Orange Nation enjoyed watching tailback Jerome Smith last year. The bruising runner led Syracuse with 1,171 yards on just 227 carries and three touchdowns. He did it by running angrier than most Big East running backs. How will he bring that aggression and grit to the ACC? It’s pretty simple: by staying as humble and even-keel off the field during the off-season. He is the key for Syracuse’s offensive success in the first year post-Big East.
The junior was just named a Maxwell Award finalist yesterday. It’s given out to the nation’s most outstanding college player (usually offensive), and Rome was honored as one of 75 players from around the country, and 1/8th of the ACC nominees. Just being on the list is no reason for celebration for Smith because “the hay is never in the barn.” The expression has become the RB’s motto during the off-season. The Delaware native has been relentlessly improving his game, and gearing up for the season. Jerome won’t be fully satisfied until the results on the field show.
That will happen when Smith steps on the Metlife Stadium turf on August 31st. The RB will be the primary runner in new offensive coordinator George McDonald’s offense scheme. With a difficult ACC schedule, the first four games of the year could be the most critical for a bowl. Penn State and Northwestern are good programs, but not unbeatable. And with FCS Wagner and low-level Tulane to follow, there’s no reason the Orange shouldn’t set its goal of being 4-0 for the first time since 1991.
Last season Smith only carried the ball 63 times through the first five games of the season (that’s barely 13 touches a game). He averaged under 60 yards per during SU’s 2-3 start. But the final 8 games, Smith increased his carries to over 20 per game, and averaged over 110 yards in those contests. Give him more carries earlier this season and good things will happen. He’s certainly worked his way into that position. Not too many people would have predicted his breakout 2012 season after his sophomore year. But the tailback looks much quicker at the line of scrimmage and has increased his agility. The one element of his game he needed to improve on was his ability to get to the outside. And maybe those types of runs are going to be saved for the slasher-back Prince Tyson-Gulley, but if Smith can successfully get to the edge, there’s no telling how far he can go.
Last season, he told The Fizz he plays with endless aggression. Not much will change in the ACC.
“It’s an angry game, you got to be mad to play this game. My goal right now is to make people pay. If you’re going to stop me from getting touchdowns, I’m going to make you pay.”
When will “Romeing” return this fall? Perhaps it could start sooner. Few would say the ACC will be easier than the Big East, but there were more Big East teams (6) ranked in the top 50 of total rush defense than the ACC (5). And Syracuse’s new conference is known as an offensive juggernaut (6 teams from the ACC were ranked in the top 50 in total offense compared to just 3 from the Big East).
Surround yourself with better competition and better things can happen. With a question mark still remaining at the quarterback position for the Orange, RB Jerome Smith is the spark that can jolt SU back into the postseason.
Posted: Kevin Fitzgerald