3-star WR Ishmael prepares to visit top-choice Syracuse

Steve Ishmael isn’t quite ready to verbally commit to Syracuse, but acknowledges that he has every reason to.

In the course of the last year, offensive coordinator George McDonald has built a pipeline between Central New York and Ishmael’s home state of Florida. Syracuse safety Ritchy Desir also went to North Miami Beach Senior High School. Alin Edouard, SU’s latest verbal commitment for 2014, is not just another Miami native but a good friend, and Ishmael knows that with the Orange’s thin receiving corps in 2013 he would have the chance to compete for snaps right away.

But as of now, it’s not enough.

“It’s definitely my No. 1 school,” Ishmael said, “but I have to visit and see a few things.”

The three-star wide receiver has scheduled his official visit for Jan. 17. Ishmael already knows the football logistics — he’s recited them a hundred times over in his head — so it won’t matter that the program will be hibernating when he arrives. He’s more interested in gauging the student body’s school spirit on an average Syracuse day.

Wide receiver is already the strongest position in SU’s Class of 2014, and Ishmael could join K.J. Williams, Jamal Custis and Corey Cooper as the fourth part of a possible machine.

“I will most likely make my decision after that weekend,” Ishmael said. “I want to see how much the students support their team and what the energy is like on campus on any day.”

But the 6-foot-3, 180-pounder has a hard time classifying himself as a certain type of receiver.

He’s fast, but he’s not a speed guy. He can use his size against smaller cornerbacks, but he doesn’t rely on his frame. He can create space, but also has the hands to catch passes in traffic.

“I guess I’m just an all-around receiver,” he said.

Ishmael admits he has a lot to work on, but thinks he could already excel in a variety of roles at the collegiate level. And it’s this versatility that earned him offers from Miami (Fla.), Louisville and Oregon, among other top schools, as well as high praise from a potential future teammate.

“He reminds me of Sammy Watkins,” said Edouard, a quarterback who verbally committed to SU on Oct. 20. “You know how Watkins is like crazy and can do anything on the field? Yeah, that’s Steve.”

Edouard’s been keeping up with Ishmael’s recruiting process and plugging Syracuse when he gets the chance. But on Nov. 2, he kicked his personal recruitment of the receiver into high gear.

Edouard’s Hialeah (Fla.) High School beat North Miami Beach, but Edouard described Ishmael’s performance as “completely dominant.”

He now texts Ishmael more often, and humbly confessed that having a friend to venture north with would ease the life-changing transition.

“Miami and Syracuse, those are two really different places,” Edouard said. “It would be nice to have someone who knows where I’m coming from and we could do a lot of the new things together.”

“He texts me a lot,” Ishmael said laughing, “I always let him know that I hear him.”

A Miami native, Ishmael could stay under the Florida sun and play in front of hometown fans by committing to the Hurricanes. Young athletes dream of flashy uniforms and bright lights, and Oregon provides as much. And with ambitions to play professional football, Louisville’s pass-happy offense could put him in the draft conversation when the time comes.

But a higher calling is drawing him closer to SU. On Saturday, the Orange clinched bowl eligibility in its first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference and Ishmael is interested in being part of a “growing program.”

A.J. Long, another quarterback verbally committed to SU for 2014, thinks Ishmael is a piece that could push the program over the proverbial hump between competing and contending.

The Orange’s pedigree is swelling, and if Ishmael likes what he sees, it could continue to.

“Because they’re committed, a lot of people are focusing on Corey, K.J. and Jamal,” Long said. “But another guy everyone should also be talking about is Steve Ishmael, that’s a guy who could really make us a lot better in the future.”


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