After a day full of excitement and joy, Syracuse got some bad news on Thursday afternoon: wide receiver Trishton Jackson announced his decision to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft. The Michigan State transfer caught 66 passes for 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns in his lone season with SU, picking up many All-ACC accolades along the way. Simply put, Jackson was the lone bright spot for the Orange at wide receiver in 2019.
Consider this: Jackson accounted for 35% of SU’s 2,887 receiving yards. In a statement on twitter, Jackson explained his decision to go pro.
So now that Jackson is gone, what will the Syracuse WR room look like next year? Well, that’s a great question. Remember, Sean Riley is gone so the Orange are down two of their top three receivers from last season. The two obvious names that come to mind are Taj Harris and Nykiem Johnson. Last fall, many thought either of them could lead the Orange in receiving yards when the season was over. Wrong. Instead, Harris regressed in some areas as a sophomore and Johnson didn’t even register 100 yards on the year.
This is a concerning development. At times last year, Jackson was the only receiver DeVito would target regularly. When the ball was thrown deep you almost knew Jackson was the one sprinting after it down the field. On top of that, only four of SU’s top 10 “receivers” were actually wide receivers. The others were tight ends and running backs.
Who’s ready to step up on the outside
Outside of Jackson and Riley, only four Orange wide receivers caught a pass in 2019: Harris, Johnson, Cameron Jordan and Courtney Jackson. That’s a short list. The optimistic view is that Harris gets more targets and Johnson rebounds from a season full of disappointment. However, that’s the optimistic view. Guys like Jordan and C. Jackson will have to prove they’re ready to play with the big boys.
Here’s why this loss is concerning: Jackson was the only player DeVito looked consistently comfortable throwing the ball to. Sure, he’ll have more time to adjust in the offseason, but you could have said the same thing last year. At many times the chemistry with guys not named Jackson just wasn’t there.
This presents a new challenge for DeVito this spring. Facing a tremendous amount of pressure in his second season as the starter, DeVito won’t have Jackson to use as a safety blanket.