Syracuse football begins its first season in a new conference with a new coach and new faces in key roles. Record-setting quarterback Ryan Nassib and top receiver Alec Lemon are climbing NFL draft boards, while star safety Shamarko Thomas is making headlines for faceplanting at the Combine. Untested players will need to step up to fill their spots, but at running back, the Orange is stacked with returning talent.
Senior Jerome Smith joined the 1,000-yard rushing club in 2012, leading the team with 1,171 yards, and he’s nearly a lock to continue to be the workhorse as the Orange introduces a new, inexperienced quarterback.
Fellow senior Prince-Tyson Gulley is sitting out spring workouts after offseason surgery, but he should be ready to bring his explosiveness back to field by fall. Gulley wrapped up his junior year with his MVP performance in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, rushing for 213 yards and scoring three touchdowns. He finished behind Smith with 830 rushing yards, but he led the backs with nine touchdowns.
Smith and Gulley were the big playmakers a year ago, but there are talented younger runningbacks right on their heels.
Last year, true freshman Ashton Broyld excited the fans with some electrifying preseason runs, but he fell short of their high expectations during the year. He’s billed as an all-purpose athlete, and he had 36 carries for 171 yards, seven catches for 53 yards, and one ten-yard kick return in 2012. He was also an inexperienced true freshman, and he landed in former coach Doug Marrone‘s doghouse after a critical fumble and played sparingly in the last half of the year.
Broyld is done for the spring after sustaining a high ankle sprain, but when he returns he’ll have a chance to impress his new offensive coordinator and prove he really can live up to the hype that surrounded him his first year.
With Broyld and Gulley out, sophomore George Mason III is taking advantage of the opportunity for more carries. He didn’t play last season, but he impressed both coaches and onlookers during the team’s practice this weekend.
“He had some good runs and some real good runs when there wasn’t anywhere to run. That was impressive to me,” head coach Scott Shafer told reporters after the session.
Mason could push for playing time this season, especially if Broyld takes time to recover completely.
Also in the mix is junior Adonis Ameen-Moore. Ameen-Moore was suspended from the Pinstripe Bowl, but he did appear in six games as the short-yardage back for the Orange, with 30 carries for 108 yards and three touchdowns.
As the team transitions into a new era in the ACC with a new head coach and uptempo style of play, the experienced returners in the backfield give the Orange key pieces on which to build.