389 receiving yards. That was the total of Syracuse’s top receiver last season. That’s the lowest benchmark a player has needed to be the best receiver on the team since 2008. Yikes. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize SU has to be more dynamic in the passing game if it even wants to sniff bowl eligibility. With the gauntlet that is the Orange’s schedule, another season where no one eclipses 400 receiving yards simply won’t cut it. Here’s who could potentially eclipse that mark and go way beyond it.
Yes, Dino Babers actually compared Alford to Bambi last season. It was in the wake of arguably the biggest play of the season. The rising third-year wide receiver caught a 45-yard TD pass with under 30 seconds left in SU’s stunner over Virginia Tech. Alford also had a 73-yard score against UAlbany, but other than those two big plays he wasn’t exactly a major piece. He never topped two receptions in a game and didn’t top 30 yards in any other game. The big play potential is there. Babers clearly believes in him. The opportunity is there to be taken. Alford has a golden opportunity in front of him to become one of SU’s most dynamic weapons offensively. The question is, will he take the next step?
Jackson was the aforementioned leader with 389 receiving yards last season. Despite that unimpressive total, there were legitimate flashes of potential last season. Jackson had four games of at least five receptions and four games of at least 50 yards. He saved his best for last against Pitt with 8 catches, 92 yards, and two touchdowns. That being said, he was essentially a non-factor at times. There was a three-game stretch late last season in which Jackson had two catches for a grand total of four yards. Not ideal, especially when you consider the Louisville and NC State games were in that run (SU could have clinched bowl eligibility in either of them). Jackson had some really good games last year, but he also had some really bad games. If Syracuse gets more good than bad, he could be a big-time target this season.
Yes, you read that correctly. Even though he was a running back, Tucker was second on the team in receiving yards last season. Why shouldn’t Robert Anae incorporate more passing plays for him this season? First of all, it gets your best player more touches. Who wouldn’t want that? Second, it’s fair to anticipate defenses will gameplan plenty of touches for him in the ground game. Tucker is so dynamic offensively that an improvement in his ability to make plays as a receiver shouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. He ran track over the offseason to stay in shape. He’s already one of the best players in college football and a legitimate Heisman candidate. If Tucker takes the next step in the receiving game, not only will Syracuse’s offense be a lot better, it could get him over the hump in the Heisman race.
Garrett Shrader (presumably) will have plenty of weapons to choose from when he drops back to pass. No one developed as a true alpha in the passing game last year. Whether it be Alford, Jackson, Tucker, or someone nobody expects, the Orange must have a big receiving weapon this year, or things could go awry quickly.