My 2020 SU Football preview Pt 4: The Receivers

SWC75

Bored Historian
Joined
Aug 26, 2011
Messages
24,287
Like
43,803
Receivers
Seniors: Chris Elmore 6-0 288, Aaron Hackett 6-3 237; Nykeim Johnson 5-8 170;
Juniors: Taj Harris 6-2 164, (was 175 last year); Sharod Johnson 5-11 181; Russell Thompson-Bishop 6-1 234 (was 223 last year)
Sophomores: Luke Benson 6-3 233 (up from 210); Ethan Fischer 6-0 182; Ed Hendrix 6-3 220, (up from 208); Courtney Jackson 5-10 172, Isaiah Jones 6-4 200, Anthony Queeley 6-2 193; Sam Warren 5-11 202, (up from 180); Nate Wellington 5-10 190 (up from 177)
Freshmen: Damien Alford 6-5 210, Justin Barron 6-4 208, Steven Mahar Jr. 6-5 225, Maxmillian Mano 6-7 255, Trebor Pena 6-0 185, JaVontae Williams 6-0 203
Gone: James Cherry, Jesse Conners, Tristan Jackson, Kevin Johnson, Jr., Cameron Jordan, Zach Lesko, Cooper Lutz, Kevin Mital. Jackson jumped to the pros. Lutz shifted to running back. The others transferred out.

Two years ago I was salivating at the gaudy recruiting Dino and his staff at this position and what it told us about our future teams. I was all excited about Triston Jackson, Russell Thompson-Bishop, Kevin Johnson Jr., Cameron Jordan, Taj Harris, Ed hendrix, Anthony Queeley and Cooper Lutz. Then the enxt eyar They brought in Courtney Jackson and Kevin Mitral. I said "This unit is going to bloom like a flower".

Well, Jackson is gone to the pros after leading the team last year with 66 catches for 1,023 yards and 11TDs. That’s a fine year but in this offense our top receiver should have that and more. In 2012 Eric Lora of Eastern Illinois had 136r 1664yd 12td. In 2013 he had 123r 1544yd 19td and Adam Drake had 85r 1305y 13td. In 2014 Roger Lewis of Bowling Green had 73r 1093yd 7td. In 2015 he had 85r 1544yd 16td but Gehrig Dieter had 94r 1033y 10td. In 2016 at Syracuse Amba Etta Tawo had 94r 1482yd 14td while Erv Phillips had 90r 822yd 6td. In 2017 Steve Ismael had 105r 1347yd 7td and Phillips 89r 904yd 4td. Ironically the big year of 2018 featured Jackson-like numbers from Jamal Custis 51r 906td 6td and Sean Riley 64r 756yd 3td. Maybe the offense is changing. Or maybe, even in 2018, it hasn’t been functioning the way it should.

Also gone are Kevin Johnson, Jr., Cameron Jordan and Kevin Mitral, who transferred out. Taj Harris has been the biggest success story of rest of the group. As a freshman he looked like a coming star with 40r 565yd 3td. He was quick and smooth and seemed reliable. Last year his numbers dipped slightly 37r 559yd 2td but his effort seemed to be lacking at times and there were a couple of sideline incidents suggesting that something was wrong. I don’t know what it was but one problem seemed to be his slight frame. He was 6-2 175 which didn’t used to be skinny but is now and he seemed to get knocked around at the line of scrimmage and in the battles for the ball when it came down. Alarmingly he was listed at 172 pounds in the spring and is only 164 pounds on the current roster. At this point it’s hard to tell what direction he’s going in, both in terms of his body and his production. Dino Babers seems to have no doubt: Taj was #80 last year but is #3 this year. Single digits are reserved for elite players at SU, (since we can’t use #44). Jackson left this message for Harris: “He was telling me to become a leader. Be more vocal. I’m a junior now, and I have to step up and be the leader to show the guys because we have a nice underbelly.” Is it ticklish?

Russell Thompson-Bishop, Ed Hendrix, Anthony Queeley and Cooper Lutz have never caught a pass in two years, due to red-shirting, injuries and just being too far down the depth chart. Lutz is back with the running backs. Hendrix, the highest rated of the recruits in this group, has missed the entirety of both seasons with leg injuries. He’s going to give it another try. In the spring depth chart he was listed behind Jordan at one wide-out spot, (which would put him in the starting line-up with Jordan gone) while Queeley was behind Harris at the other. RT-B has gained 19 pounds since he came here. 234 pounds is a lot to carry on a wide receiver. (Maybe he can loan a few to Harris.) I don’t what his future is but we should see plenty of Hendrix and Queeley and I’m looking forward to that. Let's look at these guys catching passes in high school:

RT-B: SU football recruiting: Get to know WR Russell Thompson-Bishop
He looks like the sort of guy quarterbacks love to throw to- a guy who can go up and get it in a crowd and make the QB look good. He’s also the ideal guy to target over the middle.

