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Syracuse Football 2016 Position Preview: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends

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We know the names atop the depth chart. What about everyone else?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

For months now, we've been previewing the Syracuse Orange football season like it's just around the corner. Well... now it sort of is. As we've done in years' past, we'll preview a different SU position group each week. Last week was the running backs. This week:

Wide Receivers & Tight Ends

The hybrid/H-back/#Expressback moniker is dead, which is a relief for those of us hoping to see more defined roles for SU's pass-catchers. In their place are a wider, more versatile group of wide receivers, nearly all of whom will see the ball coming their way at some point this fall. Tight ends, on the other hand, will be searching for a new role that likely revolves around blocking. Development in the new offense here will go a long way toward determining how quickly Dino Babers's high-powered attack can get off the ground.

Wide Receivers

Steve Ishmael, Junior

Is there anyone that benefits more from the offensive shift at Syracuse than Ishmael? While obviously the team's best play-making option for the last two years, Ish has been relegated to a role that limits his skill set and fails to put the ball in his hands. In the spread, those days are over. Ishmael is the team's top target, and if Dungey can find him -- he's literally all over the field -- he could finally have that breakout year we've been hoping for. Expect something above 80 catches, over 800 yards and over 10 scores (and then get ready for the NFL Draft chatter that results).

Ervin Philips, Junior

Like it or not, Erv's a full-time receiver now, and he'll probably do a lot of operating out of the slot for Syracuse. As a part-time wideout in 2015, he caught 29 passes for 286 yards and five scores. He, like everyone else, will get more burn this fall. If the team elects to use him strictly in the slot, instead of sending him out deep toward the sideline, it'll yield some positive results. Philips is one of the team's fastest players, but struggled with some deeper route running last year. The slot should allow him to quickly get the ball in his hands and then turn on the jets.

Brisly Estime, Senior

While his primary contributions will occur in the return game, Estime still has a chance to be a real factor as a deep threat. Last year, Briz averaged over 17 yards per catch, and while he's yet to consistently haul in those longer passes thrown his way, you've been able to see glimmers of what could be for some time. So in his final year, is this when it all comes together? He'll get chances for targets deep, now it's up to him to not only create separation (not an issue before) but catch those balls as well.  If he can, this passing game opens up in a hurry.

Alvin Cornelius, (Redshirt) Senior

Is this Cornelius's year? Finally slated to see the field a bit more, and with three "bigger name" receivers distracting defenses, it very well could be. Alvin's a smaller, shiftier receiver who has made some plays out of the slot before. In this system, he could be used as a short-yardage safety valve option, which could yield some big results should he and Eric Dungey find a rapport this offseason. While not the flashiest receiving option, he's one to keep an eye on this fall.

Adly Enoicy, (Redshirt) Sophomore

Enoicy's been here for a few years, and while the old staff raved about his potential, they failed to really let him see the field. That may end up changing this year, as his size (6-foot-5, 222 pounds) makes him an absolute matchup nightmare for any defense. He's too big for corners to cover and too quick for many linebackers to really stick with. Hopefully we start to get a better sense of how/where he'll be used once camp starts. There's great upside here, though.

Clay Austin, Junior

At first glance, it may seem confusing why Austin comes in ahead of scholarship players on the depth chart. But his background as a sprinter helps clear that up real quick. Babers and his staff want speed out there, which means cycling in quick receivers like Austin is a given. He's an unknown entity in terms of catching passes for now -- another player whose role still needs to shake out a whole lot more this offseason.

Jacob Hill, Sophomore

Hill, the former running back, obviously has the best dance moves on the Orange football team. Now we get to see if the walk-on has some tangible pass-catching ability. Smaller and shiftier (5-foot-6, 170 pounds), he has the physical tools to get by defenses. We liked what we saw in limited action in 2015, so perhaps an expanded role and more consistent touches yields even better results.

Jamal Custis, Junior

THROW HIM THE DAMN BALL, PLEASE. For years now, we've pined for the SU offense to just let Custis post up on the goal line and use his big frame to go and get jump balls. It's worked in the past, but after one successful score, it's never revisited. Babers is unlikely to follow the same tact. Custis is probably your go-to receiving option inside the 10 and if used correctly helps alleviate a nagging issue of red zone inefficiency in recent years.

Tyler Gilfus, Freshman

The former quarterback was moved to receiver because Babers wants bodies to shuttle in and out. Who knows if he sees the field this season, but given the amount of depth SU has had to build on the fly at wideout, it seems at least a bit likely the walk-on gets some burn. It's a mystery how capable of a receiving option he is right now, however.

