As we approach the Orange’s pre-season camp this summer, there’s a lot of talk about the running back position. This year’s backfield could be one of the deepest in recent Syracuse memory and one of the best units in the ACC. Moe Neal returns for his senior season, while Jarveon Howard is back after a successful sophomore campaign.
The wild card? Transfer Abdul Adams. The former Oklahoma Sooner showed off his potential in the Orange’s Camping World Bowl victory, carrying the ball eight times for 20 yards and two touchdowns. That was just a small sample size of what Adams can bring to this offense. If the backfield is going to be as elite as people think, Adams is going to be a big part of it.
What’s His Background?
Before Oklahoma, Adams was a top running back recruit in the class of 2016 at Hillside in North Carolina. The 5-foot-11 tailback was ranked as the 15th best running back in his class and the 14th highest recruit in the state of North Carolina by 247Sports. Those are really solid numbers for a four-star recruit, so it’s not hard to understand why he chose to play at Oklahoma.
Once Adams arrived at Oklahoma, he saw decent playing time right away. In the fall of ’16, he carried the ball 53 times, averaging 5.3 yards per touch. While he only had 46 carrier the following year, his yards per touch average increased to 10.2. The increase there can likely be credited to a 99 yard run that season. In ’16, his longest carry was 57 yards.
Adams decided to leave OU at the tail end of the 2017 season, according to his father in an interview with Syracuse.com. Adams father, Samuel Gaillard, credits one play during a November game against Oklahoma State. The sophomore running back was benched for fumbling the ball on a play that was eventually ruled an incomplete pass. Gaillard told Syracuse.com he thinks that was when Adams started to re-consider his future. Just over two months later, Adams transferred to Syracuse.
Transfers from big time programs are always going to draw oohs and ahhs from the proverbial crowd. When you consider Adams’ success in the Camping World Bowl, that remains true for him. Adams has shown throughout his career that he’s versatile. Think of him as a blend of Neal and former SU running back Dontae Strickland, combining shiftiness and power skills.
Just consider how Babers used him against West Virginia: a short-yardage back. Adams lack of playing time might have had something to do with that, but he thrived in that role.
Excitement about Adams was suspended when he left the spring game with an apparent upper-body injury. Fans didn’t get to see Adams play as much as they would have liked. From all reports, the injury does not appear to be serious.
When Adams returns, he figures to give Neal a run for his money for the starting running back position. Regardless of who takes the first snap, both Adams and Neal should see significant playing time. Given Adams’ versatility, it’s unclear where Howard and freshman Jawhar Jordan fit into the picture. That’s a good problem to have for a program that’s two years removed from a four-win season.
It’s hard to imagine a world where Adams isn’t seeing the majority of snaps alongside Tommy DeVito in the Syracuse backfield. Unlike most transfers from major programs, Adams proved he could compete at the highest level of college football. He ranks fourth all-time at Oklahoma (min. 100 carrier) with 7.43 yards per carry. That’s impressive for anybody, much less a guy that was never shown much love from a playing time perspective.
His performance against Baylor (which you hopefully have watched in the video above by now), shows just how complete of a player Adams can be. With a year of practice under his belt since arriving to Central New York, Adams will be eager to show off his skills. Doing that successfully could help the Orange win ten games for the second year in a row.