Instant Impact

With the season just a few months away, CuseNation.com breaks down which freshmen can have an impact on the 2014 Syracuse Orange.

The incoming freshman class is set to arrive within the next month or so. With the season just three months away, CuseNation.com's Mike McAllister and John Garcia Jr. examine which players could make an immediate impact for the 2014 Syracuse Orange.

Offense

McAllister: Steve Ishmael – The talented wide receiver is recovering from a torn meniscus injury that hindered his explosiveness during his senior season. Now nearly fully recovered, and expected to be 100% when he arrives in late June, Ishmael could be poised to contribute right away. Few receivers possess his combination of size, athleticism and explosiveness. He may be the most talented receiver on the roster as early as this season. His potential is sky high, but Syracuse needs more offensive playmakers. Ishmael could fill that role to some extent, finding his way onto the field in three and four receiver threats helping to stretch the field.

Garcia Jr: Jamal Custis – SU lacked a serious vertical threat in 2013, and this 6-foot-6 basketball player could help fill that void sooner rather than later once he gets acclimated to the college game. Raw in his technique and route-running, there is no denying Custis' stride and ability to run well vertically. We've pointed out that he's not much of a "high-pointer" of the football despite his hoops background and natural length, but that is expected to change quickly at the next level once ACC coaches get a hold of him. Much like Brisly Estime at this time last cycle, the staff will work its way into getting this play-maker the football at some point in a game, especially as the season carries on. There may not be an offensive prospect in the 2014 signing class with a higher ceiling than Custis, a new-age tight end talent that could eventually be looked upon as the gem of a solid Scott Shafer haul.

Defense

McAllister: Colton Moskal – Moskal may be the most underrated prospect in Syracuse's 2014 class. A natural linebacker with gifted instincts, Moskal will be hard to keep off the field. He is a pure middle linebacker who could challenge Marqez Hodge and Luke Arciniega for the starting spot. While it may be difficult for him to land the starting gig, he could force the Orange staff to play him on a rotational basis. Head coach Scott Shafer also loves to use linebackers on special teams, where Moskal could have a big impact right away. His nose for the ball and physical style of play is a perfect fit for coverage units as well as the Syracuse defensive system.

Garcia Jr: Juwan Dowels – The Orange's secondary is a strength heading into 2014, but it remains a fairly thin unit, especially at cornerback. Safety has a great mix of experience and depth, but cornerback is shallow beyond projected starters Brandon Reddish and Julian Whigham. The ACC isn't exactly a running league, so depth on the edge will be paramount, and the 5-foot-10 talent's natural skill could have him on the field in passing situations early in his freshman season. Dowels is an experienced play-maker at one of South Florida's top football programs, just as Whigham was coming out of high school, making the transition to college ball a bit easier. His ball skills took a jump from his junior to senior season, but his solid instincts remained the same – making for a heck of a combination based on tape. Another factor could be health, as both starters at cornerback have dealt with the injury bug at multiple times in recent seasons, which could accelerate the process of early PT.

Wild Card

McAllister: K.J. Williams – Williams is the lone four-star prospect in this class, and like Ishmael, is at a position of need for Syracuse. With the need for playmakers, Williams could fit the bill if he can learn the playbook quickly. His combination of route running, underrated speed and ideal size makes him a nightmare to cover especially down the field. For Williams, it's all about the mental game. If he can get that to match his physical tools sooner rather than later, he could become one of those playmakers that helps the Orange take the next step offensively.

Garcia Jr: Jalen Harvey – This late snag from SEC country seemed big when it happened, and it could show up very quickly on the field in 2014. While the 300-pounder may not be an every-down linemen early in his career, he may actually be able to help in passing situations with his disruptive ability to break down an opposing guard. The interior D-line depth isn't great on the SU roster, with or without Wayne Williams' readiness, so there isn't a lot in the way of Harvey seeing some early playing time. The frosh to be has consistent disengaging skills against very good competition based on tape and in person, made possible with good strength and violent hands. Any improved technique could take him from wildcard on this list to perhaps the top emerger from the class, at least early on.


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