Josh Parris was supposed to be the starter at tight end when Syracuse opens the season against Villanova on the fast approaching 29th of August. His ability to be one of the breakout performers, at least initially, has been derailed by a lower body injury that requires surgery.
Head coach Scott Shafer has adopted a ‘next man up’ mantra within the program. It was useful in helping to motivate the team towards the end of last season when they faced multiple injuries to starters.
That motto will be tested once again with the loss of Parris.
The good news is that coach Shafer indicated during his press conference on Tuesday that the surgery will remove cartilage in his knee.
"He had a little clicking in his knee," Shafer said. "We got it checked out. He's got a little cartilage thing. Hopefully it's something where they can just go in and get him cleaned up very quickly very similar to Adly. But you never know. If they have to suture it up then it could be a little bit longer."
That said, it seems unlikely that Parris would be back for the opener. The bye week coming after week one, previously thought to be in a non-ideal slot, comes at a perfect time for Parris’ recovery.
The extra week off could mean he returns for the matchup with Central Michigan on September 13th.
For the time being, however, Syracuse has to find a replacement for Parris. Not only for week one, but someone who can takeover in case the worst-case scenario comes to fruition. They have to find the next man up.
At first glance, that would seem to be Kendall Moore. But he has been nursing a lower body injury of his own. Even assuming he is ready to go in week one, he is not the receiving threat that Parris provides. Moore is, however, the superior blocker.
Jamal Custis, a true freshman who has been rising throughout camp, looks to be the best receiving option. His size and speed for the position combined with solid hands can make him a weapon in the passing game. However, he has only been part of the program for a couple of months and is still learning the system. Custis also has to develop as a reliable blocker.
Fellow freshman Adly Enoicy would have likely been the top option had he not suffered a similar injury in recent weeks. That has curbed his ability to learn the system in order to be ready for the season opener.
Tyler Provo is also an interesting option as someone who could play some snaps if needed. He knows the system and is a strong blocking tight end.
"We'll see," Shafer said. "We'll have to progress daily and see how we're doing. Kendall Moore was back out at practice today which was good to see. We're just going to see how he (Custis) progresses. He's been playing well though, inside. He's a great target for the quarterbacks because he's such a tall, long target. He gets on those linebackers and you can throw away from him.
"And he runs well too, especially when you move him inside. I think we had him in the mid 4.5s at probably 6-5, 6-5 and a half, 6-6, 230 (pounds). So we'll see how quickly we can bring him a long and how much he can digest. But I think we have some good answers in there. Looking forward to see how Provo comes along. We'll figure it out. We're pleased with all of those tight ends progress. They're working hard for coach Acosta."
That trio will have to try to replicate everything that Parris brought to the table, whether it’s in the short term or beyond. Shafer may have to modify his mantra to next men up in this case.