Three-star Union City (N.J.) High athlete Daiquan Kelly committed to Syracuse on Sunday. He was a big priority target for the Orange ever since tight ends coach Bobby Acosta joined the staff and started recruiting New Jersey. His ability to land Kelly gives Syracuse a talented player who can play a number of positions, according to Union City head coach Wilber Valdez.
"Daiquan is probably the most versatile, as far as when it comes to his next level projection, I would say he's one of the most versatile recruits I've ever had," Valdez said. "He's a kid that could have easily been signed at four positions. Obviously as a defensive back, linebacker, wide receiver, and the scouts from North Carolina thought he reminded them of the kid Eric Ebron. So they thought he could've grown into a tight end. He's 6-foot-3, 208-pounds. He just turned 17-years old so he's not done growing.
"He eats and lifts like an animal. So this is a kid that is just very versatile. He has the speed and agility and savvyness of the game to be able to convert into any of those positions I listed. So certainly Syracuse is getting a versatile ball player who's hungry to succeed and is very coachable and a great person to coach."
Specifically, as a defensive back, he has the skill set to fit into how Syracuse likes to use their safeties. That includes coverage skills, playmaking ability and helping in run support.
"As a safety, he's very rangy," Valdez said. "He's a big guy that moves very well. Because of his experience at the wide receiver position, he has very good hands to complete the balls that he breaks on. As far as his tackling ability, that's a plus too. With the positions he's played, he's played on the far hash as a cover-two safety. He's come down as a safety in the cover-three.
"He's also come down in 4-4 or 4-2-5 looks where Daiquan plays as an outside linebacker. We've done different things with him having him come off the edge and blitzing or covering in the flat. He's very knowledgeable of the game and knows the different assignments. Nothing comes as a surprise to him."
While Kelly has a lot of skills that will translate very well the collegiate game, he continues to work hard on one aspect in order to take his game to an even higher level.
"One of the things we always talk to him about as a ballplayer is definitely his flexibility," Valdez said. "It's something we always stress in the weight room as far as stretching more in order to be a little bit more fluid in and out of his breaks. As a bigger kid, we're comparing him to 5-foot-10, 170-pound high school kids who probably bend a little better.
"But at this level, he's a huge kid playing in the secondary. So we always work on his flexibility."
According to coach Valdez, Kelly has been high on Syracuse ever since he visited in April. On the second visit, those feelings were confirmed.
"The first time he visited he absolutely fell in love with the atmosphere," Valdez said. "He enjoyed some of the guys that are on the team. They talked to him. He was definitely impressed by the facilities and the conditions that the ballplayers live in. They have very, very nice freshmen dorms. It definitely sounds like they have a first class thing going on at Syracuse when it comes to living conditions.
"Playing in the Dome intrigued him. And also the ACC competition. I think the deciding factor may have been an opportunity to play early according to the Syracuse coaches. The secondary is a veteran group now that's on their way out. Those positions will be up for grabs."
While there may have been a little disagreement between Kelly and his coach as far as timing, ultimately there was support from both sides.
"I honestly wanted him to wait a little longer," Valdez said. "There were a couple of other things brewing. But his heart was their and his mother's heart was their. I said listed, ‘I'm here to guide you but your heart needs to make these decisions.' I think today, he kind of had that moment where he knew that it was what he wanted.
"I told coach Acosta that I thought Daiquan should wait a little longer and I would certainly appreciate it if he wasn't pressured. So when he called me, he told me he was not pressured. So just based on everything that he sees, he feels that it was the place where he wants to play college football. So I had to honor him and respect that. So I support him 100% from this point."
CuseNation.com caught up with Union City High School head coach Wilber Valdez to discuss Daiquan Kelly's skill set, how he translates to the next level, and why the Orange landed the three-star athlete.