The wide receiver position was a bit of a mess last year. Breaking in a new offense and a new quarterback, along with a host of new pass-catchers, the Orange seemed to struggle for consistency all season. But now, many of those players have a year under their respective belts and are primed to contribute more in 2014.
As you already know, Syracuse has a slew of players who can and will catch the football. From traditional wide receivers, to a solid stable of H-back types, and a nice collection of tight ends too, SU has a boatload of guys to throw to. But who are they? And who might be the most important names to know? We take a look below:
Ashton Broyld, Junior: After arriving on campus with plenty of hype, Broyld has been an enigma -- albeit an exciting enigma -- for the Orange. Given his speed, he was utilized heavily last year on bubble screens and swing passes, and at times, functioned as a great safety valve for Terrel Hunt. He's highly likely to serve a similar role again this year, while hopefully elevating his play-making skills to the next level. To catch up to some of the top teams in the ACC, SU will need his speed on the perimeter to keep corners honest and open up the middle a bit. As a former QB, he's also going to be put to work on trick plays once again, too. I wouldn't go as far as saying Broyld's a breakout all-conference performer. But at the very least, he'll be the team's most exciting offensive playmaker.
Jarrod West, (Redshirt) Senior: Jarrod West was supposed to be the team's top receiving option in 2013. And then he wasn't. Thriving as a third option behind Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales, it simply made sense that West could elevate himself as a deep option and primary pass-catcher. Now, after an injury-plagued season, expectations have been tempered and we're all waiting to see if he'll ever regain form. Once again, West should be the team's top deep option, but with a more seasoned group of receivers around him, the pieces may in place to let him quietly thrive. He's not the only option. And obviously this depends on how Hunt's deep ball has progressed. But if things click, he'll play a big role in the success of this evolved offense.
Brisly Estime, Sophomore: Estime came up bigger and bigger as 2013 wore on, capping off the season with a 70-yard punt return that set up Syracuse's game-winning score against Minnesota. While he's not a big kid size-wise, Estime makes up for that with speed, and like Broyld, expect him to be part of Bubble Screen Inc. this fall. Of course, that's not his only role to play -- he'll also factor largely in the return game. Just don't be surprised if he spends a good deal of time in that H-back spot, and at a much higher rate than he was last season.
Quinta Funderburk, (Redshirt) Junior: Is this the year Funderburk puts it all together? With few opportunities last season, it's tough to gauge what we'll get out the Arkansas transfer, but at least it looks like he'll have more opportunities available to him. As a big, physical target, he should get some play out wide and take pressure off of West. And if there was anyone we could use to go up top over the FSU secondary, it's him. Just need to hope he's finally ready... he could be a game-changer, even in a reserve role.
Alvin Cornelius, (Redshirt) Sophomore: After quietly going through the motions of not playing during last season's first 10 games, Cornelius burst onto the scene due to injuries at the position. Fairly tall, mostly un-scouted and quick enough on the edge, the then-redshirt freshman nabbed nine passes for 134 yards and a score in just two games. He won't be a surprise addition this year, but still: you have to wonder what will happen with an entire season to thrive. Like a lot of the other players at receiver, he has a small sample to work off of, but a whole lot of potential, and will have ample opportunities in 2014.
Corey Winfield, (Redshirt) Freshman: This year, Winfield gets to serve the role many of his cohorts served in 2013: learning on the go and exploiting limited opportunities in the passing game when they come his way. Lucky for him, however, he actually has experience in front of him on the depth chart, though. Winfield will sit behind Estime in the H-back role, and will likely spell him from time-to-time. As the team invests further in a hurry-up approach, this sort of depth at every position will be even more important.
Jeremiah Kobena, Senior: Kobena's similar to a lot of other more experienced players at this position -- he's been around awhile, but things have never seemed to click due to injuries and/or lack of performance. Now, this also has a benefit. There aren't a ton of teams in the conference with this type of experience this far down the depth chart, and that should help SU out immensely. Whether it's tutoring younger players or playing an active role off the bench, Kobena has ample chances to help out in 2014.
