Jarveon Howard and Abdul Adams are back! The duo opted out of the 2020 season and boy oh boy, were they missed. There were positives of course resulting from these guys not playing, Syracuse discovered the beast that is Sean Tucker. But, the negatives far outweigh the positives.
Tucker was overused and the Orange had no compliments for him in the backfield. Eventually, Tucker got injured because he was carrying the ball 20+ times a game as a true freshman and SU had to turn to Cooper Lutz and go deeper than an abyss to find someone to run the rock.
With Howard and Adams back, this backfield immediately switches from one of the worst in the ACC to one of the best, if not the best. The duo has seen plenty of quality snaps over the years and Coach Dino Babers and Company are definitely excited to have them back.
The Orange struggled to move the ball last year against the top competition in the ACC. SU was dead last in the ACC in offense scoring just under 18 points per game. Syracuse was also dead last in rush yards per game with 92 and a measly 3.2 yards per carry.
Jarveon Howard returns as a junior with two seasons of eligibility left if he wants them. The Mississippi native has racked up 652 yards on the ground with 10 touchdowns in two seasons of play. Howard is an every down back, not much of a receiving threat at least from what we’ve seen, but he’s a bruiser with a good mix of speed and power that’s comparable to Sean Tucker, but of course Howard has the experience edge. Howard can emerge as the lead back next season, but I believe there will be a rotation between him, Adams, and Tucker.
Abdul Adams returns to the Hill as a redshirt-senior. He transferred over from Oklahoma following the 2017 season and was a big contributor in 2019 along with Howard and Moe Neal. He’s been a contributor in all of his collegiate seasons (minus the transfer season he had to sit out) and is a former four star recruit out of Maryland. As a sophomore at OU, Adams started four games and finished third on the team in rushing with 542 yards and a score. Fun fact, he holds the record for the longest rushing play in OU history when he broke off a 99-yarder against Baylor in 2017.
At Syracuse he was the second string back in 2019 and played in 11 of the 12 competitions. He ran for 336 yards on 87 carries, good for about 4 per touch and 3 touchdowns. Again, he was sharing the carries with Howard and Neal. The special thing about Adams is that he’s a proven receiving threat out of the backfield as well. He caught 8 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown as a Sooner. At SU, Adams caught 15 passes for 141 yards in the 2019 season. He adds that dimension to the backfield that Tucker and Howard haven’t shown they have consistently.
That brings us to Sean Tucker. The Maryland native exceeded expectations and put together one of the best rookie campaigns in SU Football history. Tucker garnered the third-most yards (626) and second most yards per game (69.6) in program history. He also ranked 11th in yards per game in the ACC, 11th in carries (137), and 18th in yards per carry (4.6). Tucker eclipses 100 yards on the ground in three different games and caught 8 passes for 113 yards. The rising sophomore also ended the season on a high note taking 23 carries for 101 yards and a 40-yard touchdown. Tucker can be special in this backfield, he’s an every down back who has a good mix of speed and power, but you can’t give him 20+ carries a game. In fact, it’s never ideal to do that with any running back.
Syracuse has two departures from last year’s backfield. Redshirt-freshman Jawhar Jordan entered the transfer portal in January after an injury against Georgia Tech derailed his season. Redshirt-junior Markenzy also entered the transfer portal back in December, he’ll be available to play immediately if he can find a new program to join. These aren’t substantial losses, Jordan had some good games in 2019, but he provided minimal impact this season, as well as Pierre.
Keep an eye on incoming back Josh Hough as well. His skillset and potential at Syracuse has been heavily covered. He’s set to enroll over the summer but could still contend for some playing time in some packages. Don’t be surprised if Hough doesn’t play and just redshirt, that would speak to how talented this backfield is and how good it can be in 2021.