“I feel like this year's going to be a lot more opportunities on the field."
That was Syracuse Orange wide receiver Steve Ishmael in August. And it made a lot of sense why he’d say that. SU’s leading receiver last year was in prime position to be the main beneficiary of Dino Babers’ explosive offense. We tagged him and Eric Dungey as two guys with a good shot to shoot up the SU record books in a hurry.
So far, we’ve been right about one of them.
As pretty much no one could’ve predicted, grad transfer Amba Etta-Tawo has actually ended up becoming Dungey’s favorite target and is currently on pace for a world-beating season, perhaps the best a Syracuse receiver has ever had.
Meanwhile, Ishmael has been Dungey’s third-favorite target and it’s not even close. While Etta-Tawo has 40 receptions and Erv Phillips has 36, Ishmael has 17 catches on the year. Etta-Tawo, Phillips, and Brisly Estime have combined for nine touchdowns while Ish has yet to get to the endzone.
It’s gotta gnaw at a guy who we all assumed was going to become a bright shining star this season. But at least publicly, Ishmael is keeping his focus on what he can control and appreciating the offense as a whole until his time comes.
"I'm content, man," Ishmael said. "Whatever happens, happens. I'm just glad that we're winning. That's all I really care about. I'm so happy for the guys that are really doing good: Erv, Bris, Amba. Those guys are playing fantastic."
"It's going to be really interesting to see when the teams catch on to it and how everybody else is going to open up," Ishmael said. "The offense is a lot more exciting when that happens because it's going to leave a lot of vulnerable spots."
I think we’re all aware that at some point AET is going to have an off-night. He’s going to be double-covered and that’s going to open up a lot of opportunities for guys like Ishmael. Babers, likely aware that the current situation could have an effect on Steve, is making sure that’s clear.
"He told me my turn is gonna come," Ishmael said, "but I'm just really going with the flow of things. I'm so glad that Amba's been making a lot of plays. Two hundred and seventy yards last game, when the other teams see that and they do go and double him, it's going to open up everything for everybody."
It reminds me a bit of when Marcus Sales got overshadowed by Alec Lemon in what seemed surprising at first. While Lemon racked up a lot of yards, Sales eventually had his day in the sun as well. College football’s a funny sport and it’s only a matter of time before Ishmael has his big 2016 game. Good to know he’s staying ready.