While the entire Syracuse Orange offense will clearly benefit from Dino Babers’s new offensive system, perhaps no one stands to reap the rewards more than Steve Ishmael. The junior wide receiver has been SU’s most reliable offensive weapon, while also being terribly underutilized in his two seasons as a starter.
In his annual Orange football preview, SB Nation’s Bill Connelly pointed out that Ishmael was a must-draft player in any college football fantasy league. Our own recent look at the Syracuse record books shows the wideout knocking on the door of a whole host of accomplishments too (all despite lackluster offensive schemes in his first two years).
Today, Ishmael confirmed his own excitement for the new attack while speaking with Syracuse.com’s Stephan Bailey:
"The offense is a lot better,. (There's) a lot more options out there, a lot more opportunities. Last year, I know we did the option a lot, but this year we're actually taking chances.”
"Coach Babers, he's not afraid to do anything, so I feel like this year's going to be a lot more opportunities on the field."
Ishmael also shared that assistant head coach/wide receivers coach Kim McCloud is helping him get rid of the smaller mistakes in his game, and overall, make better and smarter plays.
Elsewhere, freshman receiver Devin Butler was impressing coaches and players alike. One of those who’s certainly taken notice was Ishmael:
"Coming in freshman year, when I used to go against seniors and stuff like that in 1 on 1s, it was really hard for me. But him, he just makes it look so easy."
"... I feel that he's going to be most definitely an athlete on this team where he's a go-to guy anywhere."
Considering how impressed we all were with Ishmael after he burst onto the scene against Florida State back in 2014, that’s some high praise. Butler sees himself lining up all over the field, and it’s not hard to see how that occurs given the speed he’s exhibited in practice so far. Babers loves speed and wants players that can stay fresh and be plugged in at a variety of roles. Based on the feedback we see in Bailey’s piece, Butler would certainly qualify.
In some additional notes from the always talkative Ishmael, he likes what he sees from Jamal Custis and Maryland transfer Amba Etta-Tawo as well. Based on the way the Saturday scrimmage went, we’ll likely hear the latter name more and more as camp goes on. Custis’s name getting mentioned could mean we finally get to see the red zone jump ball offense he (and we) deserve too.
On Twitter, Bailey also noted that freshman safety Scoop Bradshaw had lined up with the wide receivers today. At this point, any player lining up at receiver shouldn’t really surprise. Expect Babers to cycle in tons of bodies at all four wideout spots.