My 2022 SU Football preview - Part 3: The Receivers | Syracusefan.com

My 2022 SU Football preview - Part 3: The Receivers

SWC75

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RECEIVERS
Seniors: #7 DeVaughn Cooper 5-11 185, #13 C. J. Hayes 6-2 211
Juniors: #85 D’Marcus Adams 6-0 176, #14 Anthony Queeley 6-2 199
Sophomores: #82 Damien Alford 6-6 211, #11 Dom Foster 5-11 166, #19 Ordonde Gadsden 6-5 216, #17 Umari Hatcher 6-3 181 (was 170), #9 Courtney Jackson 5-10 179, #80 Isaiah Jones 6-4 204, #88 Steven Mahar Jr. 6-5 232, #81 Maxmillian Mang 6-7 262, #2 Trebor Pena 6-0 177 (was 185), #83 Sam Warren 5-10 196, #84 Nate Wellington 5-10 188
Freshmen: #35 Kyle Acker 5-11 167, #87 Donovan Brown 6-1 179, #47 Carter Clark 6-5 265, #49 Josh Kubala 6-2 211, #11 Kendall Long 6-2 215
Gone:
Taj Harris was our #1 receiver but when Tommy DeVito left, he decided to leave as well. He was a talented, fast but rather skinny guy and had a very up-and-down career here, both on and off the field. He transferred to…ugh, Rutgers.
Sharod Johnson was here for four years and caught 26 passes for 322 yards but never found the end zone. He elected to use his COVID extra year at Florida International.
It will be interesting to see if the new Offensive coordinator passes to the tight end. SU fans have torn their hair out in recent years over the lack of use of the tight end which semes to have cost us Aaron Hackett, who transferred last year to Kent State and Landon Morris, one of last year’s top recruits who left before he played a game, saying that ““his role since arriving this spring didn't align with SU's recruiting pitch.” He transferred to Utah, where he said, “Going to Syracuse might have been the best first decision of my collegiate career,” he said. “I learned a lot of techniques there, run-blocking wise.” But the one that really hurt was Luke Benson, who had tight end size but was also a track star and in his first two years here caught 14 passes, 5 of which went for touchdowns. As a freshman, he averaged 22 yards per catch. Last year he caught 5 passes for 22 and no scores. He transferred to Georgia Tech, (fortunately we don’t’ play them). Coaches Anae and Becker may decide to pass to the tight ends and find that the good pass catchers of them are playing elsewhere.
JaVontae Williams left the team on July 27th with no explanation or destination. He played in 5 games in two years but didn’t record any statistics.
Ethan Fischer was a preferred walk-on who caught one pass for 5 yards in two years and is no longer of the roster. I haven’t found anything about a transfer so he may have given up football to concentrate on academics.
Sam Weaver seems to be the same situation.

NOTE: Chris Elmore is still listed as a fullback, although he might be on the line of scrimmage at times.

When Dino Babers and his original staff came here, their recruiting emphasis was clear. Once they got the quarterback they wanted in Tommy DeVito, they recruited wide receivers and defensive backs. They wanted to pass the ball and stop the pass. They’ve brought in some tremendous talents for the defensive backfield, (Trill Williams, Andre Cisco and Iffy Melifonwu are doing well in the pros and we’ve got Garrett Williams and Duce Chestnut on the roster now). I thought we were assembling an equally stellar corps of receivers. The trouble is too many guys caught as many balls as a corpse or not much more: Russell Thompson-Bishop, Cameron Jordan, Ed Hendrix, Kevin Mital, JaVontae Williams and others. But Dino and his men kept recruiting and I still think there’s a lot of talent in this group – and a lot of size. They like big targets who can go up and get the ball in a crowd and we’ve got them. But they have to learn to run precise routes, make moves to get free of defenders and also learn to comeback and give a scrambling quarterback targets to aim at. If these guys can do that, we might find that Garrett Shrader is a better passer than we realized.

