Aside from finding a quarterback, the biggest issue facing the Syracuse Orange offense this season is finding a role for sophomore Ashton Broyld. Broyld is a gifted athlete who has the potential to be one of the Orange’s top playmakers in 2013, but only if new offensive coordinator George McDonald is able to find a position and role that fits him where Broyld can excel.
There was a lot of hype surrounding Broyld last season, but he played sparingly, in part because the coaches didn’t know where to play him. When he did see the field most of his snaps came at running back, carrying the ball 36 times while also making seven receptions. This year, Broyld will need to touch the ball a lot more frequently if he’s going to help the Syracuse offense.
Playing him at running back is a mistake the new Syracuse coaching staff will have to avoid this year. He’s strong, but because he’s so tall (6-foot-4) it’s not the kind of strength that can be used between the tackles. He’s athletic and shifty but more so in the open space and not coming out of the backfield. Physically, Broyld looks the part of a tight end-wide receiver hybrid, which is rare to find in college football, and Syracuse needs to find a way to utilize his talents the best way possible.
Broyld could work best as the third wide receiver in three or four wide receiver sets. He doesn’t have the experience as a receiver to lineup out wide, so they can’t move him too far from the ball at the snap. But they also can’t have him too close to the ball to the point where he’s in the backfield. Whatever they do with Broyld, they have to do it quickly.
Last season, he struggled to learn the playbook and was overloaded with information. This season, the Orange need to give him the ball quickly and give him little to think about outside of receiving the ball and running with it.
Quick slants, wide receiver screens, fly sweeps, and similar plays in which the ball leaves the quarterback’s hands quickly are the best ways to get Broyld the ball. He’s not going to be a threat on deep balls, but he can be a nightmare for opposing defenses to handle with the ball in his hands. Once Broyld has the ball he’ll be able to make plays, and once defenses are cognizant of him it could open up opportunities for other players.
There’s no doubt that Broyld has the potential to be one of Syracuse’s top offensive playmakers this season. He’s also one of their most important players, meaning they need him to have a big season and make an impact if the Orange are going to be successful in their first season in the ACC. Broyld is as talented as anyone on the team and finding the right role for him to play will be critical for Syracuse in 2013.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.