From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:
The Syracuse University football team’s first official practice is just more than a month away along with 129 other FBS programs nationwide.
While SU looks to improve on last season’s disappointment 1-10 overall record, there are five programs, based on the fruits of recruiting over the past few seasons, who could raise some eyebrows this fall.
Some of the factors also involved following a 2020 season hindered with the COVID-19 pandemic are: 1) players are now granted an extra year of eligibility; 2) programs nationwide were dealt with varying schedules, from zero games to a full season; 3) fans in the stands could affect the players’ motivation on the field.
Here are the five who could come alive or see rapid improvement in 2021 (SU is not on the list):
1. California (1-3 record in 2020). Nineteen starters return, including QB Chase Garbers. Head coach Justin Wilcox has seen solid recruiting classes during his five-year tenure at the Pac-12 Conference school.
2. Maryland (2-3). Terps’ solid recruiting classes from 2017 and ’18 are now all seniors. Maryland scored an upset win over Penn State last season in the Big Ten. It will interesting to see how QB Taulia Tagovailoa develops for head coach Mike Locksley, who’s only 6-17 at the school.
3. Miami, Fla. (8-3). Houston transfer and QB D’Eriq King enjoyed a big year in 2020 for head coach Manny Diaz, whose ’21 team features a strong senior class. The Hurricanes should be in contention for the ACC championship.
4. USC (5-1) — The Trojans never seem to be lacking in the talent department. The 2017 and ’18 recruiting classes were each ranked fourth in the nation. Return of QB Kedon Slovis and 15 other seniors on the roster may have Trojans in the hunt for a berth in the College Football Playoff’s four-team field.
5. Wisconsin (4-3). QB Graham Mertz, a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, and three consecutive solid recruiting classes have head coach Paul Chryst and the Badgers thinking they can seriously contend for the Big Ten championship.
n On the other end of the spectrum, here are some programs who could tumble from 2020 due to faulty player procurement: Marshall (7-3); Houston (3-5); Hawaii (5-4); UConn (0-0); Coastal Carolina (11-1); and Buffalo (6-1).
n Richie Rich’s Top 10 MLB rankings: 1. Giants; 2. Astros; 3. Red Sox; 4. Dodgers; 5. A’s; 6. Rays; 7. White Sox; 8. Padres; 9. Brewers; 10. Indians.
Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at email@example.com