One of the big issues with the Syracuse defense last season was the lack of a consistent pass rush from the defensive ends. The Orange often had to blitz to create pressure, which left them vulnerable in other areas. Syracuse looked at the 2015 class as an opportunity to improve that position.
Syracuse came into the cycle looking to take two to four defensive ends, depending on how things played out. At this point, with two already in the mix, they could take as many as two but won’t take more than that.
Syracuse has landed two defensive ends in Dana Levine and Brandon Ginnetti. Levine committed without visiting the campus. He is a pass rush specialist with some upside, but has to work on technique. Syracuse was his biggest offer.
Sheppard has been on Syracuse’s radar for some time. He is one of the best players in New York, and the Orange are trying to keep that talent at home. Sheppard has consistently had Syracuse among his top schools and is eyeing a return trip in August.
Pickard is visiting Syracuse on July 22nd. It will be his second trip to the campus. On his tour will also be Virginia and Wisconsin, with Oregon still a possibility. The Orange are in a good spot, but these visits will be the deciding factor. Look for Syracuse to try to make an impression on Pickard’s mom, who could be the key here. Education is one of his most important factors, which puts Syracuse in a good spot considering the strength of their business program. He would be a huge recruiting win for assistant Bobby Acosta.
Ealey is tough to read. He has put Syracuse among his top schools, but is taking things slow. Don’t expect a decision from him until the middle of his senior season. The same goes with Robinson, who has always indicated he will utilize patience with his recruitment. Robinson has been trying to schedule a visit for some time, and that could happen before the summer is out.
Names to Keep an Eye On
There are really only a couple of names to keep an eye on outside of the top targets. Those include Kenny Carter and Shareef Miller. Miller is a talented player from the Philadelphia area. The Syracuse staff likes him a lot, but the other players are higher on the board. They could try to get a visit from him, however.
Carter is a New Jersey product with Syracuse as his only offer. He has ideal size at 6-foot-6, 260-pounds, but there are academic concerns. If Syracuse misses on everyone else, which doesn’t seem likely, they could turn their attention to Carter.
In a perfect world for Syracuse, they would close the cycle with Jake Pickard, Qaadir Sheppard and either Austrian Robinson or Amir Ealey. Pickard would be a huge recruiting win while Sheppard and Robinson would keep two of New York’s best at home. Robinson may be the toughest battle for the Orange going forward, but he would give them versatility to play anywhere along the defensive line as well as on the offensive line.
National recruiting analyst Brian Dohn likes Robinson best as an offensive tackle. Ealey would give Syracuse versatility as well with the ability to play defensive end or tight end.
Realistic Positive Scenario
Syracuse lands Pickard and Sheppard, but misses on Robinson. They close out the cycle with four defensive ends and are happy with their haul.
Realistic Negative Scenario
Pickard picks Wisconsin while Robinson also looks elsewhere. Syracuse does grab Sheppard, but is has to look to a secondary option to fill the last slot. That ends up being Kenny Carter.
Syracuse misses on Pickard, Sheppard, Robinson and Ealey. Kenny Carter commits but fails to qualify academically. Syracuse looks to severe backup plans, including some not currently on the radar.
Syracuse is in a good spot at defensive end. Landing any combination of the top targets would improve a class that is filling up fast. The best guess is the realistic positive scenario. Any situation where the Orange add Pickard and Sheppard should be considered a big success at the position considering what they already have in the fold.