It’s no secret that over the first two games of the year, the Syracuse Orange have struggled to run the football. Through two weeks the Orange have managed just 238 yards on 75 carries, a miserable 3.2 yards-per-carry. Out of those 75 carries, only seven have gone to last year’s leading rusher, Jordan Fredericks.
Obviously, Dino Babers has certain types of players he wants to put into his offensive system. Fredericks doesn’t fit the mold quite as well as Moe Neal and Dontae Strickland, since he lacks some of their explosiveness and quickness. But it’s hard to ignore how good Fredericks looked during stretches of his true freshman campaign last year, when he led the Orange with 607 yards on the ground.
This season, the running game has been virtually non-existent. When you take Moe Neal’s 49-yard touchdown run out of the equation, the Orange have totaled just 189 yards on the ground. Take 44 more yards out of there for Eric Dungey’s contribution, and it’s a measly 145 yards from the team’s running backs.
Strickland, who vaulted over Fredericks in the spring (amid rumors that Fredericks came to camp out of shape and has struggled to keep his weight in check over the summer), has mustered 48 yards on 17 carries. That’s only 2.8 yards-per-carry, and hardly what you’d like to see from your starting running back.
Neal, meanwhile, has 108 yards on 21 carries. Though again – take away his one 49-yarder, and he’s down to 59 yards on 20 carries. Keeping that one long run out of the equation here, you’re talking about 107 yards on 37 carries (2.9 YPC) from the team’s top two tailbacks.
What the heck is going on with the running game?
In fairness, Colgate has a strong (at least, by FCS standards) front seven. Louisville has arguably one of the top front sevens in the nation at the FBS level. So Syracuse hasn’t exactly been going against lousy defenses. But those poor rushing numbers are still a major concern. You need to be able to run the ball in order to open things up through the air. And that brings us back to the question I asked at the top: where the heck is Jordan Fredericks?
Look, I realize that due to his struggles with getting into shape, Fredericks likely can’t keep pace (or at least will struggle to do so) with the tempo of the Babers offense. But the fact that he’s only gotten seven carries – with all three of his totes against Louisville coming late – is a bit of a head scratcher. Fredericks may not be the quickest RB on the roster, but as a true freshman he showed a nice ability to see holes developing and had just enough quickness to get through them. He’s also one of the more powerful options in the backfield, meaning he can potentially push forward for an extra yard or two.
Through the first two games, he’s taken seven handoffs and gained 43 yards – that’s only five yards fewer than Strickland on 10 fewer totes. Obviously, last week he was getting work in garbage time, so his 33 yards on three carries is probably a bit misleading. And Babers and his staff will certainly work to get Strickland and Neal going a little more consistently, with Fredericks to continue running as the third string back.
But it’s certainly interesting to look at how things have changed for last year’s leading rusher, particularly with the two backs ahead of him struggling to get going this season. Obviously, either player could explode this week against South Florida, rendering this post moot. That said, it’ll be interesting to watch and see when – or even if – Jordan Fredericks gets a chance on game day.