The Syracuse University football team received a verbal commitment from 2021 three-star Illinois tight end Landon Morris on Tuesday night, adding another weapon to the high-octane offense operated by head coach Dino Babers and new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert.
SU also recently landed verbal pledges from three-star wide receiver Kendall Long and unranked defensive lineman Derek McDonald to maintain the team’s breakneck pace in the 2021 recruiting cycle, bringing its total of eight commitments for the class thus far.
SU is reportedly in the finalist mix for three-star Alabama quarterback Riley Leonard and three-star Georgia defensive back Josh Moore — a pair of coveted prospects that are expected to announce their respective decisions imminently.
Morris — a 6-foot-5 and 210-pound prospect from La Grange Park, Ill. — played wide receiver in high school for Nazareth Academy but will convert to tight end for the Orange. He announced his intentions by posting a video to social media in which he spoke over highlights of his playing career.
“I’m very excited to announce now that I will be continuing my academic and athletic career at Syracuse University,” Morris stated in the video. “Go Orange.”
Morris also received offers from Michigan, Iowa State, Boston College, Toledo, UCF, and Cincinnati. He is rated as the No. 63 tight end nationally and is the 33rd-ranked prospect from Illinois overall by the 247Sports composite ranking system.
Long is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound wide receiver from River Bluff High School in Lexington, S.C. He is a consensus three-star recruit and listed as the No. 176 WR in the nation and the No. 16 player overall from his state by 247Sports. He chose SU over offers from Akron, Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina and East Carolina, among other FBS programs.
McDonald — a 6-foot-4 and 230-pound defensive end from Marist School in Atlanta, Ga. — also garnered scholarship offers from Akron, Austin Peay, and Connecticut, and drew reported interest from Louisville, Wake Forest, Wisconsin, and Georgia.
Babers and his revamped staff, which is highlighted by Gilbert and new defensive coordinator Tony White, have worked to keep up with the national recruiting trend amid a period of uncertainty due to COVID-19.
According to a report in USA Today earlier this week, more than 600 prospects had verbally pledged to FBS schools in the 2021 class, which as of May 11, doubled the number of commitments at this time last year and has exceeded the combined total of the 2019 and 2020 recruiting cycles at the same point.
The SU football staff has conducted online tours of facilities while Babers and his fellow coaches have remained in frequent contact with recruits and their families through virtual meeting platforms. The Orange’s class of 2021 was rated No. 58 by 247Sports and No. 55 by Rivals.com after their latest updates on Wednesday.
Syracuse had previously secured 2021 verbal pledges from three-star Wisconsin defensive end Hayden Nelson, three-star Massachusetts defensive tackle Terry Lockett, three-star Pennsylvania defensive back Malcolm Folk, three-star Pennsylvania running back Josh Hough, and unranked defensive lineman Jaelin Moss — a Rochester prospect who is the cousin of NFL All-Pro and former SU standout, Chandler Jones.
The Orange, which finished 5-7 overall in Babers’ fourth season at the helm last year, is scheduled to begin the upcoming campaign Sept. 4 at Boston College in an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup.