Wall Street Journal - Syracuse Recruiting In NYC | Syracusefan.com

Wall Street Journal - Syracuse Recruiting In NYC



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Syracuse's Odd Recruiting Ground: N.Y.C.

The Orange Has Targeted the City's High Schools for Football Talent, Something New York Has Never Been Known For

Syracuse football head coach Doug Marrone and his linebackers coach, John Anselmo, were driving on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway a year ago, on their way to find the most elusive of athletes: the New York City football player.

They were trying to visit three high schools in one day, but the Verrazano Bridge was temporarily closed, so they sat in traffic for three hours. When they finally emerged in Brooklyn, they quickly carved their way through the city streets—they are both New York natives—and found a clear path on Fourth Avenue. Without the aid of a GPS, they made it to all three schools on time. It was about then that Anselmo realized something about finding players in New York City.

"No one else is doing this," Anselmo said to Marrone. "Could you imagine someone from the South doing this?"
Recruiting New York City is hard and in many cases, not terribly rewarding—something akin to a surfing team rummaging for new prospects in Nebraska. The largest city in the country is a great place to look for basketball players, financial analysts and underemployed writers. But not defensive tackles.

This is a city where Queens-born Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt said he played most of his football at an intersection on Francis Lewis Boulevard, and where Marrone, a Bronx native, admits it's hard to find a park to play in without shards of glass on the ground. Brooklyn's Brandon Reddish, a former Fort Hamilton cornerback who joined the Orange this year, said the area cared so little about the sport that they were quick to cancel a game for any type of bad weather.

Recruiting website has a top 100 list for football factories like Florida, California and Texas and top 30 lists for big states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania. New York has a top 10 list.

But, like millions before it, Syracuse football is trying to make it in New York.

They've a focal point of their recruiting—they currently have nine players on their roster from the five boroughs—not counting their players from Long Island, a more traditional football area. They say it's paid off.
"If guys from Texas, Florida and New York are all even, who has the better upside?" Marrone said this week. "The New York kid plays four or five less games per year, so if he's the same he's better because he can develop... We're a developmental school, we don't have the luxury yet to choose a 6-foot-3 guy or the 260 -pound defensive end. We're going to take athletes."

The recent list of talented football players from New York City is short. Athletes who played high school football in the five boroughs and went on to be drafted is a rarity—there's Leon Williams, who played at Brooklyn's Canarsie and later the University of Miami, who was drafted in the fourth round in 2006. Willie Colon, now a Steelers tackle, played at Cardinal Hayes in the Bronx and Hofstra before being drafted in the fourth round in 2006 as well. Last year, defensive lineman Dominique Easley of Staten Island was a five-star recruit and went to Florida.

Marrone said city players are valuable because they have a very peculiar type of athletic education: They are often fluent in multiple sports. Hunt, for instance, was a guard for Christ the King's basketball team and was known as a lock-down defender. He was pegged to be a mid major basketball player until he decided to join the Orange. Offensive lineman Ivan Foy played first base, pitcher and catcher at Fort Hamilton and center in basketball. "We all played multiple sports. We didn't play [just] football and nothing else and that gives us the ability to change positions—you're an athlete and not just a football player," Foy said.

On Thursday night, Syracuse rallied from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Wake Forest, 36-29. Flushing High's Jay Bromley, a sophomore defensive tackle who was lightly recruited while playing in Queens, recorded his first career sack in the third quarter. Not surprisingly with Marrone, the Bronx native, in charge, most of the city products are underclassmen. Foy, Reddish and Hunt are freshmen while players like running backs Mario Tull and Steven Rene are sophomores. Marrone is starting his third season with the Orange and led to the team to its first bowl since 2004 last season, a win over Kansas State (which was fittingly played at Yankee Stadium).

In other parts of the country, Marrone says, he'll meet with high school coaches at 5:30 in the morning, and the high school players will be there, lifting and running. It's a devotion that isn't quite possible in New York City, where most schools lack the facilities and the year-round schedule. Typically, schools in more football-mad states have spring practice as well.

"What [city kids] lack is the development. Here's the million dollar question: How many players would come out if New York had more games and spring football? 25? 50? They are talented enough, with the basketball players alone there's a ton of talent," Marrone said.

Anselmo said the evaluations for city kids are typically on a curve because "a kid from Florida or Georgia would play 36 games in his career, a New York kid would get 24. That's a whole season plus spring practice."
Since Syracuse's program is still in the development stage, Anselmo said, they must mine New York for a few indicators of future success—big hands, broad shoulders and raw athleticism, and New York has plenty of that. Anselmo, who has recruited New York City since 1975, said that many of the players the school offers scholarships to would go to junior college or an I-AA school otherwise.

Current players say that Syracuse was by far the school most comfortable recruiting in the five boroughs. Hunt noticed that other schools may have felt out of place among the traffic and chaos of New York City.

Connecticut coaches, for instance, were "a little stuck on where to go," he said. "When you're recruiting New York, you can get lost in a heartbeat. UConn was early when they came through. Their GPS must have worked."

Write to Kevin Clark at kevin.clark@wsj.com
Great read. Hadn't thought about the advantage Marrone has simply navigating around the city.
Go get'em Marrone. Photo taken today.

Great article, and as we have mostly surmised, describes Marrone's recruiting strategy to a T.
Love the last part about the UConn coaches. Great read. I'm a little torn because it would have been kinda nice to keep this under the radar but I suppose our rival schools already know the situation and the publicity on balance is worth it,
UConn pulled a big safety-W Lee out of Pearls ole stompin grounds-Boys and Girls last year.

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