Often when thinking about passing the ball, football enthusiasts look toward the wide receiving corps; however, tight ends play a vital role as well.
Over the past few years, names such as Amba Etta-Tawo, Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips have been prominent on and off the field. But, don’t count out tight ends for filling a significant role on the Orange.
Here is a preview of the 2018 SU tight end unit:
Star of the Group: Ravian Pierce
The former JUCO standout is primed to be the standout of the SU tight end squad this year. In his first season with the Orange, he was fourth in receiving yards with 263, third in yards per game with 21.92 and tied for second with four receiving touchdowns. Needless to say, Pierce was the impact player Syracuse quarterbacks looked to right after dominant wide receivers Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips. With a solid 2017 performance behind him, Pierce has put his name on the map in bold and is primed to be a leader of a young tight end unit in his senior season.
Something to Prove: Jesse Conners
Jesse Conners might not be a name you’ve heard of before, and that is exactly why he has something to prove. Not because he has not performed well and wants to show that he can or something like that, but rather because this will be the first year where he is allowed to play college football. Conners redshirted his true freshman year at Holy Cross in 2016, and then—after transferring to Syracuse—had to sit out the entire 2017 season due to NCAA transfer rules. So, 2018 is the first year where he will be able to show off his skill, and he definitely needs to prove that sitting out two seasons for the potential of what could come after was worth it. Now we find out.
Unit Strength: The Orange Offense is Built for the Short, Quick Pass
If Dino Baber’s Orange debut of his fast-paced offensive scheme these past two seasons has taught us anything, it’s that Syracuse’s offense largely relies on short passes that can be executed quickly and repeatedly. This type of hurry-up offense opens many opportunities for tight ends to see a lot of action. Their position defines them as the exact players who will stay close and get open quickly—the perfect fit for #OITNF. This keeps tight ends a vital part of SU’s offense production, grabbing the short, quick pass and hoping to tag on a few yards after catch while they’re at it.
Unit Weakness: Youth
There might be juniors and seniors along with freshmen in the mix of tight ends listed on Syracuse’s 2018 roster, but many of them—aside from Ravian Pierce—have barely played or have only played on special teams. Some have played in seasons where they have not even recorded any statistics. The 2018 tight end set is a young, inexperienced unit, which leaves a lot left to be said by its performances on the gridiron. The unit does not have a lot to show for itself at the moment, and that could leave any offense hesitant to rely on it unless and until the tight ends show proficiency in getting the job done as college football players.
Tight ends are an essential part of SU’s offensive planning and execution, however there is not much depth at the position. Ravian Pierce is slated to dominate field once again. Meanwhile, the rest remain question marks.
Be sure to keep it locked here at orangefizz.net and on Twitter @OrangeFizz to keep up with all of our positional previews. Check out our other positional previews with the 2018 season right around the corner:
SPECIAL TEAMS: Punter/Kicker (8/15) | Return Specialists (8/24)
Published: David Edelstein