Lost in all of the absurd storylines last season (ranging from George McDonald, to the revolving door at quarterback, and the ultimately the team’s poor performance) was the emergence of Steve Ishmael, a true freshman wide receiver that made his minutes count on the field.
SU has lacked a consistent wide receiver group since winning the Pinstripe Bowl in 2012 with Macus Sales and Alec Lemon graduating. After the season he had last year, it isn’t hard to imagine Ishmael becoming the go-to guy for Tim Lester’s offense.
As a true freshman, Ishmael played in all twelve of the team’s games and caught 27 balls for 415 yards and three touchdowns. It may seem underwhelming, but a true freshman putting up these numbers in last year’s incompetent offense is certainly impressive, especially when considering the fact that AJ Long and Austin Wilson were throwing the balls.
At 6-foot-2 and 184 pounds, Ishmael has decent size on the outside. The biggest game of his freshman season came against a talented Florida State defense, where he pulled in three balls for 93 yards and two touchdowns. He caught six balls for 97 yards against Pittsburgh, too.
At wide receiver, Ishmael will be starting opposite junior Brisly Estime. In his two years on the Hill, Estime has totaled less yards than Ishmael did in his freshman season alone. Last year’s offense was clearly built around the running game. But, with a healthy Terrel Hunt and a new offensive coordinator at the helm, Ishmael has a chance to become a star in just his second year.
Originally recruited out of North Miami Beach, Ishmael announced his commitment to Syracuse before National Signing Day in 2014. He chose SU over programs like Oregon, Louisville, and Nebraska.
Come Friday night, Ishmael probably will not have the biggest game. Rhode Island is notoriously bad at stopping the run, and Lester will probably pound the ball for as long as he can. But, when watching, take notice of the separation that Ishmael creates on the outside. His speed, ability to make adjustments at the point of catch, and route running ability allowed him to put up good numbers last year. Having a new offense and fifth-year quarterback could help him tally even better ones this year.