Hendrix: He looks like a tall target that a quarterback would look for when he needs a completion.

Queeley: Senior Clips Anthony Queeley
He looks the same. He can get separation and win the battle for the ball.

One big deficit last year was the performance of our slot receivers, Sean Riley and Nykeim Johnson, who also returned kicks. In 2018, between them, they caught 105 passes for 1,321 yards and 7TDs while returning 36 kicks for 672 yards and another score. In 2019 the same two players caught 55 passes for 374 yards and 1 score and returned 37 kicks for 407 yards but no scores. That’s a loss of 1,212 yards and 7 touchdowns. Riley graduated. Johnson’s share of that was 19 catches for 99 yards and 7 returns for 9 yards. Slot receivers are supposed to be explosive guys who can catch a short pass or a kick, find a seam and be off to the races. Johnson got the ball 28 times last year and we gained 108 yards from, it an average of 3.9 yards a play. That’s basically nothing for this type of player. Enter Courtney Jackson, who played a bit under the new redshirt rule last year and caught 1 pass for 3 yards. He should get a big chance to show what he can do this year. There’s also Sharod Johnson, (no relation to Nykeim), who has waited his turn and is listed as co-back-up to Nykeim with Courtney. I hope to see a lot more production out of this position this year. We’re going to need it.
 
Last edited:

SWC75

Bored Historian
Joined
Aug 26, 2011
Messages
24,287
Like
43,803
Last year I suggested of our tight ends that "there wasn't much there" because the returnees had only 5 career catches. I was contacted by the father of one of the returnees, who suggested that my fund of knowledge wasn't as large as I thought it was - and he was right. Father Knows Best!

The fact that our returning tight ends didn’t have very many catches didn’t mean that there “wasn’t much there”. In fact, we will be depending on a lot of guys on this team proving that there’s plenty there and Aaron and Luke Benson certainly showed that last year. They were much more reliably productive than our wide-outs and slots and should be a big part of our offense this year. Aaron caught 23 balls for 205 yards and 6TDs while Luke, a high school track star, had 176 yards and 3 scores on only 8 catches, (that’s 22 yards per catch!). It’s true that Dino has not historically used his tight ends a lot but he needs to use them this year because they are our most proven performers among the receivers.

Nunes: “Hackett won Syracuse’s Bill Maxwell Award as the team’s most improved player on offense, and his numbers back up his well-deserved accolade. Hackett is the leading returner in touchdowns and the second leading returner in receiving yards. The Orange need to make up 1,540 receiving yards and 13 receiving touchdowns lost to the graduations of Jackson, Sean Riley, and Moe Neal. That should pave the way for Hackett to have a more prominent role on the offense, but he can’t get complacent. Backup tight end Luke Benson lurks in the shadows, and his numbers were just behind Hackett’s with 176 receiving yards and three receiving TDs. Syracuse does like to run two tight end setups, so expect to still see Benson feature periodically here and there. However, don’t underestimate his offensive value.”

Chris Elmore is listed as a tight end but he’s really just a blocker for short-yardage situation and was being tried on defense late in the season. He’s a big bowling ball of a guy but seems to lack technique on either side of the ball and is no threat to do much with the football if he gets it. He just tends to throw his body into the mosh pit: a tough, game kid but not a big force on the field.

Ethan Fischler was a preferred walk-on two years ago who “did not participate in athletics” last year but “rejoined the team in the spring”. He might see some special teams action. Sam Warren and Nate Wellington, (from Skaneateles) are also preferred walk-ons in the same boat. Zach Lesko and Jesse Connors were transfers from Chattanooga and Holy Cross who never played here and have been dropped off the roster so I guess they left the team.
 

SWC75

Bored Historian
Joined
Aug 26, 2011
Messages
24,287
Like
43,803
Dino and his men have not stopped recruiting receivers, who he obviously has big plans for. The newcomers:

Damien Alford is a 3 star wide-out from Hollywood – Florida, (which means that if he went to Florida, he’d be a 4 star. Actually, he’s from Canada and moved to Florida.) He’s a tall guy, (6-5) so he should be a great target. He was ranked the 119th best wide-out in the class. “Alford is comfortable springing into the air for a ball on the outside over outmatched defensive backs. He’s also faster than most of the players defending him but that could change against ACC competition. However, Alford gives DeVito a weapon who he can launch a jump ball to. Alford basically has the size of a tight end, with the speed and physical traits of a receiver.”

Highlights: Damien Alford Senior Highlights
He could sure make a quarterback look good, getting those ‘jump balls’. He also has a loping gait that suggests that he’s as fast as he needs to be.