Three quarters of the upperclassmen are imports.

DeVaughn Cooper (from last year’ preview) is “a college football vagabond who landed here after stints at Arizona and UTEP. Thanks to a medical redshirt, a redshirt, (under the flabby new rules), and the Covid extension he still has two years of eligibility left, which would make for a seven-year career.
He’s 5-11, 175, not the sort of big, muscular guy we seem to be going for but a player with considerable experience at this level. He left Arizona due to a “violation of team rules” and presumably came here from UTEP to get back into the power 5 and make his case for the NFL Cooper was rated three stars and the No. 91 wideout in his cycle by the 247 Sports Composite.” He was the #582 player overall. This indeed, is his 7th year playing college football so he has plenty of experience.
He has no highlight film devoted to his exploits at Arizona and UTEP – or Syracuse, although there are a couple plays floating around that were part of longer clips. His high school highlight film is interesting:
He has a lot of moves and speed and could be good in both the slot and on kick returns. I remember him making some big possession-type catches last year. He wound up with 21 catches for 199 yards (9.5) and no scores. In his caught 62 passes for 877 yards, (14.1) but only one score.

C. J. Hayes comes to us from Michigan State, (will Villari, a Michigan quarterback, deign to throw to him?), where in four years, he caught 14 passes for 154 yards but no scores. 247 had him 1215/168 (national/wide receivers), coming out of high school. They had him playing safety/special teams last year but Dino has him back at wideout. Nunesmagician.com: “It seems like Syracuse has the numbers at wide receiver but he brings good size and experience so look for him to get an opportunity in camp to find a path to the two-deep.”

D’Marcus Adams originally went to Florida State where in two years he never played in a game but did run the 110 meter hurdles for the track team. The last two years he was at Florida Atlantic. He didn’t play the first year but last year had 3 catches for 94 yards, one a 46 yarder but no scores. He also returned 10 kickoffs for 236 yards. 247 had him as 420/70. Syracuse.com: “The 6-foot, 180-pound Adams has hit a 4.3 40 time and can leap close to 12 feet in the broad jump. He did it all on the track: long jump, high jump, triple jump, 110-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, 400 meters, 4x100 relay, 4x400 relay, shot put. Adams holds or shares five school records, Anthony said, including a 13.82-second finish in the 110 hurdles during his senior year. At the time, it was the second-fastest time in the nation… Typecast as a burner, he’s among the fastest players on the roster but has had limited production over his first four college seasons. SU believes it can change that, using one of its final scholarships on an athlete with elite speed to help reboot a quick-strike offense.” It will be interesting to see if we can get more out of Mr. Adams than FSU or FAU did.

Anthony Queeley is the upperclassmen who has spent his career here. (Are there four-year players anymore?) He was 1,081/160 on 247. He got his first chance to play in 2020 and had a solid year, mostly as a ‘possession’ receiver, (if you don’t have possession, are you still a receiver?), with 37 catches for 378 yards and 2TDs, one against Notre Dame. But he had a very shaky year last season, catching only 15 but for a higher average, 222 yards and two more TDs, but with some jobs. Hopefully he can return to the efficiency of two years ago and show some leadership for the younger guys. He could thrive in Anae/Beckers’ offense. Nunes: “Syracuse needs players like Queeley to step up and make key plays to keep drives alive.” His career highlight so far:

Syracuse's Anthony Queeley Touchdown Gives Orange Early Lead Over Notre Dame


Damien Alford is my choice to be the break-out guy this year. He’s a huge target at 6-6 211, can catch the ball and has the speed to reach the end zone. The most underrated thing in football is wide receiver blocking. The casual fan thinks that all they do is catch passes but a good block by a wide-out, especially with someone like Sean Tucker behind him, can be the difference between a 5 yard play and a 50 yard play and bi g wideouts can make those blocks. It all came together on that pass from Shrader vs. Virginia Tech. He had 13 catches for 249 yards (19.2 avg.) and two touchdowns on the year, (the other was a 73 yarder vs. Albany). 247 had him at 772/120. Nunes: “He has the size and speed to win matchups on the outside, and if he gets himself into the open field, he's as good as gone. Both of his TDs last year were long ones and as long as Shrader or whoever is behind center isn't afraid to good deep, Alford could be the best shot at cracking some of the top secondaries the Orange will face this fall.” Here's that other TD:

