Syracuse football’s 2020 1-10 record was the result of a bunch of different factors. Injuries, opt-outs, and weak offensive depth led to what was by far the ACC’s worst offense and overall record. Three different quarterbacks started games for SU last year, but down the stretch they were aided by the emergence of freshman running back Sean Tucker.
Tucker’s strong play was as impressive as it was unexpected. With backs Jarveon Howard and Abdul Adams opting out of the season before Week 1, Syracuse began the year at UNC with redshirt-freshman Jawhar Jordan starting in the backfield. In a 31-6 beatdown by the Tar Heels, Jordan carried 14 times for just 26 yards. Jordan similarly struggled the next week against Pitt with 13 carries for 40 yards, but was relieved when Sean Tucker made his season debut with 5 carries for 23 yards.
From there, Tucker hit the ground running, figuratively and literally. The freshman tallied 112 yards and 2 touchdowns in Syracuse’s lone win of the season in Week 3 against Georgia Tech to kick off one of SU’s best ever rookie campaigns. The performance earned him ACC Running Back of the Week honors.
Tucker finished the year with 626 yards on the ground, the third-most ever by an SU freshman behind Delone Carter’s 2006 season (713) and Joe Morris’ 1978 (1,001). After such a strong year, Tucker entered spring camp as the de facto number one starter, with Dino Babers explaining that the previously mentioned opt-outs Howard and Adams will have to re-earn their positions on the depth chart.
Can Tucker keep this level of play up?
From a numbers standpoint, things look pretty conducive for another strong season on the ground. Syracuse gets to play three ACC teams ranked in the bottom half of the conference in rushing defense in 2020 (Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and Florida State), and out-of-conference opponent Rutgers gave up 204 yards per game on the ground last year.
At the end of the day, Tucker’s success depends on how prepared opposing defenses will be. After a breakout 2020, you can imagine teams definitely know who Tucker is and what he can do. We’ll see this fall if teams can adjust. On the flip side, it’s up to Tucker to keep improving his craft and carrying the freight in what still looks like a shaky SU offensive unit.