On Saturday against NC State, Syracuse may as well have only had one receiver on the field. Oronde Gadsden II was target number one, two and three for Garrett Shrader. The likes of Courtney Jackson, Damien Alford and Devaughn Cooper were practically invisible. The trio combined for three catches and 47 yards.
Jackson, SU’s leading receiver from last season, didn’t catch a single pass. Meanwhile, Gadsden went for 141 yards on eight receptions and added two touchdowns. The sophomore has 507 yards on the season, the second most in the ACC and more than the Orange’s leading receiver from all of last year (Jackson’s 389). Gadsden has also caught five touchdowns, tied for most in the conference, and, again, already more than SU’s pace setter from last year (Jackson’s three).
As far as this year’s team is concerned, Gadsden has more yards and touchdowns than Jackson, Alford and Cooper combined. The numbers tell you that Gadsden is not just the number one option, but essentially the only option.
The eye test confirms that. He’s the only one who can win a one-on-one matchup. He has the speed, the size, the route running ability and, as Dino Babers constantly points out, outstanding hands. Gadsden dropped a pass early on against the Wolfpack, which was almost shocking based on how sure-handed he has been, but was flawless after that.
You can’t describe any of SU’s other receivers in that manner. Whether it’s Jackson, Alford, Cooper or even Trebor Pena, none of them have the whole package. Some have nice traits, like Pena’s speed or Alford’s size, but nobody puts it all together like Gadsden does.
The coaching staff knows this. That’s why Gadsden doesn’t line up as a traditional outside receiver, even though his 6-foot-5 216 pound frame suggests he should. Instead, the sophomore is primarily used out of the slot. If a corner is playing inside in college, that usually means he’s either not as good as the boundary guys or doesn’t have the size to play outside. Gadsden takes advantage of that with his combination of size and quickness, which makes him a matchup nightmare in single coverage.
Anae uses him in other ways too, including lining Gadsden up in the backfield. He ran a wheel route, coupled with a flat route to that same side of the field, out of that formation three times Saturday. It got Gadsden open every time, including on his second touchdown catch.
Gadsden is not just the best receiving option on the team, he’s arguably the most important player the Orange have. His presence is key to the entire offense. Without him, the Orange would struggle to complete a pass and Sean Tucker would see even more stacked boxes than he already does. At least Gadsden makes opponents respect an element of the passing game. If they don’t, he can burn them. Take Gadsden out of the offense, and there is absolutely no pass threat whatsoever.