As we continue to race toward opening kickoff against Colgate, Syracuse fans have been talking a lot about the brand new, exciting, uptempo Dino Babers offense. Eric Dungey, Dontae Strickland, Steve Ishmael, Jordan Fredericks, Brisly Estime, and even Jamal Custis have been getting press over these first few days of camp. But is it me, or is there someone very important to the Orange offense we’ve been kind of overlooking?
Last year, no Syracuse player had more touchdowns than Erv Philips. Playing the now notorious “hybrid” role in Tim Lester’s offense, he caught five touchdown passes and rushed for three more scores. As a true freshman two years ago, he burst onto the scene with flashes of electric open field moves, though in retrospect the numbers don’t show all of that promise that we saw in that year.
Philips finished his first season with the Orange as the team’s most exciting tailback, rushing for 194 yards and catching 15 passes. Last year he transitioned to the hybrid spot and, despite missing some time with injuries, put up solid numbers over nine games. Yet right now, I’ve got a poll going on Twitter about who the second leading receiver for Syracuse will be, with Steve Ishmael the obvious choice as the top pass catcher.
We can probably all agree Ish will lead SU in receiving. But who will be second in catches?
— OttosGrove.com (@OttosGrove) August 9, 2016
At the time of writing this, with more than 23 hours left before the poll closes, Brisly Estime is running away with the fan vote. And hey, I think Brisly Estime is absolutely poised for a big year. But it’s a little weird that everyone – and I include myself here – seems to have a tendency to overlook Philips, who has tremendous quickness and big play ability.
After all, last season it was Philips who finished second on the team with 29 receptions, only 10 catches behind team-leader Ishmael. Estime, for comparison, hauled in 17 passes. Now obviously, it’s easier to remember the big plays than the little ones, and Estime’s yards-per-catch were nearly double Erv’s, including an 89 yard touchdown reception against Wake Forest.
But with this duo, Syracuse might have one of the sneaky-good slot receiver combinations in the ACC. They’re both smaller guys, and neither has put up huge numbers, but they’re both highly capable of doing big things with the ball in their hands. Bowling Green had Ronnie Moore and Ryan Burbrink combine for 128 receptions and 1,581 yards with 10 touchdowns between them. Given this is the first year installing Dino’s offense at Syracuse, those numbers probably aren’t attainable for Estime and Philips this year.
Then again, they’re probably not as farfetched as we might think. Now, obviously Philips is still learning how to be a full-time receiver. And hell, he may actually get a few carries here and there. He’s certainly capable of toting the rock now and then (though, with Moe Neal – who I’ve long thought to be Erv 2.0 given how eerily similar their high school highlights are – the opportunities will be limited at best), but Philips will do almost all of his damage coming out of the slot.
In a season full of possibilities on offense, one of the most dynamic weapons at Dino Babers’ disposal is Erv Philips. And somehow, extraordinarily, that’s a name a lot of us keep forgetting to mention.