Back of the pack

first_imgSyracuse’s running backs haven’t scored a touchdown since Aug. 29.But head coach Scott Shafer raved about the running backs’ willingness to do what-ever Syracuse’s coaches have asked. Offensive coordinator Tim Lester mentioned the puzzle of an offense he has and how these particular pieces fit into it. Asking the running backs to do more, quarterback AJ Long said, would be like “breaking the camel’s back.”Yet ask the tailbacks themselves and Prince-Tyson Gulley grades his group as doing an “average job” while fellow senior Adonis Ameen-Moore gives a similar assess-ment.Eight games into the year, Syracuse’s depth at running back has yielded a healthy but underperforming group. The collection of backs hopes to take a step up and re-enact the rushing onslaught Syracuse (3-5, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) laid on North Carolina State last year when the Wolfpack (4-4, 0-4) comes to the Carrier Dome for a 3 p.m. meeting on Saturday.“There’s always room for improvement,” Gulley said. “We’re all getting enough touches, but we just need to produce. We need to put some points up at the end of the day.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe tailbacks have tallied just two of the Orange’s nine rushing touchdowns on the year, which is tied for second-to-last of all ACC teams.And both rushing touchdowns were scored in Syracuse’s season opener against Vil-lanova — two months and 518 plays ago.Before this season, former Syracuse running back Jerome Smith predicted a “five-headed monster” forming in the Orange’s backfield. And it was conceivable.It would combine Gulley’s leadership and shiftiness, Ameen-Moore’s short-yardage downhill running and George Morris II’s pass-protection skills. Fellow junior De-vante McFarlane would fill in the cracks and incoming freshman Ervin Philips was the wildcard who could contribute on special teams.But while the strength in numbers has lent itself to a mostly durable rotation, the strength hasn’t translated to stats, nor the scoreboard.“We’re definitely getting used a lot,” Ameen-Moore said. “Some of us are doing things that some of us haven’t done, being outside in the slot and stuff like that. We’re just trying to figure out avenues since we’re so deep in the backfield, just try to figure out ways in which we can all get the ball.”As the offense as a whole continues to sputter, SU’s tried to get creative with the running backs. Philips, Gulley and even the 5-foot-11, 234-pound Ameen-Moore have lined up in the slot.“It’s hard with five guys,” Lester said.Morris hasn’t received many snaps. Touted as somewhat of a hybrid between Gulley and Ameen-Moore, Morris — who is thriving on kickoff coverage, his teammates and Shafer said — didn’t get any carries against Clemson.He’s been given 26 rushing attempts on the year, including just 16 over the last six games, and has 57 yards — 15 more than punter Riley Dixon — to show for it on the season.“It definitely is (a surprise),” Ameen-Moore said of Morris not being involved. “Even though it’s not the carries that he wants, he still knows he’s helping this team out a lot.”Though the scoring output isn’t there for the running backs, the yardage is.SU is seventh out of 14 in the ACC in rushing yards per game, right on point with Gulley’s “average” assessment. And in six of SU’s eight games, at least one running back has racked up 80 yards on the ground.“The running backs are by far the biggest contributors so far, besides Cole (Mur-phy),” Long said. “Everybody else, including myself, has to step up and help them out because they’ve been the focal point of our offense so far.”When Syracuse trekked to Raleigh, North Carolina last October, quarterback Terrel Hunt threw for 74 yards. But he accumulated 92 yards on the ground while Gulley and Smith scampered for at least 130 yards apiece. Each of the three earned a taste of the end zone.And the Orange, coming off a loss to Clemson a week prior, ran past the Wolfpack when it couldn’t prevail aerially.If Syracuse can place the right pieces together, now wouldn’t be a bad time to get off the ground for a repeat performance.“We’re doing everything that needs to be done,” Gulley said. “We need to go over that and stop being, ‘OK, that’s what’s expected.’ We need to go beyond that.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on October 31, 2014 at 12:25 am Contact Phil: [email protected] | @PhilDAbblast_img

Leave a Reply

(*) Required, Your email will not be published