Sean Tucker (RB1): In 2020, Tucker averaged 69.9 yards per game. With 739 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns, Tucker’s impressive freshman season paled in comparison to his stunning sophomore year, which included over a dozen awards and nominations. In 2021, his 1,496 rushing yards, nine 100-yard rushing plays, and seven consecutive 100-yard plays all became program records. In the first nine games of the season, Tucker led all college football in rushing yards and might have been on track for a Heisman had it not been for the season-ending roadblock. With LT Matthew Bergeron retaining his place on the offensive line, Tucker should still have the best chance of overtaking 99% of college football for a second straight season. The accolades didn’t end last season, as Sporting News’ Second Team All-American designation could be the first of many this year. It’s probably safe to say Tucker is RB1 for Syracuse on Sept. 3 when Louisville comes to town.
Every body else
With no backs on the team aside from Tucker carrying more than 79 yards, there’s really no contest for the starting job. However, there are two newcomers struggling to earn behind Tucker carries to keep him fresh and then taking over once he leaves (probably after this season).
Juwaun Prize (RB2): The New Mexico state transfer led in yards for the Aggies last season. Price rushed for 692 yards on 135 carries and 10 touchdowns in 12 games. He also caught 26 passes for 181 yards (6.9 average) and returned 20 kicks for 358 yards (17.9 average), showing his versatility. While Tucker is the safe starter, Price has the talent to get some time to spell out Tucker and still be a threat on the Syracuse offensive.
LeQuint Allen (RB3): Allen comes to Syracuse from Millville High School in New Jersey, where he rushed for 1,903 yards in 2021 with 229 carries (8.3 average) and 26 touchdowns. Allen, who ranked No. 9 in New Jersey last year, brings some versatility to the air, catching 17 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns. The question “Will his awards from high school be enough to carry him as a freshman?” could be a moot point if he’s quiet in training camp. But right now, Allen is best qualified for the third back position. He was impressive in the spring and has a chance to earn a carry with a strong lager.
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The other three running backs in the mix are walk-ons Mario Escobar, Joe Pinjuh and David Obeng-Agyapong. At 5-9, 187 pounds, Escobar is the Orange running back’s tot, but both other backs are under 6-0/under 200 pounds as well. Escobar only played one game on special teams last year, while the other two also went redshirt. There’s not much opportunity for any of these three to see meaningful carries, barring significant injuries.
Importance of the ground game
Last season, Syracuse got their best impression of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde leave behind. The Orange led the ACC with 213.5 rushing yards per game, but their 153.0 passing yards per game tied last. The problem that led to a lackluster season evidently came not from the ground game but from quarterback Garrett Shrader’s arm. Granted, Shrader ranked in the top 10 in the ACC, his passing counts put him 14thth best quarterback. Tucker single-handedly surpassed Shrader’s passing numbers last year — which isn’t ideal for offensive balance. When passing is as lackluster as it was last season, it’s all the more important for the Onslaught to have another stellar season if Syracuse hopes to get approved for the Bowl.
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