My 2020 SU Football Preview Pt. 3: The Running Backs

SWC75

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Running Backs
Seniors: Abdul Adams 5-11 205
Juniors: Jarveon Howard 5-10 214; Markenzy Pierre 5-11 216
Sophomores: Jawhar Jordan 5-9 172; Garrison Johnson 5-10 247, (up from 237), Cooper Lutz 6-0 201
Freshmen: Devin Flowers 6-0 245, Sean Tucker 5-10 202
Gone: Nicky Clifton, Jack Guida, Moe Neal, Otto Zaccardo. Neal and Zaccardo graduated. I don’t know what happened to Clifton and Guida: there was no article about them leaving, probably because they were both walk-ons.

In 2018, Eric Dungey ran for 949 positive yards, (mostly on planned runs), got thrown for 195 yards in losses, (almost all on sacks) for a net of 754, (4.1 per carry), and scored 15 touchdowns. Moe Neal rushed for a net 869 yards, (an excellent 5.6) and 5TDs. Dontae Strickland gained 588 yards (4.9) and 6 scores. Jarveon Howard was 315 (4.6) and 7. Markenzie Pierre, once thought to be our biggest hope for a good running game, was hardly used, getting 8 carries for 36 yards (4.4) and no acquaintance with the end zone.

Last year Tommy DeVito ran for 396 positive yards but was thrown for 274 yards in losses for a net of only 122, (1.1) and 2 scores, That was a very significant loss of offense vs. his predecessor. If you delete the 43 sacks, he carried the ball 69 times to get those 396 positive yards, an average of 5.7 yards per carry, so Tommy is a running threat but not as prolific as Eric was.

Neal had a solid senior season with 846 yards (5.0) and 7 scores, although Babers was disappointed: he was hoping for a 1,000 yard year. Moe does have the distinction of averaging 5 yards a carry for every year of his career: 5.3, 5.3, 5.6 and 5.0. With a decent line, Babers would likely have gotten his wish. Moe is one of the more under-rated performers in SU history and he will be missed.

That doesn’t mean he can’t be replaced. Abdul Adams, the Oklahoma transfer with the gaudy stats, (9 yards a carry, including a 99 yard run vs. Baylor), had something of a disappointing season, with just 336 yards, a 3.9 average and 3TDs. He’s capable of much more and we hope to see it this year. Watching 99 yard runs never gets old, if that guy is now your guy:
Nunes: “Adams is one of a handful of backs competing for the starting slot, and he’s going to be my favorite to win the job. He showed flashes of being a very competent running back in the passing game, both with his blocking and receiving skills.”

Jarveon Howard has been our power guy, which is why he had 7TDs in only 68 rushing attempts as a freshman. He was down to 3TDs last year as our goal line ‘attack’ collapsed to nearly G-Rob levels of inefficiency. He managed to average 4.4 yards per carry for a total of 337. In his high school tape, he’s a classic power runner who can break the big one. On the college level, he doesn’t have that kind of relative speed but he can break through the front seven occasionally and get substantial yardage before the D-backs catch up to him. He’s more a guy who could sustain a drive than a threat to score on any play.
Nunes: “Howard has a similar profile to Adams, but that doesn’t mean he’s No. 2 behind the former transfer. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry, and if that’s something that can be repeated, he’s the starter by end of season. I love Howard’s violent running style, especially later in games.”

Markenzie Pierre is virtually the same size as Howard and looked like the same player to me in his high school tape. In fact, last year I switched their tapes in my preview to see if anyone could tell the difference. Can you?

Showtime

Jarveon Howard!! Senior Season!!

The thing is, Markenzie’s doing it in Florida, famous for its high level of high school football while Jarveon is doing it in Mississippi, a less-heralded place. Pierre had some good runs as a freshmen but also a couple of bad fumbles that put him in the coach’s dog house. Of course Dino and his men see these guys in practice every day and have decided that Howard is the better player. I don’t question that. I bring this up because, if we should have some injuries and have to send Markenzie in there, people shouldn’t expect some huge drop-off in production. Markenzie can run the ball, too. Nunes: “Last season, it was Moe Neal and Abdul Adams (and Jarveon Howard) in front of him, and it looks like this year, Jawhar Jordan has jumped him, but he should be right in the mix behind Adams and Jordan this season. He’ll likely be featured on special teams as well.”

