Syracuse Football 2013 Position Battles: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends

Rich Schultz

Syracuse's two biggest targets are gone, leaving plenty of receptions to go around for the young group of wideouts and tight ends

For the most part, the wide receiver position was a strength for Syracuse last year, with seniors Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales leading the way for the team's strongest overall passing effort in at least a decade. But as the team moves on without them, the receiver spot is now one in transition. While several young players have all shown flashes of starting ability, SU admittedly has plenty to shake out on the depth chart, as they figure out who'll be catching passes this fall. Who might some of those players be? We'll look at the wide receivers first, followed by tight ends:

Jarrod West: The obvious choice to become the Orange's main target after a season in which he pulled down 43 catches, West further distanced himself from the rest of the pack during the spring game. Targeted by Terrel Hunt on deep throws, he caught four passes included two for touchdowns (49 yards and 15 yards, respectively). Last year, we saw some traces of what West could do when given the opportunity (had receptions of 20 yards or more in seven of the first nine games), but now, as the primary deep target, the speedster could really come into his own.

Quinta Funderburk: Funderburk failed to catch a pass in the spring game, and wasn't targeted by Charley Loeb or Hunt, but that doesn't mean he's a lost cause. The former four-star recruit hopes to give the Orange some ESS EEE SEE SPEED as a second deep option, but does need to work on his route-running a bit. Since he technically hasn't played an organized football game in two years, it's understandable he'd have some rust. But he'll have to shake that off quickly come the fall.

Jeremiah Kobena: Kobena possesses the same skillset as West and Funderburk, but like the latter receiver, he's also got some work to do in terms of route-running. For those who remember the six passes he caught last season (for 146 yards and two scores) though, there's certainly hope he'll put it all together. Even if he ends up working as more a decoy in the passing game, it'll be interesting to see how he's improved returning kicks -- a role he's likely to take on once again.

Christopher Clark: Clark is likely to be the team's primary slot receiver, with a small (5'11" and 163 pounds) quick frame that helps him exploit gaps in the defense with improving efficiency. While limited last year, he certainly understands the opportunity in front of him this season, and based on spring results alone, Clark could end up being the biggest surprise of the Orange offense.

Adrian Flemming: While he's certainly a big target (6'4"), I'm unsure where he really fits in the offense as a regular contributor, at least this season, anyway. Playing on a team that's likely to be run-first (based on our depth at that position, anyway), it's uncertain how many balls get thrown his way. He may end up being an enormous asset as a blocker on the outside, however, which is something to watch out for.

Alvin Cornelius: Syracuse.com's Chris Carlson really liked what he saw from Cornelius, who's admittedly off everyone's radar, this spring. If the receiving corps. stay healthy, I'd be shocked if he saw a ton of playing time, but it's a name to keep an eye on as a potential future standout.

Corey Cooper, Corey Winfield: We didn't see either player in spring practice, as both will arrive on campus come the fall. With so much depth -- albeit unproven -- at receiver, I'm tempted to believe one or both redshirt this year. However, if something sparks in camp (Winfield, in particular, apparently has some phenomenal leaping ability), perhaps we see one of "the Coreys" in the receiving rotation.

The Rest (Macauley Hill, Ben Lewis): Hill is the only player of these two who could potentially see the field this year, as he was targeted often in the spring game, and overall, seemed to have a nice rapport with the quarterbacks. That could change if Drew Allen is installed, of course, but for now, he's someone who could make a limited impact, particularly on underneath routes.

***

Unlike the receiver position, tight end is a bit more settled, though admittedly, not too deep (at the same time, doesn't really need to be). The team's two main options:

Beckett Wales: For a quarterback coming into a new system (and regardless of who's throwing the ball for the Orange, that will be the case), there's nothing more comforting than a reliable pass-catching tight end. Lucky for Hunt/Allen, they've got Wales at their disposal in the early goings. As a junior last year, Wales really broke out as the team's main option at the position, catching 35 passes for 389 yards. He's a physical target at 6'3" and 253 pounds, and it's likely he'll be highly involved in red zone sets in particular.

Ron Thompson: Admittedly, Thompson's blood flow issues in his hip are a bit concerning -- especially for a teenager -- but the hope is that he's ready to go come the fall. He's got all the physical traits to be a real monster for opposing defenders -- big (6'4" and 225 pounds), yet quick -- creating mismatches for anyone he lines up against.

***

Thoughts on the Orange's group of young pass-catchers? Any potential breakout stars we may have simply glanced over? And are we ready for the Jarrod West era? Share your thoughts below.

John Cassillo authors Atlantic Coast Convos, covering every aspect of ACC football, on and off the field. Check out the blog, and follow him on Twitter: @JohnCassillo

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