Wide receivers show potential early in spring practice

The return of seniors Christopher Clark and Jarrod West, as well as some young talent, give SU some depth at the receiver position.

The philosophy of Orange head football coach Scott Shafer has always been centered on the idea that a hard-nosed defense will trump a talented offense on any occasion. If you need proof, just look at Syracuse’s 2012 Pinstripe Bowl victory over West Virginia. His defensive unit held the ninth-best offensive team in the country to only fourteen points in a dominant triumph over the Mountaineers.

As the Orange hits the home stretch of spring practice, however, one of the biggest challenges Shafer and his staff currently face is replacing the nearly 2,000 yards of production that left with Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales.

This is by no means an easy task. Losing one dominant pass-catcher is hard enough. Losing two of them at the same time seems downright victimizing.

Based on the attitudes of the players and coaches hard at work for the 2013 season, however, there is no need for Orange fans to hit the panic button just yet. The returning wide receivers, especially the seniors, have shown early potential during the past three weeks, said wide receiver coach Rob Moore.

Chris Clark has had a pretty good start so far. He’s really improved from last season,” Moore said. “Jarrod West had a pretty good day today. He’s gradually getting better.”

West, who had one of the highlights of Sunday’s open practice with a beautiful catch along the sideline, realized he must embrace his new role as a team leader.

“It’s important for me to come in and learn every position,” West said, “so that I can help out the guys around me when we’re out on the field.” When his fellow players are confused, West said he wants to be able to tell them understand the plays and the routes. “That way, all the quarterback has to do is drop back and make good reads.”

Although West is the returning team leader in both receiving yards and receptions, he is just one of many talented players found on the Orange depth chart.

“I feel like they’re a very talented group, probably the best I’ve ever played with,” West added. “The depth is really, really good.”

The quarterbacks have even noticed the vast improvement of their teammates amidst a wide-open battle for the starting job.

Despite having to split time under center with Charley Loeb and Terrel Hunt, senior quarterback John Kinder said he has developed a widespread chemistry with each of his fellow receivers.

“I feel like I have a great relationship with all my receivers on and off the field,” Kinder explained. “That helps with timing and all that stuff.”

As for which of the younger receivers will break out this season, the picture remains a little blurry. Arkansas transfer Quinta Funderburk, who did not play any games last season for the Orange, is very fast and athletic, but lacks the consistency of a dependable weapon. Likewise, junior Jeremiah Kobena is a deep threat, but he needs to refine his route-running and downfield vision.

But there is still plenty of time for someone to emerge, coach Moore said.

“I’ll have a better feel for that once we get to the summer,” Moore said. “Right now, I’m hesitant to say there’s one guy in particular. Overall, the progress is good.”

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