Yesterday, I decided to dive into the possible numbers Eric Dungey could put up in the Dino Babers offense. But it’s not just QBs and wide receivers who have benefited from the high octane system. Over his four years as a head coach, Babers’ leading rushers have averaged 1,233 yards. So the question is: will Syracuse follow that trend this year?
Since the 2000 season, Syracuse has had nine running backs reach the 1,000 yard mark. Out of the seasons where runners fell short, the leading rusher did rush for more than 900 yards. Another season (2004), two runners each rushed for more than 800. So more often than not, even over what is perhaps the least successful stretch in program history, the Orange have had reliable runners.
Of course, no one has hit the 1,000 yard mark in any of the past three seasons. Jerome Smith rushed for more than 900 in 2013, but in 2014, Prince Tyson-Gulley ran for just 607. Last year, Jordan Fredericks also rushed for 607 yards to lead Syracuse in that department. The only season since 2000 that featured a leading rusher with fewer yards than the 607 from PTG and Fredericks was 2007, when Curtis Brinkley had just 371 yards.
Yes, that actually led the team that season. It was the Greg Robinson era, after all.
Anyway, going back to the Dino Babers offense. In 2015, Travis Greene paced Bowling Green with 1,298 yards in 14 games. The year before, Greene rushed for 949 (again, in 14 games). That’s the only time in his four years as a head coach that a Babers team has failed to have a runner pass 1,000 yards.
His 2013 team at Eastern Illinois featured not just a 1,551 yard season from Shepard Little, but an additional 988 yards from Taylor Duncan. By the way, Jimmy Garoppolo also threw for more than 5,000 yards that season. Yeah, EIU put an absurd amount of yards and points on the board that season (in 14 games). In 2012, Jake Walker rushed for 1,133 yards for Eastern Illinois in 12 games.
With all of this in mind, I put it to a vote on Twitter to find out what Syracuse fans thought about the prospects of a 1,000 yard rusher in 2016. The Orange certainly have some talent at running back, but it remains to be seen who will rise to the top of the rotation by the time the season rolls around. Dontae Strickland finished the spring as the RB1, but Fredericks, again, led the team in rushing last year and looked very good in stretches.
Then of course there’s Moe Neal, the dynamic athlete who is third on the depth chart. George Morris, the elder statesman of the group, will no doubt get his share of carries, but likely will stay either third or fourth on the depth chart.
So, the options in the poll aren’t just about yes or no; if the answer is yes, who will be the one to top 1,000 yards? Fredericks? Strickland? Or someone else?
In 4 years as a HC, Dino's leading rusher has averaged 1233 yards. Will SU have a 1000 yard rusher in '16?
— OttosGrove.com (@OttosGrove) July 27, 2016
Right now, most people actually do believe that the Orange will have a thousand yard rusher. And, given that he currently sits atop the depth chart and showed glimpses of being an elusive playmaker last year, Strickland is edging out Fredericks in the voting.
It’s hard to say how the Orange running game will fare this season. It depends on a number of factors, including the offensive line and the passing game. And that’s not even getting into the difficulty of the schedule. If Syracuse is down on the scoreboard, logic would suggest there’ll be a greater number of pass attempts than rushes.
Based on the overall, proven production of the Dino Babers offense and the good, though still very young, talent at the position, I’m hesitantly voting “yes” on this one. After all, Syracuse managed one 1,000 yard seasons with Greg Robinson at the helm. If Greg Robinson can coax 1,000 yards out of his horrendous offense, then I’m certainly willing to give Dino Babers the benefit of the doubt.