The unquestioned number one receiver for the Syracuse Orange entering the 2015 season is sophomore Steve Ishmael. On Tuesday, he gave Syracuse coaches a scare when he went down after colliding with freshman center Andrejas Duerig.
Ishmael is fine with just a very minor bruise, and returned to practice in full on Wednesday. Now that the Orange coaches have taken a collective sigh of relief, Ishmael and the team can focus on the upcoming campaign.
Ishmael has spent the spring, summer and fall camp adjusting to Tim Lester’s new offense. Nearly every player has had high praise for the system, believing the Orange are ready to surprise on the offensive side of the ball. Count Ishmael among that group.
”I like everything,” he said. “I feel like it’s a pro-style type NFL offense. We’re just mastering one concept of formations, everything. I really like it. I’m looking forward to incorporating it into the season this year.”
With Ishmael on one side, Erv Philips drawing attention out of the slot, and a variety of options opposite Ishmael, the hope is that those weapons give Syracuse a multi-faceted, dynamic offense.
The key to that, however, may be the chemistry between Ishmael and senior quarterback Terrel Hunt. Knowing the importance of that relationship, the pair has spent a lot of time together in order to make sure they are always on the same page.
”It’s developed tremendously,” Ishmael said. “Terrel Hunt, he was injured last season but he ended up fully recovering this spring. Literally, I kid you not, after practice every day we’ve literally been working on routes, timing of our routes, everything.
”I’ve really built up a relationship with him and I feel comfortable with him at quarterback.”
Last season, Syracuse was forced to play four quarterbacks due to a rash of injuries that severely impacted the team. With that in mind, Ishmael believes he is developing a strong rapport with all of the signal callers on the roster.
”Our chemistry has grown a lot,” Ishmael said. “Zack Mahoney, the walk-on. I really like the freshman, Eric Dungey. Kenterius ended up moving. I really like Eric Dungey. He’s a good, young guy. He’s confident as well. He came in, not nervous, just like a normal guy. Goes out there and does his job.
”He’s actually made a couple of great throws in practice.”
Ishmael has added weight and strength since last season, something that will help him be better against press coverage and allow him to win at the line of scrimmage. He is able to work on those skills during practice while matchup up with the guy he says is the best corner on the roster. Someone who he believes makes him better because he faces the long athlete every day.
”Julian Whigham, man,” Ishmael said. “Long arms. Long body. He’s almost like Richard Sherman. He’s a real, good physical guy. One thing I like about him is his confidence has gone up tremendously. Physical, strong, he’s gotten a lot mentally tougher. Over the summer, we’ve worked on releases and everything. I’m looking forward to him having a big season this year.”
Syracuse is expecting one from Ishmael as well.