USA TODAY Sports-Mark Konezny

Position Preview: Wide Receiver

Taking a look at the wide receiver position for Syracuse football entering the 2016 season.

The Syracuse Orange football team starts their first season under head coach Dino Babers on Friday. Heading into the opener, the wide receiver position is one that has both known quantities and question marks. 

Depth Chart

OUTSIDE WR 1

Starter: Steve Ishmael  
Backup: Jamal Custis                             

OUTSIDE WR 2

Starter: Amba Etta-Tawo
Backup: Alvin Cornelius                               

SLOT WR

Starter: Ervin Philips  
Backup: Brisly Estime                        

Playmaking Talent

A key position within the Dino Babers offense is wide receiver. He frequently uses four wide receiver sets, giving several players the opportunity to make plays. Even with an offense that struggled at times last season, there is some talent at wide receiver. 

It starts with Steve Ishmael, who led the team in receptions (39), yards (570) and touchdowns (7) last season. Ishmael is a legit number one wide receiver in the ACC. He runs solid routes, has great hands and works as hard at his craft as anyone. 

Is this the year Ishmael eclipses the 1,000 yard mark? It may depend partially on the production around him. As the clearcut top receiving option, teams double him and shift coverage in his direction. Brisly Estime, with his elite speed, could become a big time playmaker in this offense. 

Getting him the ball quickly in space should allow him a lot of opportunities to turn short throws into big gains. Similarly, Ervin Philips has the ability to make defenders miss and gain extra yardage. His issue last season, however, was route running and catching down the field. 

With an entire offseason focused on being a wide receiver, Philips could take a step towards more consistency. Should he achieve that, he could also become a dangerous weapon for the Orange. That gives Syracuse three legitimate wide receivers who can hurt opponents. 

Need for Depth

Having those three wide receivers is all well and good, but Syracuse needs more depth to emerge in order to round out the group. Alvin Cornelius showed flashes during the spring, but he has done that in the past. Game day has been inconsistent for the senior wideout. 

Jamal Custis and Adly Enoicy have only seen the field sparingly thus far in their careers. Both have big time size and are strong athletes. However, both possess average at best speed. It this the year either one can carve out a role? That is a big question entering training camp. 

Behind them, players like Sean Avant, Tyrone Perkins and Kenterius Womack are battling for snaps this season.

One common theme within the group, outside of a couple of exceptions, is a lack of speed. Especially when compared to the rest of the ACC. That is something the staff is working to improve in recruiting. And a reason why Womack could see the field in some packages. 

Newcomers

True freshman Devin Butler has the type of speed the staff covets. But to expect him to be a major factor in year one may be asking too much. It will be tough for him to rise up the depth chart, but given his speed, does have an opportunity this fall. 

One who could is Sean Riley, a speedy, electric athlete from California. The true freshman may be on the short side, but he is an elusive open field runner who can make plays in the slot or in the return game. Yes Estime and Philips will take the bulk of the snaps there, but Riley's speed may force him onto the field in certain packages. 

A real interesting player to watch is Amba Etta-Tawo, a graduate transfer from Maryland. He has struggled with consistency catching the ball with the Terps, leading to his lack of consistent playing time. However, Etta-Tawo is an elite speedster who brings much needed explosiveness to the receiving corps. We have him projected as the starting outside receiver opposite Ishmael due to a strong training camp. 

Keep an eye on Scoop Bradshaw as well. He switched from defensive back to wide receiver during training camp, and impressed as a slot guy. His move may be permanent as a result. 


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