Justin Barron is a 3 star from Connecticut, (which means that if he’d gone to Connecticut he’d be a 2 star). He was rated the #109 ‘athlete’ in the class, meaning that he could help the team at a number of positons. He’s also got some size at 6-4. “As a junior at Suffield Academy, Barron caught 34 passes for 581 yards and four touchdowns, per MaxPreps.com. He added 35 tackles, including one for loss, a pair of interceptions and six pass deflections.” Per Syracuse.com Barron said ““The staff wants me working on both sides of the ball. I’m told every time that they are fighting over me for which side of the ball I’m going to be playing on…. I believe some of my strengths as a player are my height, side-to-side quickness, and my awareness. These help me and give me an advantage against my opponents. I do not believe I have any weaknesses as a player.” Confidence is a good thing.

Here are some junior highlights with commentary from “Inside the Loud House”:
Syracuse Football: Film breakdown on 2020 athlete Justin Barron
Here are some senior highlights:
He makes some great catches along the sideline and would be a good man to throw a fade to. But I was even more impressed with his defensive highlights and I wonder if he could wind up at linebacker, where we need all the help we can get.

Trebor Pena is a 3 star from New Jersey we flipped from Temple, (not as bad as that would once have been: they’ve been pretty good in recent years). He’s not a tall guy at 5-11 but is just behind Barron as the #110 ‘athlete in this class. “In the final game of his high school career in the state playoffs, Pena rushed for 189 yards and three touchdowns and also had a 75-yard kickoff return. The team had flipped its record from 2-9 two seasons ago to 8-1. The newspaper reported that Pena had 1,550 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns during his senior season.” (Syracuse.com). Nunes sees him as a slot guy but doesn’t think he’ll play much this year. His highlights:
2020 Signing Class | Trebor Pena
I like him as a running back. He’s got a great burst and runs north-south, making the most minimal cut he can to keep going downfield.

JaVontae Williams is a 3 star from Florida, (meaning that if he went to Florida State, he’d be a 4 star). He’s got decent size at 6-0 196 and is the 170’s ranked wide-out in the class. We got him away from the U of Miami and Oregon so he must be pretty good. The big issue was qualifying academically, which he did. Nunes: “The more Florida speed we can add at the receiver position the better, and Williams certainly fits the bill. He’s also the sort of wideout that can catch passes in various parts of the field, with some good size at nearly 200 pounds. Since he’s one of a handful of players who intends to enroll in January, the extra time with the playbook could pay some major dividends. But with an extensive list of players at the position already, it’ll be a tough depth chart to crack for at least a year.” His highlights: 2020 Signing Class | Ja'Vontae Williams
I see some speed and jumping ability as well as plenty of determination. Other than that the tape is not spectacular, (although that QB looks pretty good). The dearth of players on the sideline and people in the stands suggests that this is small school completion but it is in Florida.

Isaiah Jones Is a Junior College transfer with three years of eligibility. He’s another tall guy at 6-4. His output in ten games last year wasn’t all that prolific: 19 passes for 238 yards (12.5 avg.) and one touchdown. But he’ll add some depth at the position after the defections.

His highlights: Syracuse football recruiting: JUCO WR Isaiah Jones commits
I see a lot of tough catches, many of them over the middle, and battles for extra yardage that get first downs and keep drives going. I also note that they have him listed as the #84 wide receiver in the country and that as a high school senior in Florida he caught 62 passes for 1,108 yards and eight touchdowns. He may be a lot more than just ‘depth’.

Steven Mahar Jr. is a 3 star tight end, (which means that since he came to Syracuse, he’s a three star.) he’s from Aquinas Institute or Rochester, the most successful football program in the state. He’s the 36th best tight end prospect in the class, so he’s a pretty good recruit. He’s a big target at 6-5. Nunes: “During his senior year at Aquinas Institute, Mahar played on both sides of the ball. Along with 20 receptions for 340 yards and four scores at tight end, he also had 35 tackles (one sack) on defense. The Orange still have both experienced senior Aaron Hackett and emerging threat Luke Benson at the tight end position for 2020, meaning Mahar is a strong candidate to redshirt. But we saw Syracuse use both TEs regularly throughout games in the back half of 2019 and one would imagine Benson will get even more targets next year. Once Hackett graduates, Mahar good become a contributor for the Orange rather quickly, though he may have to compete with fellow 2020 signee Justin Barron if the coaches put him in that position group.”

His highlights: Senior Year - Steven Mahar Jr.
He’s another “throw it up and let him go up and get it” guy who would be great of the fade. He’s also an impressive blocker. The other team’s coach might want to assign someone to cover him occasionally, (which the opposition high school coaches in the highlight film didn’t always do).

