Syracuse Orange players can’t speak to media until they appear in a game, so we hadn’t heard anything from Amba Etta-Tawo since he transferred from Maryland in March. Now that he’s played in a game — and what a game it was — we finally hear from him on how and why he chose SU to finish up his collegiate career.
Ends up it was a pretty easy decision, from what he told Syracuse.com’s Nate Mink yesterday:
"There was no sales pitch.
We played Bowling Green last year, so I got an opportunity to watch his offense live, and from that moment on I wanted to play for him. So when I came and saw he was the head coach at Syracuse University, it was an easy decision for me."
When he arrived, we got excited about his speed, while recalling the deep-threat capabilities he exhibited at the Carrier Dome while playing for the Terps back in 2014. In game one as a member of the Orange, he obviously delivered on that potential and then some. His 12 catches for 210 yards and a touchdown vs. Colgate made for one of the more impressive receiving efforts in SU history. Not only that, but he clearly established his very important roles in the veer-and-shoot right from the onset.
Etta-Tawo’s size and speed are keys to the effort he put forth on Friday night, and hopefully will for the rest of the season, too. As we noted in the play-calling breakdown this week, he excelled in multiple aspects of the game:
- Deep threat: Etta-Tawo collected five catches over 10 yards, and four of those were over 25. While the team dinks and dunks its way down the field with short and efficient passing, it pulls the secondary in tighter on the line of scrimmage, eventually opening up the opportunities we saw Eric Dungey and Etta-Tawo take full advantage of vs. Colgate.
- Blocking: His size proved to be an asset in the last game, especially in close quarters. Several times, SU called for a bunch-type formation to the left side with Etta-Tawo, Steve Ishmael and either Brisly Estime or Ervin Philips. Several times, those resulted in short completions then yards after the catch, all by way of some quality blocking by the fifth-year senior. His size is an advantage, and he knows exactly how to exploit that off the ball.
- Decoy: Once he was getting the ball more, Colgate began to key in on him, which opened up opportunities for Ishmael, Estime and even the heavily-targeted Philips. With the speed those four possess, you simply can’t cover all of them in a quick passing attack.
- Short passing option: Etta-Tawo also caught four balls for under 10 yards. Once he was expected to go deep, he used that expectation against defenders to exploit space allotted him near the line of scrimmage. Even if the defense picks up on this, it likely opens up space for another receiver further down the field.
On the transition to being on the SU roster, Etta-Tawo told Mink "everybody accepted (him) with open arms, so it was fun being around the guys. The offense is fun. It's like backyard football."
Based on what he’s done so far, you’d have to think those arms (and his hands) are going to continue to be open while he’s with the Orange.