- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here's a question I've gotten in my mailbag and on my chat this week: Is this weekend's Syracuse-Rutgers game big for recruiting purposes?
It's an interesting and pertinent question, since Doug Marrone has said that recruiting the New York-New Jersey area is a priority for the Orange as it should be. The Garden State in particular is one in which Marrone would like to build more bridges. Syracuse currently has only eight players on the roster from New Jersey, with four of them -- linebacker Marquis Spruill, defensive back Da'mon Merkerson, kicker Ross Krautman and offensive lineman Zack Chibane -- playing major roles.
"I think we have to do a better job of recruiting in New Jersey," Marrone said on Monday's Big East teleconference. "I think we haven't done a very good job in years past since Coach Pasqualoni and Coach DeLeone left because they had such a good foundation and good relationships in New Jersey. We've been fighting to get back that foundation."
Syracuse's current class of 2011 includes no New Jersey players, while last year's class had only one -- receiver Dyshawn Davis, who didn't qualify. The Orange have gotten some New York players that Rutgers wanted, like linebacker Malcom Cater and offensive lineman Andrew Tiller, but for the most part the schools haven't gone head to head much for high-profile prospects. (And the Scarlet Knights have landed their fair share players from New York, such as true freshman running back Jordan Thomas, who went to the same high school as Chandler and Arthur Jones).
Lots of factors go into a recruit's choice, but I'm not sure a head-to-head matchup between the schools does the job. Look at Pittsburgh, which has lately been getting top prospects out of Rutgers' backyard despite the fact that the Panthers snapped a four-game losing streak to the Scarlet Knights just last season.
It's more important for the Orange to rebuild their brand and gain positive publicity, which they have done this year by getting to the edge of bowl eligibility. Syracuse is getting to be cool again, and a strong finish and postseason trip will only help that. Then it takes building relationships in the state.
"We just try to sell our school on what we have to offer," Marrone said. "I don't really look at is if we win, we get kids. I think schools are who they are. They get the kids they should get."
This Saturday's game might be a battle for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, and if this grows into a strong rivalry that will only help the Big East. But I doubt this one game makes a huge impact in recruiting.
6hJosh Moyer and Dan Murphy