Orange Watch: The amazing one season story of Syracuse football’s Amba Etta-Tawo

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Just months after arriving practically anonymously from Maryland, Orange wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo has put up All American numbers

Item: While quarterback Greg Paulus may have been the first “name” player to take advantage of the graduate transfer rule to return home in 2009 to join the Syracuse football program for a season while pursuing his Master’s degree at the Newhouse School, following a four year career as a Duke basketball guard, there’s no comparing Paulus’s impact compared to Etta-Tawo’s contributions in his nine games to date of the 2016 schedule. Paulus helped Doug Marrone’s first team significantly with a college veteran’s prescience while Ryan Nassib developed, and completed 68% of his passes for 2,025 yards and 13 touchdowns as the Orange finished 4-8. All Etta-Tawo has done since arriving from Maryland late last spring to finish his eligibility and enroll in the School of Education is catch a 43 yard scoring pass on the first ball Eric Dungey threw his way against Colgate midway through the first quarter of the season opener Sept. 2, and built off that performance in each successive week to already shatter the two most prestigious single season school reception records with three games to play.

Even though it was Ervin Phillips who tied Art Monk’s nearly 40 year ‘Cuse record with 14 catches against the Raiders that steamy Sept. evening in Dino Babers fast-paced offensive debut on The Hill, Etta-Tawo was right behind with 12 receptions that night and he hasn’t let up.

First record to fall in last Saturday’s blowout loss at Clemson was Marvin Harrison’s 1995 season yardage record (1,131) on a 17 yard completion from Austin Wilson in third quarter, and Etta-Tawo now has 1,158 yards through nine games tops in the ACC.

» Related: Clemson, and reality, crashes down on Syracuse football

Later, the Biletnikoff Award candidate grabbed his sixth pass against the vaunted Tigers defense to move past the underrated Alec Lemon’s 2012 mark of 72 catches in a season, and after nine receptions versus Clemson he has 75, also leading the conference.

Despite Etta-Tawo’s individual achievements and the results showcasing the benefits of his off-season work with Dungey to accelerate their learning curve of each other’s timing and Babers lightning speed pace, the Clemson loss dropped the Orange under .500 for the season and in conference play (4-5, 2-3) with three games to go to qualify for a bowl game.

“There’s still work to be done, the clock never stops ticking,” Etta-Tawo said after playing before family members and friends at Clemson who made the couple of hours drive up from the far western Atlanta suburbs. “We have to go back to the office and keep improving. We’re going to put this behind us and get to work for N.C. State.”

If Etta-Tawo’s record-breaking season is a preview of what we may expect from his basketball graduate transfer counterparts Andrew White III and John Gillon then we’re in for a fun winter.

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Brad Bierman

About Brad Bierman

Now in his fifth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.
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