Syracuse's Damien Alford's Scintillating 73-Yard TD Catch | ACC Must See Moment

(The QB wound up flat on his back on both TDs.)

Ordonde Gadsden is another huge target 6-5 216. He has a strong pedigree. His namesake father played for 6 years for the Miami Dolphins, catching 227 passes for 3,252 yards and 22 TDs. The son caught two passes last year for 24 yards but could play a much bigger role going forward. Having the 6-6 Alford on one side of the field and the 6-5 Gadsden on the other side gives the 6-4 Shrader two big targets he can play catch with. 247 had OGII at 1,020/146. Nunes: “with his 6-foot-5 frame, he’ll be in contention to see valuable minutes to give Syracuse an explosive edge it’s been missing for the past couple of years.” Let’s go with his high school highlights. Here’s what I said last year:
“His highlight film is remarkable for the number of unremarkable plays it contains:

Orande Gadsden Highlights | 2021 Signing Class

They seem to emphasize his blocking ability, which is the type of thing coaches notice more than fans. A good block from a wide receiver can turn a 10 yard play into a 50 yard play.” (I say that a lot.) Sean Tucker will be glad to have Mr. Gadsden on the field.

Umari Hatcher isn’t as big as Alford or Gadsden but looking at his high school film, I thought he was our best talent at this position – and he’s not small. 247 had him 892/131. Nunes: “Hatcher made some plays in the spring game and with a new offensive game plan he’ll have an opportunity to find his way onto the field more this Fall.” At 6’3 he brings the size on the outside that help the Orange move the ball and convert in the red zone. He hasn’t really gotten his chance yet: he played in four games last but with no stats. I predict stats in the future.

Here’s his high school highlight film and some excited comments on that film from Orangefizz:

Umari Hatcher Highlights | 2021 Signing Day

““Hatcher is the future at “z,” the boundary receiver. He’s primarily split out there even at the high school level. He does his best work when he has space to use and as the boundary receiver he has it. He is a very fluid route runner and sells his fakes well. At 6-3, he’s also a guy that can go up and get it and as the “z” he needs to be able to do that at the college level. He has incredible acceleration and straight line speed. He’s often used in the screen game and does a great job changing speeds once the blocks are set up and once he hits that top gear, he’s very difficult to catch. Going back to the route running, his footwork is incredible. A lot of wideout prospects tend to get open at the high school level with pure speed and acceleration. Hatcher can get open with speed as well, but what’s more impressive is the separation he gets on double moves and certain situations where it’s his agility that gets him open.”

Courtney Jackson is our slot guy. At 5-10 179 he doesn’t have the size of the wideouts but he does have speed and moves and can catch the ball. Last year he led the team with 37 catches for 389 yards and 3TDs. He also took a punt back 68 yards for a score against BC. 247 had him at 1247/98. Nunes: “Short routes gave Garrett Shrader an easy target to hit, and Jackson might be relied on heavily in the early part of the season and in the early part of games to establish some confidence in Shrader and his arm before going deep.” Here’s his punt return vs. BC:

Syracuse's Courtney Jackson Has All The Juice | ACC Must See Moment

Here he is making some tough catches, (two for scores) vs. Pittsburgh:

Syracuse's Courtney Jackson Highlights Against Pitt

Isaiah Jones is another big target at 6-4 204. He wasn’t rated by 247 and came here after a year in junior college. He’s only played on the kicking teams since he came here. Nunes: “It’s hard to see him jumping over a number of receivers but as we’ve said before this is a new staff and a new opportunity for everyone to make their case for playing time. Maybe we see Jones used in red zone packages and contributing on special teams.” He suffered an unknown injury on the first day of fall camp so his current status is unknown. Here’s his high school highlight film:

Senior Season Highlights

My comments last year: “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’.” Why 247 doesn’t rate him, I don’t know.

