After a successful season on the ground it is no surprise that Jerome Smith returns at the front of the backfield. On the heels of a 1,000-yard season on the ground, Smith finds himself where he began the last campaign.
Known for his ability to move well between the tackles and push for more yardage, Smith has illustrated that he has the power needed to move the offense forward.
Continuing to hit or be hit and powering the ball ahead, Smith also demonstrated that he has worked to add another element to his game. The junior back hit a pile of hungry defensive players, blew threw, and took off. It was then, toward the end of Spring practices, that Smith let out a speed burst that looks better than it has ever been. With opportunities to score last season after getting into the open field, Smith struggled to outrun opponents. In full pads he overcame that struggle this Spring, taking off ahead of all defenders and advancing into the end zone.
The second option at running back behind Smith after the Spring is Prince-Tyson Gulley. Gulley advanced on the ground to just shy of the 900-yard mark. Overall, he was a mere four yards away from the 1,000-yard mark in all-purpose yards, both rushing and receiving.
Gulley's performance in the 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl single-handedly outscored the entire West Virginia Mountaineers' squad. He ran for two touchdowns, while scoring again after catching a pass from former Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib, totaling 21 points to West Virginia's 14.
While showing that his speed and quick moves can get him farther in the field, Gulley also showed power in between tackles.
With the best hands out of the backfield, Gulley has made himself a dual-threat and enters this season after being a panic option for Nassib.
All of his talent and experience combined lands him at the second option spot despite not fully participating in Spring practice, demonstrating the newly-formed staff's trust in him.
Though listed as #2, the sharing backfield that splits opportunities amongst Smith and Gulley is unlikely to change.
On the depth chart after Smith and Gulley, respectively, is George Morris. Morris was redshirted last season with Smith, Gulley, Ashton Broyld, and Adonis Ameen-Moore already fighting for time in the backfield. With Broyld and Moore moving to other positions on the depth chart and a good Spring showing, Morris has moved his way into a better placement than last season.
Morris has shown good vision, decision-making, and footwork out of the backfield. Even with multiple defenders in front of him, Morris has worked to gain positive yardage, running diagonally but with enough space from defenders, using all the field he has between where he began and the sideline. If Smith and/or Gulley struggle, in third-down situations, or even to pull out another weapon the defense does not expect, Morris should see time on the field this season.
Behind Morris lie DeVante McFarlane, Steven Rene, and Greg Tobias. McFarlane was moved to the defensive side of the ball to try and aid the secondary before returning back to the offense for this season. He was redshirted during the 2012 season and was placed with the running backs in the Spring. With what seems to be more concrete this season, McFarlane has been given more touches at running back but Morris currently has edged him out as shown by him receiving more ground opportunities.
Rene was placed with the return team on punts last season and has been practicing fielding punts this Spring, but his poor decision-making on punt returns may keep him behind in the depth chart at that position as well as in the backfield.
Tobias has not been utilized and with Smith, Gulley, and Morris, the likelihood of that changing this season if all stay healthy is not in favor of Tobias.
As previously stated, Broyld has been moved out of the running back position. He is listed currently as an H-back. The H-back position has come to be known as a split between the fullback and tight end. Players placed in this position are asked to both block and catch. With Broyld's talent the presumption is that he will be doing more catching than blocking at H-back.
Running backs coach DeAndre Smith referred to the receiving notion when talking on Broyld before the Spring when he stated that Broyld could be used as a slot receiver.
Adding to that, Smith also offered that Broyld could run the ball as well as line up in the wildcat formation.
As a throwing, rushing, and receiving threat, the Syracuse coaching staff have made it known that Broyld will be on the field. The H-back position gets him out of the cluster at running back and provides a hybrid spot where he can become the multiple-threat weapon he has been spoken of being capable of.
Moore, the back with the wrecking ball nature, has been moved from running back to fullback. With his ability to move the pile in close scoring positions, when needing short yardage gains, and to run down the clock, he has demonstrated that having him off the field can have adverse effects on the Orange.
He continues to work on his speed and catching out of the backfield. Trouble with the latter is most likely what currently places him behind Clay Cleveland at the fullback, with Cleveland being more of a trusted target in the passing game.