TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There is only one school with three receivers among the ACC’s top 10 in receptions per game.
Clemson would make an obvious choice, but the Tigers have just two.
Virginia Tech has two more, while North Carolina, Duke and Miami each have one.
The only team with three? That would be Syracuse, which, despite a 4-6 record, has one of the top passing offenses in the nation.
The Seminoles will get a first-hand look at the Orange’s passing attack – which features receivers Amba Etta-Tawo, Ervin Phillips and Steve Ishmael – Saturday in the Carrier Dome.
“They do a good job playing with their personnel and I don’t think their record shows how good a team they are,” senior cornerback Marquez White said. “They’re finding playmakers.”
Chief among them is Etta-Tawo, whose numbers stack up against just about every receiver in the country.
A senior transfer from Maryland, Etta-Tawo (6-2, 202 pounds) ranks in the top 10 nationally in catches (79), receiving yards (1,246) and receiving yards per game (124.6).
He’s also got eight receiving touchdowns, which rank only behind Clemson’s Mike Williams for the ACC lead.
“I like him. I think he’s a good player,” White said. “He does a lot of good things for them. I think the main thing for us this week is taking away that space. You see a lot of teams like to play him off, give him soft throws and that’s not what we plan on doing this week.”
If the Seminoles take away Etta-Tawo, they still must contend with Phillips and Ishmael.
Phillips has caught 72 passes for 652 yards and five touchdowns, while Ishmael, a Miami native, has chipped in 483 yards and a score on 41 catches.
Each are among the ACC leaders in several receiving categories.
“I give them their credit,” said FSU cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, who still leads the nation with seven interceptions. “They’ve been doing their thing. We’re just going to come in and play our game.”
Complicating things for Syracuse, however, is the status of sophomore quarterback Eric Dungey.
Dungey suffered an unspecified injury two weeks ago at Clemson and hasn’t played since.
Syracuse coach Dino Babers has already said that Dungey is doubtful for Saturday’s game, and a recent report on Syracuse.com said only that his injury is not considered career-threatening.
Dungey ranks 14th nationally with 297.7 passing yards per game. If he is unable to play, Zach Mahoney, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship before the start of the season, is next in line.
Mahoney threw for 190 yards and a touchdown in a loss at NC State last week.
Regardless of who is under center, the Seminoles expect a test.
“I don’t think it matters (who plays quarterback),” White said. “They like to get the ball out quick and take shots when they can.”
Then again, that’s nothing new for a secondary that has already faced four of the top 20 passing offenses in college football.
Syracuse will be No. 5.
“We’ve played against good receivers every week,” McFadden said. “From start, all the way to finish.”