(8/9 Update: “wideout Isaiah Jones is expected to return this fall, Babers said. The fourth-year redshirt sophomore has watched the last five days of practice with his right arm in a sling… "It looks like he’s going to play this year," Babers said. "It looks like it. We’ve just got to wait and see for all of the swelling and stuff to go down to be able to see how he’s going to be able to handle it." – CuseNation 6/16: Isaiah was ‘back in pads and is expected to be ready for week 1 per reporter Stephen Bailey)

"It looks like he’s going to play this year," Babers said. "It looks like it. We’ve just got to wait and see for all of the swelling and stuff to go down to be able to see how he’s going to be able to handle it."

Steven Mahar Jr. This could be the go-to tight end if Anae/Becker want to have one. He’s out of Rochester and was rated the 835th best recruit and the 36th best tight end in the country. CUSE.com: “As a senior, totaled 20 receptions for 340 yards (17.0 avg.) and four touchdowns to go along with 35 tackles and one sack”. He’s played 19 games here but all on the kicking team. Nunes: “We have two tight ends at this point in camp. He’s one of them, and the more likely to be a pass catching option if that’s the direction that Robert Anae and Jason Beck want to throw to. (The fact that we have two tight ends makes me wonder how important they are to this offense.) He’s likely to get some good run on the season and may even be the primary option as a receiving tight end.” His highlights:

Senior Year - Steven Mahar Jr.

From my 2020 preview: 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 is the other tight end, a big, rangy kid who learned to play the game in Germany. He would be our blocking tight end. In two years, he’s caught 1 pass for 12 yards. 247 rated him 3,038/137. Nunes: “If not, he performed admirably as a blocking option at tight end last season, and that should be considered his primary role. He’s likely the first one in when Rhino needs a rest if there are bodies that need to be moved out there.” ‘Rhino’ is Chris Elmore, our lead blocker, who is listed as a fullback but moves around where he’s needed. Max has no highlight film but Cuse.com has a “Moments” clip from the Albany game, the game in which he had that one catch. Unfortunately, the clip is of an Albany player making a catch.

Trebor Pena Is our back-up slot guy and kick returner. He a real firecracker, having returned a kickoff 98 yards against NC State and caught a pass against Clemson for 62 yards, both for touchdowns. He got hurt halfway though last season. Trebor has averaged 22.7 yards per catch 26.3 per kickoff return and 7.7 per punt return. He’s a treat to go all the way any time he gets the ball. Jackson has been good but Pena could turn out to be even better in the slot. Pena’s shown big-play ability in his first two seasons. With a new offense in place could we see a bigger effort to get him the ball in space? He’ll still be returning kicks but it will be interesting to see if Robert Anae gets creative in finding new ways to put the ball in Pena’s hands.” 247 had him the 1,460 recruit and the #106 ‘athlete’. I think eh may be better than that. Here are Trebors two big plays so far:



(Shrader again winds up looking at the roof.)

Sam Warren is a walk-on who, in three years has never appeared in any games. He’s gotten a good view of them, though.

Nate Wellington is another walk how has been right next to Sam the whole way.

Kyle Acker is a freshman walk on with a lot of potential to be standing next to Warren and Wellington. But these guys help out a lot in practice and they bleed orange or they wouldn’t be here.

