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College football: Syracuse adds more pieces to program, signs 25 players

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The Syracuse University football team desperately lacked playmakers at the wide receiver position last season.

So head coach Scott Shafer and his staff, hoping to pick up the tempo on offense in 2014, secured several that could make an immediate impact on Wednesday’s national signing day.

Five wide receivers highlighted SU’s 2014 National Letter of Intent Signing Class, which included 25 players total. The Orange also added seven defensive backs, four linebackers, four defensive lineman, two quarterbacks, two offensive linemen and a running back.

SU’s class was ranked 49th in the nation by rivals.com, its best since 2008. The Orange was listed 73rd last season.

“I thought our productivity needed to increase,” Shafer said of the wide receivers. “When we went through it, we had some high-quality kids interested in playing in this offense who saw what we and what we weren’t (last year) and weren’t afraid to come in and compete. I think that’s a group right there that can come and do that.”

SU signed six players each from the states of Florida and Illinois, three from Pennsylvania and two each from New York and Georgia.

The biggest coup for the SU staff was three-star prospect Steve Ishmael, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound speedster from Miami. Ishmael turned down offers from Miami and Oregon, among others.

K.J. Williams, a 6-foot-2 four-star recruit from Pennsylvania, is also expected to compete for a starting spot as a true freshman next season. Michigan, Oregon and Notre Dame were among the other schools that pursued Williams.

The Orange also added a 6-foot-6 target, Jamal Custis, a pass-catcher from Philadelphia.

“The goal was to find some long guys,” Shafer said. “I like tall, long wide receivers that can go up and make plays when they’re covered. … We weren’t just looking at 40 speed and we weren’t just looking at size, we were looking at the video tape to see who can make plays when people are matched up face-to-face with them.”

The Orange also added two quarterbacks, A.J. Long from Tennessee and Alin Edouard from Miami.

Both are described as dual-threat, athletic quarterbacks and Shafer compared Edouard to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

Terrel Hunt, the junior incumbent starter, is the only returning quarterback who has taken a snap in a college game.

“In my opinion, you can never have enough quarterbacks especially when they’re athletes,” Shafer said. “I’m excited about our quarterback situation now.”

SU added two big offensive linemen from Chicago including Denzel Ward, a 6-foot-8, 320-pound tackle who could be the heir apparent to senior Sean Hickey.

Ward’s commitment was secured on Wednesday after he rejected offers from Ohio State, Oklahoma and Michigan.

The defensive signings were highlighted by defensive tackles Wayne Williams, a junior college transfer, along with Kayton Samuels and Chris Slayton. All three players possess size and will be among those that SU considers for the long-term replacement to departing senior Jay Bromley.

Shafer added seven defensive backs which he said was an attempt to “bolster the numbers,” at both cornerback and safety as well as in the kick return game.

Shafer said the four linebackers are “space players who can run around and blitz.”

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