Countdown to Camp 2017

Countdown to Camp: Syracuse has 2 wide receiver spots up for grabs

Jessica Sheldon | Staff Photographer

Steve Ishmael will take over Syracuse as the primary outside receiver with Amba Etta-Tawo's departure.

Syracuse football’s training camp begins July 30. Every day leading up to camp, The Daily Orange’s football beat writers will take a look at some of the upcoming season’s most pressing storylines, players and position battles. Read more on the Countdown to Camp here.

The passing game drove Syracuse’s strong offensive output last year. In part, it was the strong play of quarterback Eric Dungey, but he missed several games down the stretch. Still, the offense played well. That was especially the case in the season finale against Pittsburgh, when the Orange put up 61 points.

The strong core of wide receivers kept Syracuse motoring, led by record-setting Amba Etta-Tawo. Now, Etta-Tawo and the dynamic Brisly Estime are gone. Last year, SU deployed four wide receiver sets. Etta-Tawo and Steve Ishmael usually lined up on the outside, Ervin Philips and Estime on the inside.

In his senior season, Ishmael will take over as the primary outside receiver, and Philips was already the No. 1 on the inside. The Orange has to find a second outside and inside receiver to fill the holes. There are two receivers competing for both jobs, and training camp will provide all four a chance to show why they are most deserving.

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Jacob Greenfeld | Staff Photographer

The first depth chart lists Jamal Custis and Devin Butler as the two players competing on the outside. They have rather different skill sets. At 6-foot-5, Custis is the tallest wide receiver on the roster. He would bring an unparalleled size factor, if he stays on the field. He missed all of last season with an undisclosed injury and caught only five balls in 19 games over two seasons before that.

Butler is a speedy wide receiver who could make him an immediate deep threat. But inexperience remains a worry here, too. Butler missed the last six games of the year due to a foot injury, according to multiple reports, and while he was medically OK by spring practices, he has not taken on a major role for SU.

The inside receiver battle, per the depth chart, is between Sean Riley and Sean Avant. Riley should have the upper hand here. He caught more balls last year (11) than Avant has in his three years at SU (seven). At 5-foot-8, 155-pounds, Riley is small, even by inside receiver standards. He also figures to take over as the primary return man, which might impact his availability as an inside receiver. Syracuse.com’s Stephen Bailey has reported that incoming freshman Nykeim Johnson has impressed early. He will be somebody to keep an eye on for the inside spot opposite Philips.

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