The hay is never in the barn, but the SU football player who lives by that adage is on his way out of Syracuse. Scott Shafer told Syracuse.com last Friday running back Jerome Smith has declared for the 2014 NFL Draft and will not play his senior stint with the Orange.
Smith originally said earlier this month that he would remain at SU for his last year. The junior bulldozing back rushed for 840 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. The 226-lb Rome was featured as the Orange’s number one RB once again, despite George McDonald’s creative use of all the backs. Smith graduated this December but could have played another season after medically redshirting.
Per Syracuse.com, Shafer weighed in on Smith’s big decision:
“He just felt it was his time. He’s all set to graduate, all set with school. He felt like he finished school and there wasn’t any reason to hang around anymore. He felt like he was ready.”
Rome tweeted this Friday afternoon to salute Syracuse fans:
“It’s been a pleasure Syracuse #cusenation.”
Smith looks to go out with a bang this coming Friday as Syracuse heads to Texas today for the Texas Bowl against Minnesota. If SU sticks to its strengths, Rome should be in line for a busy night in the backfield. He rushed a total of 184 times this year, averaging just over four and a half yards a carry. The Golden Gophers almost mirror a very similar playing style offensively and defensively to Syracuse. Syracuse will take its shots primarily with Smith, while Minnesota turns to hefty back David Cobb.
As for the impact Smith’s decision has in the near future, the Orange has to be disappointed. Of course Shafer is going to wish anyone who decides to declare the best, but who wouldn’t want Rome back for his final year? Smith was a big reason why Syracuse was any bit relevant overall, especially during ACC play. This one hurts also because Smith is a well-respected player in the locker room as well as a calm, collected leader. The positive influence he has on SU’s younger backs like Devante McFarlene and George Morris the II goes unnoticed too often. He will be immediately missed.
In the long term, this gives Syracuse some time to react on the recruiting front. It’s safe to say Prince-Tyson Gulley receives the lead running back duties next year. McFarlene and GMII will follow, but then it’s a small concern after this trio. Syracuse isn’t desperate for 2014 running back commits, as West Genesee’s Naesean Howard and Connecticut’s Ervin Philips are currently on board. However, the fact Smith is departing could perhaps open a door for a 3- or 4-star recruit who looks to make an immediate impact on a program.
When it’s all said and done, good for Smith for being both fair to himself and the football program. He’s done a lot for the Orange. His monster year in 2012 (1171 rushing yards) helped Syracuse reach and win the Pinstripe Bowl. Rome scored in all but four games this season, and had three two-score performances. Arguably his best outings were when Syracuse needed him most: on the road in wins against NC State, 140 yards and one TD, and Maryland, 118 yards and two TDs.
Syracuse fans, no more Rome-ing as of next season, but never forget what Smith preaches. The hay is never in the barn.
Posted by: Brendan Glasheen