explicitly not to. Washington has said publicly that there is family tension between him and his father before, so it’s not a surprise that he might not want his father involved in his recruitment process.
SU is not permitted to respond publicly to this accusation because coaches are not allowed to comment publicly on unsigned recruits per the NCAA rules.
Regardless of the specifics, Syracuse lost potentially great player.
Clark somehow went from committing to Syracuse to both parties claiming it was a bad fit in the span of just a week.
Of course, NCAA rules prohibits Syracuse’s Head Coach Scott Shafer from commenting specifically on Clark’s case, but he seems to be confident in the decision. On Thursday, Shafer was quoted as stating,
The biggest thing we are looking for is the right fit. When it fits, we go full-speed ahead. You are always in the information gathering business in recruiting. At the end of the day, we sit around as a staff and try to make the best decision as a team for all the people that are involved in the program here.”
If you’re wondering what qualities they look for, you’re in luck. As Shafer describes them,
First and foremost what we look at is their character. We look at their academic status, what type of schedule they have taken and where they are in terms of eligibility and work ethic. Many times, you get into situations where you look at what the grade-point looks like compared to standardized testing. I always lean on the grade-point because you are going to work hard and put extra effort into a good grade-point average where some people struggle on the standardized tests for many reasons.
Does this particular individual love football? Does he carry characteristics of a “gym rat” mentality? Does he play more than one sport? Does he enjoy competing all the time? Over the years, kids that play multiple sports go a long way with us.
I also look at the characteristics of the family makeup. Is there support there? As I tell all the recruits, there is going to be down times and difficult situations regardless of which school you choose. It takes quite a few people to help in the process to make it in college. You can say that about any student.”
According to the Daily Orange, Clark was pretty surprised at Syracuse’s decision. In a Twitter direct message he stated,
Like it makes no sense to me whatsoever … that they pulled my offer.”
However, Clark does have a history of changing his mind. He verbally committed to North Carolina and Michigan before signing with UCLA originally.
Most of us can assume that a coach like Scott Shafer wouldn’t pull an offer from a player of Clark’s caliber unless there was good reason. A lot goes on that we don’t see, and we will probably never truly get to the bottom of what happened here.
The thing getting to most fans, is how the coaching staff and fan base alike tweet #Boom! and #OrangeRevolution! messages as soon as word of these guys committing gets out. To go back on that excitement and talk about how the player was a bad fit days later is sort of a buzzkill.
Now we’re left wondering, what happens next time a high-profile recruit has interest in Syracuse?
While Syracuse’s recruiting tactics seems to work for talent like Eric Dungey, Jordan Fredericks, and Steve Ishmael, the bottom line is: they need some four- and five-star recruits on the roster. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but big players come with bigger complications, and Syracuse needs to be ready to make a “fit” happen despite these extra hurdles.
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