Tyrone Perkins, Sophomore

Perkins showing up third on the depth chart was as surprise back in April. But he also has the most potential to move up. At 198 pounds, Perkins is on the bigger side, which makes sense since he was recruited as a running back. If he stays at wideout, the staff will likely be helping him shed a bit of weight to get quicker in the open field. In any case, he's a potential playmaker -- it just may take a little longer to figure out where he slots in.

Sean Avant, (Redshirt) Junior

Avant has come and gone from the box score over the years, struggling to stay on the field or in the team's passing plans. He'll get a chance to contribute again this season, and right now seems slotted in as an option behind Estime (and Hill). While he's unlikely to break out, he's an experienced, capable depth option SU will need at this tempo.

Kenterius Womack, Sophomore

Womack could be a redshirt candidate this year -- should've been last year -- after his shirt burned on special teams in 2015. We haven't really seen what the former QB is capable of as a receiver, but we do know he possesses some speed and has the smarts to play multiple positions. We should be curious to see how he's put to use this year.

Devin Butler, Freshman

Butler's lightning quick and seems primed to shoot up the depth chart a bit once he arrives on campus. Of course, he could also end up redshirting. It really depends on what the staff sees in terms of speed from the players in front of him, and how fast he takes to the offense. Butler seems like a receiver that could learn a lot under players like Ishmael and Estime, and potentially emulate their games later in his own career.

Sean Riley, Freshman

Riley seems like the heir apparent to Erv's role as a slot receiver. Smaller and lighter than Butler, he's made for the role even if he waits out this year to eventually jump in come 2017. Like Butler, his involvement in the offense will be dependent on how quickly he adapts this summer and what the names in front of him look like. If he displays a lot of speed, that may be enough to vault over some folks, per the unwritten rules it seems are in place.

Amba Etta-Tawo, (Redshirt) Senior

Not just a depth add, the Maryland transfer brings a real ability to impact the deep passing game. He caught 61 passes as a Terp, averaging over 15 yards per in sporadic action over there (while also overshadowed by bigger names at receiver). When the depth chart rolls out come September, expect to see his name pretty high. Etta-Tawo will be seeing the field a bunch, even as part of a solid second-string receivers group.

Kerrick Hahn, Freshman

Hahn's an IMG Academy product that committed as a walk-on just the other day. As you'll notice on his tape (see the link), he does well over the middle, which could actually be a role few other wideouts fill on this roster right now. Like many of the other additions, it's tough to tell where ends up this fall. Being a non-scholarship player, he could potentially start playing right away as a depth receiver.

Tight Ends

Cameron MacPherson, Senior

He's the biggest (by a few pounds) of the tight ends on the roster, which probably gives him a slight leg up here in what should be a blocking-centric role. MacPherson only caught two passes last year. He may end up with more this year, but not as a result of designed plays. He's currently tops on the depth chart, though you could potentially make a case for either of the next two names, depending on what this positions shakes out to be...

Kendall Moore, (Redshirt) Senior

The former center should be exactly what this offense needs from a tight end. Over the last couple years, Moore's shown himself a great blocker and the decline there without him in the lineup is noticeable. His health has been a concern, but if he's on the field, he stands a chance to make a major impact even away from the football.

Josh Parris, (Redshirt) Senior

Parris is the best pass-catching option of the group, and was one of only three SU players to bring in more than 20 receptions in 2015. His blocking hasn't been stellar, but there's potentially room for improvement. Could Babers potentially utilize him as a receiving option? If so, he'll play a very active role in the passing attack.

Tyler Provo, (Redshirt) Junior

Like the other tight ends, we'll see what sort of blocker Provo can turn into. Not that this has even been mentioned either, but perhaps the logjam here could also see him shifted to his high school role of a fullback-type ball carrier. If Syracuse struggles to run in short yardage, an experienced power back like Provo could be a viable solution.

PJ Batten, (Redshirt) Junior

The positional back-and-forth between linebacker and tight end may not have come to a close yet for Batten. He could potentially see the field on offense from a depth perspective. But if the staff sees a greater need at linebacker, perhaps that option's opened back up.


As mentioned: LOTS of options here. We know what we're getting out of the top names on the list, but beyond those, the Syracuse receiving corps features a whole lot of questions at the moment. Does the depth above give us much beyond bodies to cycle in? Can Ishmael become a dominant receiver now with a real offense? How much will we be seeing the freshman in-game?

Plenty more to ask, but will leave that for the comments. Share your thoughts on SU's receivers (and tight ends) below.