As we approach the start of camp for the Syracuse Orange football team, it’s time to dig in and look at the position groups. Today we look at the tight ends and wide receivers.
I’m grouping these players together because then I can take the easy way out with Oronde Gadsden II. Wherever he’s listed at, he’s option 1, 2, and 3 for the Syracuse passing game this season. Gadsden hauled in 69 passes for 969 nice yards and 6 touchdowns. The Orange offense was at their best when the OG was getting targets early and often.
After Gadsden, Trebor Pena (22 catches) and Damien Alford (20) are the returners with the next highest number of receptions. Pena was kept out of the end zone while Alford scored twice in 2022. Both player has shown flashes in their Syracuse career, but will either of them take a big step forward in 2023? If not, where else can Syracuse turn?
Opening week starter Isaiah Jones is a player that impressed this Spring. He’s got the height to be a valuable weapon in the red zone and he’s a player that could thrive against single coverage. D’Marcus Adams and Umari Hatcher show potential as deep threats, but will they get more opportunities in 2023?
Kendall Long and Donovan Brown have drawn praise from the coaching staff in practice, but will that translate to them finding targets? Incoming freshman Darrell Gill and Bryce Cohoon might find time on special teams, but neither seems poised to be ready to make an impact right away.
Syracuse hasn’t thrown to the tight ends, but during the spring game we saw freshmen David Clement with the first-team offense. Was that truly a sign of a new approach or just the staff throwing out a decoy to their opponents? Max Mang might not see a lot of targets, but he’s going to continue to serve as a blocker. Clement, Steven Mahar, Jr. and Dan Villari offer intriguing size and athleticism, but how can Syracuse utilize them?
For a team that wasn’t creating big plays, it would seem like these athletes could find room against smaller defensive backs, or slower linebackers. The Orange were successful getting Gadsden down the middle and if he’s split wide you might be able to slip one of these tight ends into those routes.
Syracuse could also get some red-zone/short yardage groups that place five receivers taller than 6’4” on the field. That size advantage could give the quarterback plenty of options on slants or box out routes. It’s a personnel grouping that could cause defenses to question whether they are defending the run or pass, and sending out extra linebackers or defensive backs.
We’ll have to see if Jason Beck has something special cooked up because while we don’t see one receiver ready to step into that #2 role, the grouping does offer the possibility of strength in numbers.