Dino Babers is a wide receiver whisperer. The Syracuse head coach claims to have put at least 25 wideouts in the NFL, and several pass-catchers have recorded career seasons under Babers’ tutelage. His teams almost always feature at least one prolific receiver; this weekend, we got a glimpse of who that guy could be in 2017.
The Orange held its second scrimmage of the spring Saturday morning at the Carrier Dome, and the first-team offense stole the show, as expected. Eric Dungey tossed four touchdown passes, according to Cuse.com (the event was closed to the media), half of which went to a wideout with a chance to burst onto the scene this season.
Jamal Custis hauled in a pair of 40-yard scores from Dungey and tacked on a 35-yard touchdown from Zack Mahoney. If you had him on your Fantasy Spring Practice team, congratulations. He was the breakout star of Saturday’s scrimmage; sure, Dungey was nearly flawless, but that doesn’t surprise anyone. Custis, on the other hand, is coming out of nowhere.
Custis went to Neumann-Goretti H.S. (the same school that produced Quade Green, Rick Jackson, and Scoop Jardine) in Philadelphia, and arrived at Syracuse in 2014 as a three-star recruit, but make no mistake about it: Custis owns five-star raw physical tools. Dungey says Custis “has the body of a Greek God” — at 6-foot-5, 219 pounds, the chiseled Custis doesn’t have blazing speed, but he’s fast enough to work as a team’s primary deep threat.
But that size lends itself to a different specialized role: red zone target. Custis, who reportedly could have walked onto the SU basketball team, can simply waltz into the end zone, turn around, and post up against a smaller cornerback — that’s a formula that could lead to oodles of touchdowns.
It just hasn’t clicked yet. Custis recorded five catches for 22 yards and one touchdown in his first two seasons combined, then redshirted last year when an ankle injury hindered his agility. Custis fits what I like to call the Stephen Hill Mold: he brings a tantalizing blend of size, speed, and leaping ability, but it doesn’t translate into production. In other words, he’s incredibly frustrating.
But this could be the year Custis finally puts it all together, because he may, at long last, get the opportunity to do so. Steve Ishmael projects as the go-to guy on the outside, but that was the case last year, when an unknown receiver named Amba Etta-Tawo — a physically gifted wideout whose statistics underwhelmed early in his college career — snatched the role of No. 1 option and turned it into one of the most prolific receiving seasons in college football history.
“The system is definitely great,” said Custis after the scrimmage Saturday. “I don’t take nothing away from Amba; the system is definitely great. Amba was a great player and I think that just kind of correlated with each other.”
Custis likely won’t sniff Etta-Tawo’s record-shattering numbers (94 catches, 1,482 yards, and 14 touchdowns), but he should at least contribute. That’s the most notable takeaway from Saturday’s scrimmage.