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Is a big-play wide receiver the final piece of SU’s transfer portal puzzle?

Photo courtesy of the Lansing State Journal

Syracuse has overhauled its offensive coaching staff. Head Coach Dino Babers brought in a quarterback and running back from the transfer portal. Now, the Orange are looking for a threat down the field. Insert CJ Hayes.

Hayes entered the portal after spending the last four seasons at Michigan State and has one year of eligibility remaining. The Bowling Green, Kentucky native was moved to safety in 2021 by the Spartans but is looking to go back to receiver at his next destination. 

Hayes told Sports Illustrated he is taking an official visit to Syracuse next weekend and is very excited to see the campus, the Carrier Dome, and the football facilities. Hayes also played on special teams last season at MSU after he was injured for all of the 2020 season.

After redshirting as a true freshman in 2017, Hayes amassed 14 catches for 154 yards over 2018 and 2019. Syracuse lost pass-catchers Taj Harris, Sharod Johnson, and Luke Benson to the transfer portal so far. That trio combined for 25 catches for 377 yards. There is production to be made up in the Orange passing attack.

The obvious connection with Hayes is Trishton Jackson, who transferred from Michigan State to Syracuse in 2018. Jackson finished the 2019 season with over 1,000 receiving yards and declared for the NFL Draft after just one season at SU. If Hayes commits to the Orange, he will look to have a similar impact to his former Spartan teammate.

Another connection for Hayes is new Syracuse wide receivers coach Terrence Samuel, who held the same position at Michigan State for the beginning of Hayes’ career. Hayes explained to 247 Sports that Coach Babers’ pitch about Syracuse is being a guy who can catch 50-50 balls and win down the field. 

The Orange are in dire need of a receiver upgrade and improvement from the passing game overall in 2022. Whether Hayes commits to the Orange or not, new offensive coordinator and quarterback coaches Robert Anae and Jason Beck will surely help with that progression. 

Courtney Jackson returns as Syracuse’s leading receiver from a year ago, and while Sean Tucker does a good job as a pass-catcher, SU needs more big bodies on the outside. For three consecutive games in October and November last season, Garrett Sharder did not top 65 passing yards each game.

Returning on the outside are Damien Alford and Anthony Queeley. Alford, who Babers compared to Bambi mid-season, is still young and learning to build up his body, while Queeley is more of an underneath possession receiver. 

Therefore, Hayes is exactly what Syracuse needs, a big body at 6’2, 205 lbs, who can win matchups down the field. If the Orange can secure him, it’ll be another big transfer pickup for Babers and company, joining former Michigan quarterback Dan Villari and former New Mexico State running back Juwaun Price as newcomers in 2022. 

Anae projects to have plenty of options and weapons at his disposal in his first year in Central New York if everything goes according to his and Babers’ offseason plan. That makes Hayes the perfect fit as the third member of the transfer trifecta.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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