For the first time in a couple of years, we really don’t know what to expect out of the ground game. Last year, Syracuse knew it could lean on Prince-Tyson Gulley, and the two years prior to that, SU had Gulley and Jerome Smith. But now both are gone and the remaining backs are pretty much unknown commodities.
Yes, we have seen Devante McFarlane and George Morris II in game action the past few years, but both looked worse last year than they did during their redshirt freshman seasons. So where does that leave the Orange this year?
Well, they clearly need improved performance out of Morris and McFarlane. Each had roughly half the carries last year that they had the year before and both produced far less yards. Morris even managed just 2.9 yards per carry, a terrible number.
Running backs coach DeAndre Smith reiterated that point to Syracuse.com, saying “Baseline [expectations] would be they’re going to help us, there’s no question. It all depends on how much they can retain. You don’t want to give them too much. If they can handle a couple different roles, we’ll let them do it. Bare minimum, they’ll play.”
Basically, the Orange is willing to give anyone a shot and see if they can contribute. That might mean having Fredericks and Strickland start on special teams, possibly returning kicks and punts like Brisly Estime or Erv Phillips have in the past, just so they get onto the field and start to get put into the games.
The running back position is one of many unknowns this year. And yes, Terrel Hunt will most likely help the running game—he did lead the team in rushing touchdowns last year. But after Hunt, the picture is pretty unclear.