Donovan Brown is a three star freshman from Maryland. 247 has him 1,599/205 (WR). Cuse.com: Caught 31 passes for 611 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior … Also carried the ball 15 times for 104 yards and two touchdowns … Competed in track and field in high school, where he won the Maryland 4A State Championship in the 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash and took third in the 100-meter dash … Also a member of the basketball squad. Nunes: “The wide receiver group is deep but Syracuse is looking for more players who can take those short passes and turn them into long touchdowns. Brown needs to get stronger but he showed the ability to be a big-play threat in the spring game and he could force his way into the rotation this fall.” His high school highlights:

My Season

He has some zig-zag to go with his speed and he looks like a candidate for defensive back, as well.

Carter Clark is a 6-5 265 walk-on tight end/long snapper/DL from the Rochester area. 247 never heard of him and even Nunes hasn’t gotten to know him yet. From the comments on Syracusefan.com’s football recruiting page, he’s a big-boned kid who could be a good blocker and might build himself into an interior lineman. He does have some highlights on HUDL:

Carter Clark 6’5 TE/DE/LS - Senior Year

Unfortunately he suffered a “Lisfranc” injury. (a broken foot), and will be out for the season. Maybe we will see him make a difference in future years.

Josh Kubala is another walk-on tight end – from my alma mater, Cicero-North Syracuse. Also under 247’s and Nunes’ radar so far. He’s listed at 6-2 211, which is not the size of a modern tight end. But he looks pretty good kicking off, punting and place-kicking in these highlights:

Senior Season

Kendall Long Is a three star wideout from South Carolina. 247 has him 1,560/210. Cuse.com: 45 catches for 760 yards and 10 touchdowns for River Bluff High School. Ran track in high school where he was the region 5-5A champion in the long jump and 4x100-meter relay … All-Region in the long jump, triple jump and 4x100-meter relay … Also played basketball.” That means he has size, (6-2 215), speed and leaping ability. Nunes: Long is part of a group of young receivers who hope that the new offense gives them a chance to showcase their skills. It seems that Long is still a bit further down the depth chart but he’s got ideal size for an outside receiver. Here are his high school highlights:

Junior season highlights

He can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’s. And if he’s still tickin’, the can tick all the way to the goal line.

So, basically Brown and Long are the freshman class. That’s not a big class but I think that reflects Babers’ satisfaction with the people he has coming back. With a little more maturity and a quarterback who can get them the ball consistently, this could be a very productive group.

(8/9 Update: “Babers said that freshman Dom Foster came to him and asked to move from cornerback to wide receiver. A versatile athlete who enrolled this spring, Foster primarily played offense for Warren (Ohio) G. Harding High School, though he was recruited to be a cover man in Tony White's 3-3-5 scheme.
Foster donned his new orange No. 24 jersey on Tuesday and spent a lot of time getting coached up by new position coach Michael Johnson. He made a strong catch during 1-on-1s, getting behind Dartmouth corner transfer Isaiah Johnson and hauling in a deep ball from Del Rio-Wilson. Said Babers: "He said that he really likes offense better. When guys say they want to play something and they say their heart is behind it, I always give them an opportunity." – CuseNation) Sooo….

Dom Foster was so excited to come to Syracuse he kept sending our board highlights of each great play he made. Most of them were catches as a receiver but he was recruited here as a defensive back. He was one of the top 25 players in talent-rich Ohio. Nunes: “Foster finished his high school career with over 1,700 all-purpose yards as a wide receiver, defensive back and returner. During the spring game, Foster was working with the second-team. He got picked on a few times but he has the size and athleticism to become a contributor quickly.” 247 had him at #925/#63 as an ‘athlete’.”
 

SWC75

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The new depth chart shows Oronde Gadsden, all 6-5 216 of him, at tight end. I take that as a sign that Robert Anae wants a pass catching tight end in his offense. Or are we going without a true tight end in passing situations, in favor of four wide-outs plus the Tucker-Shrader one-two running punch. No need for an empty backfield. The fact that Gadsden is the starter suggests that won’t be just for special situations. I’m enjoying visualizing it.
 
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