One week ago, Syracuse put the finishing touches on a top 50 ranked recruiting class on National Signing Day. It was the first time in six years, the Orange constructed a class that highly ranked. The Fizz puts the spotlight on the most important element of its 2014 recruiting class: the wide receivers.
It was obvious Syracuse placed a precedent on the run game this past fall. For a second consecutive season, the Orange rushed for over 2,400 total yards. That’s the first time that’s happened in 15 years. Not only was that because of four highly skilled ball carriers in Jerome Smith, Prince-Tyson Gulley, George Morris II and Devante McFarlane, but also because SU had a QB that could take off out of the pocket in a blink of an eye. Terrel Hunt progressed as a passer and a scrambler as the season. The soon-to-be redshirt junior is Syracuse’s best option at QB next season. But as he and QB coach Tim Lester have preached, he must improve his reads and his vision to take his game to the next level this fall.
Let’s be honest. Hunt is getting some much-needed reinforcement at WR. Jarrod West never quite materialized as the number one option at wideout, only collecting 26 catches—17 less than the previous year. Ashton Broyld was Syracuse’s lone threat on the outside, but he was used mainly for short screen passes. Hunt also loses seniors Beckett Wales and Christopher Clark. It is imperative that George McDonald institute his young freshman and sophomore WRs into the game plan quickly.
Brisly Estime and Alvin Cornelius (both first-year players) proved to be two of Hunt’s favorite targets when he caught fire down the stretch. And with highly touted targets like 4-star signee KJ Williams and 3-star commits Steve Ishmael and Corey Cooper, these younger receivers should get as much early playing time as they can.
Sure, it’s great that the Orange is getting WR Adrian Fleming back for one more season. But the Virginia native has caught two passes in his Syracuse career. He suffered a lower body injury in September and played in just one game all year. Syracuse fans really do not know what a player like Flemming is capable of. He has the size (6’3”, 205 lbs), but can he be an immediate star after four years? Perhaps. But odds say he won’t be the Orange’s next 1,000-yard receiver.
Give his snaps to some of the younger receivers and let them get immediate action. KJ Williams already has similar size (6’3”, 195 lbs), Steve Ishmael has terrific hands and Corey Cooper has a year of prep school under his belt. Don’t forget about sophomores Estime (his 28 receptions was third on the team) and Cornelius (134 yards in a two-game stretch vs. Boston College and Pittsburgh), and junior Ashton Broyld and senior Jarrod West, who will lead the unit next season.
Hunt will always pose a threat to take off and scramble. But like George McDonald said just before signing day, he wants to turn his offense up to full throttle in the coming seasons with added speed. That comes to fruition by building these young receivers up over the next couple seasons so they can grow during their four years at Syracuse.
Posted by: Kevin Fitzgerald