Syracuse quarterback Tommy Devito is going to need help next year. His performances in 2019 were constantly stained by bad offensive line play, questionable play calling and his receivers’ inability to get open. had rabbit feet in the pocket, made some really poor decisions, and struggled with injury issues, leading to backup Clayton Welch getting much more playing time than the Orange faithful would’ve liked.
So how can the SU offense, led by newly hired play-caller Sterlin Gilbert, help Devito flourish during his junior season? Since the offensive line drastically improved after reshuffling at the back end of last season, the running backs are the group that need to shine in 2020. They did not impress last year and are looking for new contributors now that Moe Neal has exhausted his four years of eligibility. Here’s a look at Syracuse’s stable of backs.
After a two-touchdown debut in the 2018 Camping World Bowl, Adams was supposed to be part of a two-headed monster last year. But the Oklahoma transfer never flashed elite ability. As a redshirt junior, Adams averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last year (336 yds on 87 carries), and had one game where he gained over 50 yards on the ground. Expectations were high for Adams last year. Now that he has a clear-cut path to being RB1 in his final season, they’re only going to get higher.
While Howard logged 11 fewer carries than Adams in 2019, he averaged a half yard more per rush. The junior also has an extra year of game experience. Howard is a physical back (5-foot-10, 214) that doesn’t go down after initial contact. Combine that with his straight-line speed capable of beating DBs in the open field and you’ve got a scary prospect. Don’t be surprised to see Howard get the bulk of the carries as the season progresses.
Babers made a conscious effort to get Jordan on the field at the end of games, calling him “one of the fastest guys” on the SU roster. The rising sophomore is only 5-foot-9, 165, but is an all-purpose player, contributing on special teams as well as in the passing game. He’ll be underneath Adams and Howard on the depth chart, but will surely see action as a third-down back and on some trick plays.
Pierre spent more time on special teams last year than he did in the backfield. Unfortunately for the redshirt junior, that probably won’t change in 2020.
The two unknowns are 2020 commits Sean Tucker and Marlowe Wax. Tucker is the speed guy, and Wax is the bruiser. With a crowded room in front of them, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the incoming freshmen take a redshirt year. At the same time, since spring ball is cancelled, the duo could find some carries if either quickly adapts to the new offense.
The Orange need their running backs to be better in 2020, no matter who comes out on top of the pecking order. Establishing the line of scrimmage is key in any offense, especially one that moves at a breakneck pace. Moving the ball on the ground will be key to relieving the pressure on Devito, which will help the offense perform at a high level in 2020.
Read the Fizz’s breakdown of the SU receiving corps here.