Adrian Flemming, (Redshirt) Senior: Plagued by injury, Flemming's failed to ever really catch on with the Orange offense. And now, with a rising depth chart below him, it's even less likely. But again: depth is important here, and he'll be of use somewhere, even if it's just special teams here and there.
Sean Avant, (Redshirt) Freshman: Sporting the team's best hair, Avant will be noticed if nothing else. He's still a year or so away from being able to impact the passing game, though. Slotted in at H-back behind Estime and Winfield, there's a slight concern about whether he'll be able to break through too, however, given the youth ahead of him on the chart.
Corey Cooper, Freshman: We were pretty worried Corey would never show up on campus. Thankfully he did, though, and now perhaps we'll see if he meets some very high expectations. He's pretty far back on the H-back depth chart, so not the best sign for this year. But I have some hope that a year or two learning under this deep group of pass-catchers could pay big dividends for the prep school standout once he gets to his junior year at Syracuse.
Kennan Hale, (Redshirt) Junior: Hale's been buried on the depth chart after last year's dreaded LBI, but he could get himself into the mix should injuries befall other members of the receiving corps. One of the bigger wideouts on the team, Keenan certainly looks like he could be an impact player -- it's just tough to see him getting that chance.
Ben Lewis, (Redshirt) Sophomore: Ben's pretty far down the depth chart, so expect him to make some appearances on special teams this season. And maybe garbage time.
Franklin Santos, Senior: He originally made the team as a walk-on, and has rarely seen time on the field -- but a ton of credit goes to Santos for sticking it out this whole time.
Likely-to-redshirt freshmen: Adly Enoicy, Jamal Custis (whom Scott Shafer is very high on) and Steve Ishmael.
Failed to qualify: K.J. Williams
Josh Parris, (Redshirt) Sophomore: Parris stepped up big-time late in 2013, so don't be surprised to see an increased role for him come this fall. Of course we all remember his season-saving TD catch against BC. But beyond that, Josh has made an impact as a very capable blocker and a steady receiver overall. As the sure starter, he'll be expanding that presence in the offense now, and making it much more possible to line up two tight ends. While the offense appeared averse to utilizing tight ends last year, that could and should change now that Hunt and George McDonald have personnel more figured out.
Kendall Moore, Sophomore: With Moore's size (6'5", 248 pounds), it was always assumed the Chicago product would end up on the offensive line. Instead, he stopped putting on pounds, and now he's entrenched at tight end. With limited touches last year, he played very well and as the current No. 2 tight end, he could even thrive in 2014. As mentioned with Parris above, two-tight end sets are a real possibility given our two big bruisers at the position. Moore is an excellent blocker and should play a key role in SU's quick passing game, while also catching a few balls himself.
Tyler Provo, (Redshirt) Freshman: Provo's a legacy (we all recall his brother, Nick), but that shouldn't take away from the type of player Tyler is. He's big and physical just like the two gentlemen in front of him on the depth chart, and though he's unlikely to play a bunch this year, McDonald has always seemed adept at getting kids involved where we least expect them to.
Jacob Green, (Redshirt) Sophomore: There's little expectation around Green this season, but perhaps he sees some burn on special teams. He played in garbage time against Wagner in 2013, so if we end up in another bloodbath like that, perhaps he sees the field?
Cameron MacPherson, Junior: "Cammy" (yes, this is happening) won't be playing this fall, but we'll talk about him anyway. He's a legacy, in the best way possible. He also attended some school named "Georgetown" (sp?) for the past two years, where he played quarterback on their "football" team. Sure. We're happy you saw the light, Cameron! See you on the field in 2015!
So yeah, like I said: A LOT of players available to catch passes now, making up for previous failures in that department. Have your own thoughts on all of these guys? Share them in the comments.