As the season winds down, the Orange has turned to freshmen Devante McFarlane and George Morris II for more carries. Both have been effective with McFarlane averaging nearly seven yards per carry and Morris averaging over four yards per carry. Each has shown burst of speeds that Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley don’t show as often.
Morris has broken through the logjam in the backfield and has shown just how productive he can be. It started two weeks ago when PTG left the win over Maryland with an injury. GMII was able to step in and fill the void. On one drive alone Morris had three carries totaling 42 yards and helped the Orange get inside the Maryland 35-yard line before Jerome Smith fumbled. After that drive, Morris was not as effective, and though no running back will typically average nearly 15 yards per carry in a game, he still got the job done in place of Gulley. Last week, Morris was given the most carries of any Syracuse player. Morris had 15 more carries than Smith and Gulley combined. This could have been a matter of circumstance, where Coach Shafer took his starters out of the game, but he still got the carries and put in the work against a very good Florida State defense, even if it was the second-string Florida State team.
McFarlane, on the other hand, really came on strong last weekend against Florida State. He was the leading rusher for the Orange with 81 yards—for comparison, that’s 80 more than Smith and Gulley combined. McFarlane showed that he could run hard through a defense. He also had a few impact runs against Clemson when he totaled nearly 100 yards on the ground, though much of the yardage came on a 56-yard fake punt.
Ofcourse, that’s not to say that, after one half against Florida State, Morris and McFarlane should get carries ahead of Gulley and Smith. However, it should show that if the starters get hurt or are ineffective, GMII and McFarlane are viable options. Another factor for the Orange is how important both freshmen will be next season. Gulley is a senior and Jerome Smith is a redshirt junior. Gulley is guaranteed to leave after the year, and if Smith finishes with strong performances against Pitt and Boston College, and in a possible bowl, he could leave for the NFL. Even if Smith stays, the Orange will need GMII or McFarlane to step into the role as the second running back. By putting together strong performances against Florida State, and other games throughout the year, both freshmen running backs have shown they can be the second option if the situation presents itself.
The backfield is key for the Orange, and Coach McDonald will be able to keep feeding it.
Posted by: Seth Goldberg
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