It was a funny decade for Syracuse wide receivers. There were two distinct valleys and peaks as the offense ebbed and flowed with changing QBs and offenses. To give you an idea of how disparate the offense was, the leading receiver in 2001 had 19 receptions while the leading receiver in 2007 had 60. So all over the map was the passing game that two players who led the team in receptions one year don't even show up in the Top Ten Syracuse Wide Receivers of the Aughts. Let's take a look at them, and the honorably-mentioned few on the fringe, to try and make sense of it all.
Nick Chestnut '09
Before moving to defense, getting kicked out of school, returning and subsequently quitting the team, Chestnut caught eight passes in 2005. No big deal, right? Three of them were for TDs. Helluva ratio.
Steve Gregory '06
Before he became a solid defensive player for the San Diego Chargers, Gregory spent one season as a wide receiver for the Orange. In 2004, he caught 38 passes for 420 yards and a TD.
Marcus Sales '12
Sales doubled his output in his 2nd season, going from 14 catches to 28. He also caught three TDs. Great start but his best years are still ahead of him.
Malik Campbell '02
Campbell caught 26 balls in 2000 for 319 yards and a TD. He followed that up with 14 grabs, 184 yards and a TD in '01. The two-sport star is now an assistant basketball coach at Buffalo State.
Pat Woodcock '01
Pat led the Orange in 2000 with 29 receptions, 453 yards and two TDs. He later gained success in the CFL.
Tom Ferron '07
Tight end Ferron led the Orange in 2006 with 30 receptions, 351 yards and 2 TDs. He could have racked up plenty more stats but he up and quit before the 2007 season. (What is it with guys leading the team in receiving and quitting?)
No. 10 Timothy Lane '07
Lane caught 43 balls for 508 yards and a TD between 2005 and 2006. He even led the Orange in receptions in 2005 with 27. Looks like Tim spends these days as a Financial Analyst for Fox.
No. 9 Maurice Jackson '02
Jackson had 19 receptions in 2001. No big deal, right? Well that actually led the team that season (it was one less catch than he had the previous year). Over the two seasons in the decade, Jackson totaled 39 total catches for 591 yards and 3 TDs. His big game came against Virginia Tech when he compiled 155 yards, including a 78-yard TD catch.
No. 8 Donte Davis '10
Davis' freshman season saw him grab nine passes for 84 yards. Then he missed most of his sophomore year with an injury and was granted a medical hardship. Over the next two seasons Davis was a steady performer for the Orange, grabbing 29 balls to lead the Orange in 2008 and 24 in 2009. He totaled 653 yards and 3 TDs, scoring his lone 2009 TD against Penn State.
No. 7 Rice Moss '08
Randy Moss' second cousin was the consummate under-the-radar guy for the Orange during the middle of the decade. Moss never caught more than 26 balls in a season but he remained consistent, recording catches in all four years. He only managed one TD, against Wake Forest his junior season.
No. 6 Jamel Riddle '03
Riddle me this! (Sorry). Who led the Orange in receptions in 2002? Jamel Riddle, that's who. With 41 catches, 626 yards and five TDs, Riddle turned a previously uninteresting college career into a notable one. His best game was a 176 yard, 2 TD performance against Rhode Island in '02. He finished with 57 catches, 626 yards and five TDs altogether. Of course, we won't mention the whole kicked-out-for-academics-and-then-arrested-for-robbery-and-assault thing. Cause that would be unpleasant.
No. 5 Tajiddin "Taj" Smith '08
Where would Taj Smith have ended up had he used his final year of eligibility instead of going pro? Who knows, but Taj did put together a decent career at SU while he was here. Taj caught 44 passes in 2007 for 822 yards and five TDs, the 9th best single-season in SU history. He and Mike Williams were the best 1-2 punch at WR the Orange had in a long time. Overall he caught 56 balls for 1,049 yards and eight TDs. Not bad for two years work. Had he stayed another year he would have been the No. 1 guy while Mike Williams sat out. Alas, he went pro and currently waits his turn on the Colts practice squad.
No. 4 Jared Jones '05
Jones left SU tied for sixth on the all-time receptions chart. In three seasons he caught 102 balls for 1,189 yards and five TDs. He also led the Orange in receptions in 2004 with 43. His best game was 134-yard performance against Pittsburgh in 2004 that included a 60-yard TD catch.
No. 3 David Tyree '03
Tyree is another guy who's time at Syracuse is remembered for it's consistency if not for anything spectacular. Tyree compiled seasons of 333 yards, 233 yards and 559 yards. His best game was in 2002 when he garnered 229 yards against Virginia Tech. In total he caught 68 passes for 1,214 yards and six TDs. His special teams play was also well-regarded, as he blocked six punts while at SU. Of course, these days he's remembered for something else altogether.
No. 2 Johnnie Morant '04
Morant's college career famously got off to a bad start. Playing in three games his freshman season, it was evident that Johnnie wasn't quite ready yet. But, with his the chance to redshirt now out of the question, he ended up riding the pine. Eventually, Morant sorted himself out. After two decent showings in 2001 and 2002, (18 and 24 catches respectively), Morant finally came around as a senior, hauling in 46 passes for 799 yards and five TDs. Those 46 receptions were the eighth most by an SU receiver in a season and led the Orange. He would finish his career with 88 grabs, 1,525 yards and 7 TDs, good for the tenth-best SU career at the time. Still, he remains a cautionary tale for future SU stars-in-the-making when it comes to redshirting.
No. 1 Mike Williams '09
It's a credit to just how good Mike Williams was that he only played two and a half seasons for the Orange and is still head and shoulders above everyone else on the list. It's not even close. Which also makes it such a shame to wonder about just how much better his stats could have been if he kept it together.
Williams' freshman year was the perfect preview of what was to come. 24 catches, 461 yards and four TDs. His 19.2 yards/catch average was the 10th best in school history. Then...his career took off.
Williams is the only SU receiver this decade to lead the team in receptions twice ('07 and '09). His 827 yards in 2007 was the best single-season output of any SU receiver in the decade and the eighth best single-season in SU history. His 60 receptions in 2007 tied Kevin Johnson for most ever in a single season. His ten 2007 TD receptions was the third best single season result ever.
Sadly, Williams' career will be remembered as much for his off-the-field behavior as it will for what he did on it. He missed the entire 2008 season after being expelled from SU for cheating in a class. He worked his way back into the school and onto the team and returned to his former position. Halfway through the 2009 season, while on pace to shatter just about every SU receiving record there is, he was suspended for one game for a violation of team rules. Then, facing another suspension, he abruptly quit the team, later announcing that he would skip his senior year and go pro.
Williams leaves after catching 133 passes (4th all-time) for 2,044 yards (5th) and 20 TDs (t-2nd). Had he at least played out the season he would have had a chance to end up No. 1 in all those categories. He finished his senior year with 49 catches and 746 yards. Had he kept up that pace he would have finished around 85 catches and 1,300 yards on the season. Alas...