Atop Syracuse’s receiving hierarchy, Trishton Jackson believes he’s not a true No. 1 yet

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ It’s become almost an expectation that Syracuse teams under Dino Babers will produce a 1,000-yard, dominant inside-outside receiver. In essence, a true No. 1. Though Jamal Custis (906 yards) missed that statistical mark last year, his two predecessors atop SU’s wideout depth chart — Steve Ishmael in 2017 and Amba Etta-Tawo in 2016 — surpassed it. Every week, they could be counted on to soak up more targets than their colleagues and turn those targets into more catches, yards and touchdowns, too. Trishton Jackson is next in Babers’ wideout pipeline. Through six games, the Michigan State transfer seems on his way to joining the lineage of top-flight receivers at SU.“Just an every down receiver, can play everywhere,” Jackson said of what constitutes a No. 1 wideout, “Certain formations, can play in the slot. Can be out there, always on the field running routes, blocking for the running backs.”Jackson has been all those things for Syracuse (3-3, 0-2 Atlantic Coast) midway through its season. He leads the Orange in catches, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and target share — the percentage of SU’s passes that are thrown to him. But Jackson, by his own admission, isn’t yet a true No. 1 receiver. That’s because, he said, he’s still working to become a better leader off the field and perfecting the off-the-field trappings of being an elite wideout. AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I think I’m definitely on the right track,” Jackson said. “Definitely some things I need to clean up to be the actual No. 1 receiver in our offense.” Comments Playing catch upInfogramThree weeks ago, Babers wasn’t ready to anoint Jackson as SU’s No. 1 receiver. When asked this Monday about Jackson’s outsized role in Syracuse’s passing game relative to other receivers, Babers demurred. “I don’t look at it that way,” Babers said. “With the success that Trishton’s having, I wouldn’t be surprised if he started getting some double coverage down the road.”Jackson has been on the other end of 57 (26.5 percent) of Syracuse’s 215 passes this season. That is testament enough to his case as the Orange’s paramount pass catcher. While Jackson’s had more than a quarter of SU’s passes thrown his way, the next closest player is Taj Harris, who sits at a 15.3 percent target share. Harris has as many targets as Jackson has receptions. Pile on Jackson’s statistics midway through the season — 499 receiving yards, 33 catches and six receiving touchdowns — and the stat sheet paints a clear picture. This season, Jackson’s caught touchdowns running fly routes, hooks, posts, slants and even took a smoke screen for a touchdown against Western Michigan, gliding away from three defenders. On that play, Jackson turned on the line of scrimmage at the snap, moving to the screen pass Tommy DeVito delivered. He turned upfield with no blockers in front of him, split the cornerback and linebacker before stiff-arming a WMU safety into the turf and sprinting down the sideline for a score. “He can do a whole bunch of things that almost forces the defense to have two people on him,” DeVito said. “I can throw the ball to him on the line of scrimmage and he’s going to make a play, take it to the house.”Corey Henry | Photo EditorBesides using his speed and lateral quickness to blend into Syracuse’s screen game, Jackson assumes a more traditional downfield role of an outside receiver. Earlier in the WMU game, Jackson tracked a deep ball from DeVito over his left shoulder, slowed his feet and adjusted to the location. The redshirt junior let the hit from a defensive back propel him into the endzone while he secured the catch. There’s little doubt Jackson possesses the athleticism, size and skills necessary to be an inside-outside, every-down receiver. But Jackson’s booming production hasn’t equaled a booming offense for the Orange. Against North Carolina State, when SU’s offense managed to cobble together 10 points, he had his highest single-game target share of the season: 15 targets, 38.5 percent. And that’s not to say Jackson’s usage is detrimental by nature. He received 30.6 percent of SU’s targets a week before against Holy Cross, a game the Orange won by 38. Ultimately, Syracuse isn’t necessarily scheming as bluntly as “get 86 the ball” so much as looking at individual matchups on each play, Babers said Monday. Syracuse views Jackson as an advantage in most one-on-one matchups with cornerbacks and DeVito has targeted him accordingly.But, to Babers point, a defensive audible or double team on Jackson can change who is the No. 1 target on any play at any point. That doesn’t change the underlying truth: Syracuse’s passing game runs through Jackson. “A lot of the time that’s the matchup that we get,” DeVito said. “For some reason they like to have some guys covering him and we really like that matchup.”Max Freund | Staff PhotographerBut Jackson said he needs to do more off the field before he considers himself in that light. Almost every player spoke to a different level of intensity in practice this week, more focused film sessions and better player-to-player accountability across the board. Jackson was among them. “I think that’s where Coach Babers wanted to see me improve,” Jackson said. “And I think I’ve been improving in that.”Syracuse is at a critical point in its season. With three wins and a balanced back-end of the schedule in play, the Orange’s season depends on how it responds from a gutting loss to North Carolina State. Jackson should maintain his pace, currently on target for 998 yards by the end of the season, but if he succeeds with his improvement then maybe he can be a stabilizing force in a flailing offense. And if Jackson cements himself as the alpha in SU’s passing game and helps drag the Orange to a bowl, no one will ask who Syracuse’s No. 1 receiver is. Published on October 16, 2019 at 11:04 pm Contact Andrew: [email protected] | @A_E_Grahamlast_img

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