During his freshman season, wide receiver Brisly Estime showed flashes of becoming the kind of playmaker Syracuse has been lacking for the better part of 15 years. The diminutive wide receiver from Florida made up for his short stature with electric speed and quickness, coming up with some key plays as 2013 went on, including a 70-yard punt return in the Texas Bowl that helped the Orange beat Minnesota.
Last year, between getting shuffled back and forth between the h-back position and wide receiver and getting dinged up, his production level turned out disappointing. He had been expected to play a significant role in then-coordinator George McDonald’s offense, but appeared in just the first four games of the season. He made only 10 catches with a single touchdown in those four appearances before missing the remainder of the year due to injury.
On the surface, the 5-foot-9 receiver’s numbers haven’t exactly exploded this year but he’s already impacting the game in a number of ways and beginning to live up to the lofty hopes placed on him by the Syracuse faithful. He may only have three receptions this season, but they’ve got for a whopping 107 yards, including an 89 yard touchdown against Wake Forest last week in what was probably the play of the game.
— ACC Football (@theACCfootball) September 12, 2015
It was the third longest pass and catch in Syracuse football history, and came on the heels of another explosive play against Rhode Island: a 74-yard punt return for a score, the first punt return TD in more than a decade for the Orange. Estime hasn’t had many chances to return punts this season, with only three attempts this season, but he’s been making the most of his opportunities with an average of 32.0 yards-per-return (obviously, bolstered greatly by the touchdown, but even so, averaging 11.0 yards-per-return on the other two is very good).
With Erv Philips out at least a couple more weeks, Syracuse is going to need playmakers to emerge to fill the void. Steve Ishmael has been surprisingly quiet so far this season, making just four catches for 82 yards and a score. Syracuse has been focusing more on the run than the passing game through two weeks, so there haven’t been a lot of catches to go around, of course. Ishmael’s four catches are tops on the team, and Estime ranks second with three receptions.
The Orange haven’t had to put too much pressure on true freshman QB Eric Dungey and the passing game, of course. The Orange blew out Rhode Island and were free to run the ball on virtually every down in the second half against the Rams, and Dungey attempted just 13 passes in the win over Wake Forest. But things could change in a hurry as the schedule starts getting a little bit tougher. Central Michigan comes to town this weekend, and while the Orange should be able to handle them to improve to 3-0, there’s a decent chance the game could turn into a little bit of a shootout thanks to Chippewa senior QB Cooper Rush. Wake Forest threw all over the Orange last week, and Rush is a superior quarterback to what Syracuse faced against the Deacs.
If the Orange need to try out-scoring the Chippewas, they’ll need guys like Estime to continue making plays. Be it gaining field position through kick and punt returns or getting solid YAC in the passing game, Estime is one of the most dynamic offensive weapons Tim Lester has at his disposal. The continued emergence of Estime as a legitimate playmaker could be the difference between a bowl berth and another disappointing season, particularly if Philips takes longer than expected to recuperate from his minor surgery.