With 3-star New Jersey running back Dontae Strickland committing to Syracuse over the weekend, the Orange now totals six offensive commitments. As it turns out, each player produces in the offensive backfield or along the offensive line. Building the run game seems like a top priority for Scott Shafer.
This doesn’t surprise many, considering SU currently has younger talent moving up the ranks quickly. That makes the RB position up for grabs a few years down the road. George McDonald’s main man in the backfield for 2014 out of the gate is undoubtedly Prince-Tyson Gulley, followed by George Morris II and Devante McFarlane. That does not mean Syracuse’s primary ball carrier has been predetermined, because we all know things can change over the course of a college football season.
Back in March, McDonald expressed his utmost confidence in Gulley following a spring practice and teased what the Orange is looking for:
“Someone has to run the rock this year, so my idea for Gulley is one, try to keep him healthy, and two, let him run the ball. He’ll get the ball out of the backfield with the screen and stuff. Right now, we just have to figure out who is going to be that running back that Jerome was in terms of who is going to carry the load and who’s going to play off of him.”
What seems to be stirring in the Syracuse RB melting pot is whether PTG can actually perform with an increased role for an entire season. Gulley is nowhere close to Smith’s size and power, and we already know he’s injury-prone. The 5’9″, 195-pound speedster has completed a full season healthy only once in his four years here. Last year, an ankle injury disrupted the second half of his season.
Either way, he has just one year of eligibility remaining, which makes the 2015 RB and OL recruits that much more important. In terms of the attack, do Tyrone Perkins, Jordan Fredericks and Strickland satisfy this need? Dontae’s commitment has flashed some attention towards other high-end talent, but neither are running backs. All three players are listed around six feet and between 180-195 pounds. Jerome Smith is a big boy in comparison—so yes, he will be difficult to duplicate and replace in this offense.
Admittedly, a lot of pressure lies on Gulley to produce. But McDonald’s focus seems to be just finding “the guy” over the next few seasons. Even he doesn’t seem entirely sure about what the current backs can do or what they will do. Remember the OC is still working with Doug Marrone’s players, not players McDonald recruited himself. He has the potential to develop a dynamic passing game this coming year with Terrel Hunt back under center and some young, explosive receiving threats on board.
McDonald and tight ends coach Bobby Acosta showed us over the weekend that they would like to bring in plenty of guys to compete against one another. The O-Line trio of Sam Clausman, Colin Byrne and Cody Conway prove Syracuse also has paid much attention to solidifying protection for these smaller running backs. 2014 pieces like Aaron Roberts and Denzel Ward add the raw talent, while those three aforementioned big guys have raw size with a taste of some athleticism.
The bottom line: do not be shocked if Hunt’s pass attempts notably increase compared to last year. Syracuse has the talent and pieces to formulate a solid passing game. Right now it’s very questionable what it’s getting from the run game. Hopefully Syracuse fans soak in a solid, productive year from PTG, because if not, at least they know the 2015 theme is building a consistent run game.
Posted by: Brendan Glasheen