Let's begin by establishing one thing: What you're about to read isn't a case for any current Syracuse Orange player to don the prestigious No. 44. Rather, it's simply an attempt to answer (or at least narrow down the potential answers) to one queston: If any current SU player were to wear No. 44, who should/could it be?
Truth is, coming off a 3-9 season, there probably isn't a player worthy of wearing No. 44 on this roster. But, hypotheticals are fun, so I present to you five players who might have a case for the number, if not right away, then at some point:
Syracuse's second leading scorer in 2014, Ishmael should be quarterback Terrel Hunt's top target in 2015. He had four receptions and a game-high 59 receiving yards in the Orange's spring game earlier this month. And had Hunt not badly overthrown him, Ishmael would've added to that with a touchdown reception. While 44 isn't typically a wide receiver's number, we'll make an exception here.
Thompson finished tied for second in sacks among Syracuse defenders in 2014 behind Cameron Lynch and tied for third in tackles for losses. With Lynch's departure, the former tight end will serve as Syracuse's primary pass rusher this season and possibly its top defensive playmaker.
Franklin finished last season with 44 tackles. Maybe that's just coincidence, or maybe it's a sign that he should be the player to wear that number. Either way, it was good for sixth on the team -- and first among returning players. Don't be shocked if his production at linebacker skyrockets this season. He recorded six tackles in the spring game, and head coach Scott Shafer said Franklin "had a very good spring."
No. 44 has traditionally been worn by running backs, and Syracuse's two leading rushers from 2014 -- Prince-Tyson Gulley and Adonis Ameen-Moore -- are both gone. That means Strickland might now be the best fit among SU's backs to wear the number. The incoming freshman obviously hasn't proved himself at the collegiate level, but the potential is there. The three-star recruit ran for 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior at South Brunswick last year. He'll likely be third on Syracuse's depth chart behind Devante McFarlane and George Morris II, but this backfield could be Strickland's come next season.
Another incoming freshman, Blair's argument for wearing No. 44 is based solely off what could be. Assuming he qualifies academically, the safety could make an immediate impact in 2015. Shafer, for one, seems excited about Blair, who ran a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash as a junior in high school. From Shafer's signing day press conference in February:
"He's long, he's got great athleticism, and he's like a Durrell Eskridge body-type... He will strike you. I mean, he will strike you. He hits like safeties we need around here."
If we're going to talk about someone wearing No. 44, it only make sense to mention the top running back on Syracuse's roster. McFarlane outplayed George Morris II at the spring game, and though the two could split carries during the season, he'll likely be listed first on the depth chart.
Is an explanation necessary?