On Monday, Syracuse Orange wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo was named a third-team AP All-American. It was a cool honor for him, and it made him the first SU player to make the All-America team in 15 years. But it also raised some questions about why the third-team when he put up such impressive numbers -- not just for the Orange, but for the country as well?
Phil Steele saw your perplexed looks around a third-team selection and raised you a fourth-team All-America selection.
While the AP only lists two receivers per All-America team, Steele lists three. And he simply felt there were nine different pass-catchers better than Etta-Tawo this year. Granted, Etta-Tawo didn’t finish lower than seventh in any of the major receiving categories (fourth in yards, fifth in catches, seventh in TDs), but that’s neither here nor there, apparently.
Steele’s first team consists of Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook, Western Michigan’s Corey Davis and Washington’s John Ross. The first two are far more understandable than the third, whose numbers are outpaced by Etta-Tawo’s. On the second team, East Carolina’s Zay Jones is a respectable choice given his record-setting season. But other selections like Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel (a running back) and Clemson’s Mike Williams are a little more questionable. The third team features additional players whose statistics were lapped by Etta-Tawo in one or more categories. Middle Tennessee’s Richie James is the only one of the third-teamers who could stake a claim to being “above” Amba’s production.
These lists, while great honors for Etta-Tawo and Syracuse, are turning into gripe sessions too, and I’m aware of that. Unless you’re putting up astronomical numbers (see: Jones’s 158 catches this year), it seems the primary measure of a receiver was wins and losses of their team. But given wideout’s minimal touches vs. other offensive skill players, shouldn’t that be the least important piece of the evaluation puzzle?
In the end, it doesn’t matter much, clearly. As Syracuse fans and frequent viewers of Amba’s game, however, we just want to see a great player properly recognized. Etta-Tawo’s name is already etched all over the Orange football record book. Now we just want to see it a little higher up on national lists (where it belong following a surprising and excellent year from the grad transfer).