Prodigal sons return

For a few members of SU's football team, Saturday's game at Rutgers will seem more like a homecoming.

For a select group of Syracuse Orange, Saturday’s football game at Rutgers is more than just a clash with a conference rival – it is a homecoming. Da’Mon Merkerson, Zack Chibane, Marquis Spruill and Ross Krautman highlight a growing contingent of New Jersey natives who leave the “Garden State” to play for the Orange.

Saturday’s football game has more ramifications than bragging rights for another year, and in the case of the Orange, a bowl bid. Syracuse throttled the Scarlett Knights in the Dome in a surprising upset last year. That win, coupled with the Orange’s success so far this season could give the Cuse an edge in the ever-heated recruiting battle.

For Spruill, a freshman linebacker, this will be his first shot against his home state team. The Hillside, New Jersey native has been a pleasant surprise for the Orange defense this year as he is averaging 4.1 tackles per game – the most in the conference for a freshman.

“Out of high school, they did come to see me and talk to me … but they didn’t offer me,” Spruill said of his interaction with the Scarlett Knights. “I just really want to show the people that haven’t gotten a chance to see me play around my neighborhood, I just want to show them how good I can really play.  What better chance to do it than against Rutgers.”

A senior cornerback, Merkerson came to Syracuse as a dual-threat weapon and played wide receiver and corner early in his career before switching to defense full time. Coming out of high school, he was the 30th ranked player in the state of New Jersey, but said he never really considered Rutgers.

“I wasn’t interested in staying home, I wanted to kind of get out of New Jersey a little bit and try to get a little more exposure. They weren’t in my mind at all,” Merkerson said. “My mother and my brother, they don’t get to come out to many games, along with a lot of other family members. I do feel a bit of joy knowing that they’ll be able to see me play – some of them for the first time in college from the stands.”

Following in the footsteps of his older brother, kicker Ross Krautman is another New Jersey native who has stepped in and quickly made an impact for the Orange. The fiery freshman has connected on 13-of-14 field goal attempts this season, including four in SU’s upset win at No. 20 West Virginia.

“We’ve actually been talking about it all week, the “Jersey Boys,” Krautman said. “We’ve been talking about how we can’t wait to go out there and play in our home state, plus Chibane, he only lives a few minutes away from me in Jersey … that school (Rutgers) always recruited us throughout high school – all the Jersey boys – so we’re definitely pumped up to play out there. It’s going to be a war, it’s going to be awesome.”

Though Krautman is expecting a war, all of the “Jersey Boys” said they are expecting plenty of friendly faces in the stands. Along with the large contingent of SU fans that are making the trek to Piscataway, the New Jersey natives said they expect to see plenty of friendly faces.

“It’s going to feel good to go back to Jersey and show up for not my home crowd, but the people that live there in my neighborhood,” Spruill said. “There’s supposed to be a lot of people coming from around my area, coming to see me play, so that will be real nice.”

Merkerson is also expecting a lot of friends and family, as is Krautman who said an entire bus of people was coming up from his old high school, as well as former coaches and teammates. Despite many of these people growing up as fans of the Scarlett Knights, some may be changing their allegiance on Saturday – at least for one game.

“They’re definitely pulling for the Orange,” Krautman said. “That’s what they were saying last year, ‘When you guys play Rutgers we’re coming to the game.’ So, they’re all going to be wearing their Orange.”

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.