Rookie Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone announced a modest class of 14 football signees on Wednesday, saying he was extremely satisfied with the class despite the short amount of time he had to recruit.
"When you start December 15th, you're late, you're behind," said Marrone, who replaced Greg Robinson in December. "One of the things we wanted to do was make sure that we went out and got the best players we could. We feel we accomplished that. The numbers will settle themselves out in the next recruiting class."
The new group includes five defensive backs, four offensive linemen, two defensive ends, and one wide receiver, one linebacker and one quarterback.
Defensive back Rashard Anderson, of Miramar, Fla., and Andrew Tiller, Brentwood, N.Y., are junior college transfers.
Geographically, the signees are from nine states. There are three players from both New York and Florida, two from Virginia, and one each from Georgia, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Marrone, a native of the Bronx, hired Nassau Community College head coach John Anselmo with the intention of re-establishing a recruiting base in the New York City metro area. That push landed two players - defensive back Torian Phillips of Staten Island's Port Richmond High School and offensive lineman Zack Chibane of Paramus, N.J. Phillips was 2008 player of the year in New York City.
"It was important for us to establish ourselves," said Marrone, offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints before accepting the job at his alma mater. "We have to do a better job of evaluating players in the state. The more we can get the better."
Marrone and his staff also persuaded three players to change commitments: Chibane originally committed to South Florida; defensive back Shamarko Thomas of Virginia Beach switched from Louisville; and Anderson switched his commitment from Wake Forest.
"We are going to be here for quite a long time," Marrone said. "We cannot do anything in our foundation to have people think that we don't do things the right way."
Marrone is facing an uphill task, to be certain. Syracuse has not had a winning season since 2001. Robinson was fired in November after going 10-37 in four seasons, fielding one of the worst teams in the nation both offensively and defensively in 2008.
Although his first class received low grades from two recruiting services, Marrone said trying to evaluate high school players is an inexact science at best.
"It's their opinion. They're entitled to it," said Marrone, who also was limited by the number of scholarships available. "I think the recruiting class is defined when they graduate, how they play, how they perform on the field as well as in the classroom and in the community."
Marrone had one more month to recruit than Robinson did when he took over for Paul Pasqualoni in January 2005, and he went in a much different direction. Instead of salvaging the handful of prospects that Robinson and his staff had received verbal commitments from, he re-evaluated them and four were let go. Only receiver Alec Lemon, of Croton, Md., and offensive lineman Justin Pugh, Holland, Pa., were retained.
"I wanted to make sure I was honest and upfront," Marrone said.
Marrone's staff also includes former assistants at Clemson, Michigan and Tennessee, and that helped sell left-handed quarterback Charley Loeb of Hollis N.H. He opted to join a program already overstocked at the position.
"I feel I'm at the right place. It's a relief," Loeb said. "The staff is amazing."
It might be considered even more amazing if Syracuse lands tailback David Oku of Oklahoma. He's the top-rated, all-purpose running back in the nation, according to Rivals.com, and visited Syracuse because of his relationship with Orange assistant Stan Drayton, a former Tennessee assistant. Oku also is being courted by Tennessee and Auburn.
Here are the 2009 National Letter of Intent signees for the Syracuse Orange, in alphabetical order, with name, position, height, weight, high school or junior college, and hometown:
Rishard Anderson, db, 6-0, 180, American Heritage, Miramar, Fla.Torrey Ball, de, 6-4, 250, Georgia Military College, Athens, Ga.Earl Carter Jr., lb, 6-0, 220, Dr. Phillips, Orlando, Fla.Zack Chibane, ol, 6-4, 280, Paramus High School, Paramus, N.J.Alec Lemon, wr, 6-1, 175, Arundel Senior, Crofton, Md.Charley Loeb, qb, 6-4, 215, Lawrence Academy, Hollis, N.H.Dale Peterman, db, 5-11, 155, Ursuline HS, Youngstown, OhioAndrew Phillips, ol, 6-5, 275, Christian Brothers Academy, Phoenix, N.Y.Torian Phillips, db, 5-10, 175, Port Richmond HS, Staten Island, N.Y.Justin Pugh, ol, 6-5, 275, Council Rock South HS, Holland, Pa.Brandon Sharpe, de, 6-2, 220, Ocean Lakes HS, Virginia Beach, Va.Phillip Thomas, db, 6-0 178, Miami Edison Senior HS, Miami, Fla.Shamarko Thomas, db, 5-10, 196, Ocean Lakes HS, Virginia Beach, Va.Andrew Tiller, ol, 6-6, 360, Nassau Community College, Brentwood, N.Y.