Syracuse Orange football may have suffered its second consecutive 4-8 finish this past season, but the future continues to look bright for SU.
In addition to recent news that every member of the Class of 2017 intends to sign their National Letters of Intent (unlike previous years), Syracuse will also retain a large number of its statistical leaders from the 2016 season.
ESPN’s David Hale constructed a chart showing each ACC team’s leading players for rushing, passing, receiving, sacks and tackles, and whether or not that player plans to return to his respective team next season (green means he’s returning, red means he is not).
Syracuse, along with Boston College, Duke, Wake Forest and Virginia, leads the ACC with four of its top five statistical leaders from this past season returning for next year. Clemson, on the other hand, will lose all five of its leading contributors (albeit the Tigers just won the National freaking Championship, so no complaining or playing the #DISRESPEK card, Clemson).
While Syracuse is set to retain its leading rusher (running back Dontae Strickland), leading passer (quarterback Eric Dungey), sacks leader (defensive lineman Chris Slayton) and tackles leader (linebacker Parris Bennett), the Orange will only lose its leading receiver, Amba Etta-Tawo, who is projected to be selected in the middle rounds of the upcoming NFL Draft.
For a team that entered the 2016 season extremely young, starting a number of freshmen and sophomores on both sides of the ball, the fact the Orange will have many of its key players returning is certainly a plus, especially considering its daunting 2017 schedule.
On the other hand, who does SU expect to replace Etta-Tawo as Syracuse’s leading receiver next season? The obvious choice, of course, is Steve Ishmael. However, Ishmael was also expected to lead the Orange in receiving this past season, which obviously didn’t happen as the talented junior wide receiver finished third on the team with 559 yards receiving and just one touchdown.
Erv Phillips is also a potential favorite. The converted running back had a breakout season this past year, totaling 90 receptions for 822 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
One dark horse candidate is freshman Sean Riley, who, in limited touches this past season, showed flashes as both a kickoff and punt returner, as well as a wide receiver.