Football season sits about three months away and the Orange’s offensive expectations may be a bit overhyped. After a record-breaking season from All-American Amba Etta-Tawo, the wideout has moved on to the NFL which leaves a large void for Dino Babers’ high-octane offense. However, Etta-Tawo’s numbers prior to coming to Syracuse would never have suggested he would have the greatest receiving season in SU history. That being said, there are a number of options for Eric Dungey and the offense to target in the upcoming year. While it may not be a single player solution, Babers’ scheme can certainly use a group effort to match, and perhaps exceed, Etta-Tawo’s 2016 numbers.
One major piece that could perhaps replicate Etta-Tawo’s numbers is Jamal Custis. Orange fans may not recognize his name, but he has been on the team for three years. Custis will be a redshirt junior in the fall and his metrics are off the charts. He stands at 6-foot-5 and runs a 4.37 40-yard dash according to Scout.com. Also, the one word used to describe Custis is an athlete. He had an opportunity to walk on to the basketball team and was even offered both a hoops and football scholarship at SMU. Custis has seen the field a little, including scoring off a back corner fade against Central Michigan two years ago for his first ever touchdown. His metrics are actually superior to Etta-Tawo’s in terms of speed and size. We will have to wait and see if Custis can piece it together on the field come September.
Aside from Custis, there are a number of other options to throw to. Amongst returning players, Ervin Phillips shattered all of his personal bests from last season. Meanwhile, Steve Ishmael’s numbers didn’t quite reach his expectations, however that could change with Etta-Tawo’s departure. Phillips can easily match Etta-Tawo’s reception mark as he came up just four shy of AET’s 94 last season. The question is whether Ishmael can almost triple his yardage to equal Etta-Tawo’s 1,482.
As for the new guys, there is a lot of speed coming to the Orange in the freshman class which was a crucial part of Etta-Tawo’s game in creating yards after the catch. However, the transition to the college game may keep them lower on the depth chart. However, the name that could make an impact right away is Ravian Pierce. While tight ends have never been a widely used position for Babers in the past, he has shown that he can incorporate them into the offense like he did at Bowling Green where 3 of Derek Lee’s 18 receptions came in the end zone. Pierce initially committed to Mississippi State back in 2014, but opted for community college instead. Now, the Orange has a prospect who, during his initial recruitment, had offers from more than half of the SEC as well as Ohio State, Miami and Florida State, amongst others.
Replicating superstar production is never easy, but Etta-Tawo’s numbers can partially be attributed to Babers’ system. But as long as the scheme is in place, there’s always a chance to rewrite the record books.