The preseason accolades keep rolling for Oronde Gadsden. Syracuse’s top offensive target has already been named a preseason first team all-ACC selection and a member of the Maxwell Award watch list, given to the most outstanding player in college football.
Now, Gadsden has been named one of ESPN’s top 100 players in college football entering the 2023 season, clocking in at number 97. He is the only Syracuse player to make the list.
Based on last year’s performance, Gadsden’s preseason hype certainly makes sense. The Floridian hauled in 61 passes for 969 yards and six touchdowns, leading the Orange in all three of those statistical categories. If you cut Gadsden’s numbers in half, he would have been second on the team in both catches and yards, and tied for first in touchdowns. That’s how far he out paced SU’s second leading pass catcher Devughn Cooper by.
Gadsden earned first team all ACC honors last year as a tight end, his listed position. In reality, he’s a slot receiver. Despite being 6’5 220, the prototypical body for an outside receiver, SU used him on the inside to exploit matchups and play to the strengths of quarterback Garrett Shrader, who’s much better in the middle of the field than he is throwing to the boundary.
Is he a receiver? Is he a tight end? He’s a football player, at least that’s what Dino Babers says. The Orange need him to be a great one if they want to have success offensively.
Every other member of the receiving corp enters this season with plenty of question marks. Damien Alford has been a breakout candidate for a couple of years now, but hasn’t shaken the label as a big body recover who can win 50-50 balls, but not much else. Head 20 catches for 429 yards last year. That’s an average of 21.5 per reception, an impressive number, but the volume wasn’t there. He also only had two touchdowns.
Isaiah Jones is also expected to be a key contributor. He was a starter at the beginning of last year before being sidelined for the rest of the season by a shoulder injury in week three against Purdue. Then, there’s D’Marcus Adams, who the coaching staff hopes can add an element of speed to the offense. He had just 6 catches last year, but for 180 yards-an average of 30 yards per reception.
Given the uncertainty around the rest of the receiving corps, it’s fair to call Gadsden not only Syracuse’s best player, but it’s most important. He’ll have to rack up production for SU to be successful, and as he does that, he’ll take the defense’s attention away from his fellow receivers, giving them a chance to win one-on-one matchups. Plus, the more attention a defense pays to him, the more room LeQuint Allen and Shrader have in the running game.
Gadsden certainly deserves to be considered one of the 100 best players in the country. Another season like last year could very well propel him into an NFL payday sooner than later.