Other than the loss of quarterback Ryan Nassib and left tackle Justin Pugh, no loss looms larger for the Syracuse Orange heading into the 2013 season than the loss of senior wide receivers Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales. Sales was a great playmaker early in the 2012 season and drew a lot of attention from defenses all season, which opened things up for Lemon to become a dangerous threat and Nassib’s favorite target out of the slot. However, with Sales and Lemon both running out of eligibility, there is a profound lack of experience in Syracuse’s corps of wide receivers.
Without Sales and Lemon, the Orange will lean on junior Jarrod West, who is their most experienced receiver after playing alongside Sales and Lemon in Syracuse’s three-receiver offense last year. West is more of a possession receiver than he is a dynamic playmaker, but he is a proficient route runner and he’ll need to use the skills he does have to become a bigger receiving threat in 2013. Outside of West, Syracuse has little experience, but a lot of talent and potential at the receiver position.
Three wide receivers that have at least some playing experience are seniors Adrian Flemming and Chris Clark and junior Jeremiah Kobena. Flemming has played sparingly over the last three seasons, as he’s been hampered by injuries. He started to breakout in fall camp last year, but had yet another injury that prevented him from being a significant part of Syracuse’s wide receiver rotation. If he’s healthy, Flemming has the size and skill that can make an impact, and he should be one of the favorites to earn a starting spot. Clark played a few snaps in nearly every game last year after transferring to Syracuse from junior college, and if he can add more muscle to fight off cornerbacks, the Orange should be able to utilize his speed this year. Kobena is another speedster that has seen a lot of time as a kick returner and saw some time at wide receiver last year, but missed a few games due to injury. With more opportunities to play in 2013, Kobena could have a breakout season, as he’s shown the ability to get behind defenses, something the Syracuse offense has been missing for years.
Three more receivers that have no experience but could play key roles in 2013 are sophomore Quinta Funderburk, and redshirt freshmen Alvin Cornelius and Ben Lewis. Funderburk was the most talented receiver on the team last year, but had to sit out as a transfer after redshirting with the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2011. He has yet to play in a college football game, but he should be anxious to get on the field and has the ability to make a major impact for the Orange this year. Cornelius and Lewis, as well as trio of incoming freshmen, are capable of taking advantage of the playing time available and have the talent to contribute this year.
The losses of Sales and Lemon will be immense for Syracuse to deal with at the wide receiver position this year, and they leave the Orange with a profound lack of experience. However, with players like West, Kobena, Funderburk, Flemming, and a slew of promising youngsters, there is no shortage of talent at wide receiver for the Orange. With a lot of options and a lot of playing time up for grabs, the competition should be intense and the Orange should have no problem finding viable replacements for Sales and Lemon. It’ll take more than two players to make up for all the production lost, but Syracuse has enough talent at receiver to do it.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him to your network on Google+.