Maxmillian Mang, at 6-7 250 is even bigger than Mahar, Alford or Barron but he’s far less known. He’s a native of Germany who decided he wanted to play American football in the United States. When he was recruited he had no rating but 24-7 now lists him as a 2 star and the 138th best tight end in the class. Nunes: “There are so many tight ends at SU’s disposal so it seems like a redshirt year is on the cards for Mang. But you never know.” His highlights:
He’s certainly a big target but he also seems to like knocking people down. He may be more of a blocking tight end or maybe his future could be on the defensive line.

Overall, I still think there’s way too much talent here to have the level of production we’ve had the last couple of years. Also there’s a definite trend toward tall, strong wide-outs who can win the battles for positon and the ball. If we can protect DeVito we might start seeing some big numbers from this unit.
 
Last edited:

721Comstock

2019-20 Iggy Co-Winner Leading Rebounder
Joined
Sep 1, 2015
Messages
12,339
Like
45,815
Assuming Taj & Nykeim (who we’ll assume is finally healthy again) are pretty much chiseled in stone for 2 starting spots, who are the other 2 starters, and who are the 2’s?

I truly hope the Ed Hendrix Experience finally begins this fall. He totally passes the “eye test” for an elite WR, and I’ve read at least 2 interviews that have said he’s playing well so far.

Courtney Jackson has all the makings to be our next great slot receiver. If Nykeim struggles again this year, I hope the coaches will let him do what Taj did to Butler and take over the position.

Speaking of Butler, maybe RTB can take over as the great blocking WR?
He’s certainly got the size for it, he’s almost a TE now

Queeley and Sharod both have 2+ years in the system, and hopefully one or both break thru.

Ja’vontae Williams already looks like a P5 WR, and seems like he has the best chance of the Frosh to crack the rotation.

If Alford can get up to speed in the O, he’s a tantalizing talent w his size & speed.

All of that said, I hope the coaches utilize Jawhar “Jaguar” Jordan as a WR too.
Or at least flex him out from RB in 4- and 5-wide formations, to really create some mismatches and serious OH SHT moments for opposing DC’s.
That’s some serious nightmare fuel for those guys. :cool:
 

kcsu

Living Legend
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Messages
11,989
Like
19,069
Assuming Taj & Nykeim (who we’ll assume is finally healthy again) are pretty much chiseled in stone for 2 starting spots, who are the other 2 starters, and who are the 2’s?

I truly hope the Ed Hendrix Experience finally begins this fall. He totally passes the “eye test” for an elite WR, and I’ve read at least 2 interviews that have said he’s playing well so far.

Courtney Jackson has all the makings to be our next great slot receiver. If Nykeim struggles again this year, I hope the coaches will let him do what Taj did to Butler and take over the position.

Speaking of Butler, maybe RTB can take over as the great blocking WR?
He’s certainly got the size for it, he’s almost a TE now

Queeley and Sharod both have 2+ years in the system, and hopefully one or both break thru.

Ja’vontae Williams already looks like a P5 WR, and seems like he has the best chance of the Frosh to crack the rotation.

If Alford can get up to speed in the O, he’s a tantalizing talent w his size & speed.

All of that said, I hope the coaches utilize Jawhar “Jaguar” Jordan as a WR too.
Or at least flex him out from RB in 4- and 5-wide formations, to really create some mismatches and serious OH SHT moments for opposing DC’s.
That’s some serious nightmare fuel for those guys. :cool:
I wouldn't be surprised to see our 4 wr set be comprised of
Harris, Nyk, Hackett, Benson. 2wr, 2TE. Also expect Jawar to be used as well.
 

orange44

Scout Team
Joined
Aug 26, 2011
Messages
433
Like
349
Assuming Taj & Nykeim (who we’ll assume is finally healthy again) are pretty much chiseled in stone for 2 starting spots, who are the other 2 starters, and who are the 2’s?

I truly hope the Ed Hendrix Experience finally begins this fall. He totally passes the “eye test” for an elite WR, and I’ve read at least 2 interviews that have said he’s playing well so far.

Courtney Jackson has all the makings to be our next great slot receiver. If Nykeim struggles again this year, I hope the coaches will let him do what Taj did to Butler and take over the position.

Speaking of Butler, maybe RTB can take over as the great blocking WR?
He’s certainly got the size for it, he’s almost a TE now

Queeley and Sharod both have 2+ years in the system, and hopefully one or both break thru.

Ja’vontae Williams already looks like a P5 WR, and seems like he has the best chance of the Frosh to crack the rotation.

If Alford can get up to speed in the O, he’s a tantalizing talent w his size & speed.

All of that said, I hope the coaches utilize Jawhar “Jaguar” Jordan as a WR too.
Or at least flex him out from RB in 4- and 5-wide formations, to really create some mismatches and serious OH SHT moments for opposing DC’s.
That’s some serious nightmare fuel for those guys. :cool:
Great summary!
 

Online statistics

Members online
42
Guests online
626
Total visitors
668

Top Bottom