Adams, Howard and Pierre are all combinations of good size and speed. Jawhar Jordan doesn’t have the size but he’s probably the fastest guy on the team and he sees the whole field and can turn on a dime. He IS a threat to score whenever he gets the ball. If he can grow into the role of a feature back, he could set some records here. For now he’s a change-up runner, giving the defense something different to deal with and a dynamic kick-returner who could revitalize that as a weapon for this team, (see the discussion of Sean Riley, above). Jawhar played late last year under the weird new red-shirt rule, so he’s still a freshman. He rushed for 105 yards at 7.0 a pop and scored one rushing TD. He also returned four kickoffs for a 28.5 yard average, the longest being 48. The staff will stay up nights figuring out ways to get the ball in JJ”s hands. Nunes: “Given his speed, you’d think that Syracuse would be eager to utilize Jordan’s abilities to great effect in 2020. We’ve mentioned a couple of times on this website how Jordan could be used in an Ervin Philips role as a slot receiver, not just as a running back. No matter what the case, Jordan promises to be an explosive option for the Syracuse Orange for the next few years.”
Season Highlights (Editing)

Here comes Sean Tucker, a 3 star from Maryland, (meaning he’d be a 4 star if he went to Maryland). He’s bigger that Jordan but like him has 4.3 speed. He’s no zig-zagger but he’s another guy who can put defenders in the rear view mirror in a hurry:
Sean's 12th grade varsity football
Nunes predicts a red-shirt.

I talked about Cooper Lutz, who is now listed as a running back and Trebor Pena, who I think should be, in the receivers section and their highlight videos are there. They strike me as generally similar to Jordan and Tucker: smaller but quicker than Adams, Howard and Pierre and potentially exciting players if they get the chance. Nunes: “Coming off his redshirt season, Lutz didn’t see any action. He was still pegged as a wide receiver last season, and didn’t break through the depth chart there. Lutz is now listed as a running back, the position he played in high school. He’ll be somewhere down the mix behind the combo of Abdul Adams and Jarveon Howard, but may be able to grab some snaps on special teams or in a flex role…Last season Pena accrued an impressive stat line, rushing for 1,666 total yards from scrimmage and 23 touchdowns. 2020 projections: Playing running back, receiver, safety and returner in high school definitely ups his options for getting on the field. As a freshman, it would be nice to get Pena a redshirt season, but there’s always the possibility that we see him emerge on some special teams assignments.”

Garrison Johnson packs a lot of weight on his 5-10 frame and would, I assume be used much the way Chris Elmore has: a lead blocker in power running situations. I doubt he’ll see much of the ball himself. He may allow the staff to shift Elmore to the defensive line permanently to give us a little more depth there. Johnson might make a good old-fashioned fullback but nobody uses them anymore. What would they do with Csonka today?
Garrison Johnson 2019 Manvel RB
UPDATE: Johnson has ‘entered the transfer portal’.

Devin Flowers is a preferred walk-on with a similar build. He’s from Richmond, where he set an area record with 5,500 rushing yards and 63 TDs over four years. We got him away from Florida State for whom he also would have been a PWO. Nunes: “He’s a likely redshirt candidate, but who knows if that acumen near the goal line could come in handy later on in his career.” His highlights:
Devin Flowers RB 2020
I like what I see: a big, strong downhill runner who can squirt out and take it for distance. He’s also listed as a middle linebacker and they show a couple of jarring tackles he made. Dino is looking for big linebackers for the 3-3-5 so this guy could get some consideration there as well.

With that in mind, (and because I love the name), I introduce you to Marlowe Wax, 6-3, 230, who is listed with the linebackers, but like Flowers was a power running back in high school. Perhaps he could see some time on offense in his career here. He’s a 3 star from Maryland, (which means that if he’d gone to Maryland, he’d be a 4 star). Mr. Wax waxed enough would be tacklers to be rated the #77 running back coming out of high school last year. “As a senior, rushed for a school-record 1,330 yards and 18 touchdowns on 180 carries (7.4 avg.), while catching 13 passes for 180 yards (13.9 avg.). Defensively, had 111 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, five sacks, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and three interceptions” Here are his highlights:
Year 3
Which side of the ball do you want Mr. Wax on? Nunes: “Wax also played running back in high school (and it appeared that’s where we initially recruited him), so given the speed that most running backs possess, he could become a decent candidate for playing time within the four game redshirt rule”.

Another guy who won’t be here until 2021 but who I think belongs in this group is Josh Hough, a 6-2 254 3 star from Pennsylvania, (which means he’d be a 4 star if he went to Pitt and a 5 star if he went to Penn State). His senior year was cancelled due to CoVid19 but “As a junior, Hough rushed for 1,273 yards and scored 18 touchdowns. He made the most of his 135 carries, averaging 9.4 yards per tote.” That’s from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which also described him as a hard-hitting linebacker. Johnson, Flowers, Wax and Hough may be part of a trend for Dino: recruiting big, down-hill running backs to blast holes in the defensive line, (as his passing game spreads the defense out), and who could also give him some bigger guys at linebacker if he needed them there. Here are Josh’s highlights:
Best Junior Season Plays
Hough would not only be our biggest running back but the fastest of the big ones. I got some laughs by suggesting that Hough might someday be paired with Jawhar Jordan, who can disappear in a puff of smoke as part of a “Hough and Puff” backfield. Ahhh…. But that would require two running backs…


I think we’ve got plenty of talent and depth at running back, especially since, like everybody else, we just use one at a time. When Dungey was here, we effectively did have two running backs in the game at once, with Dungey being the second one and running like a fullback at that. We were unable to effectively replace his threat last year and the pure running backs were not productive enough to negate that absence. Maybe with a better line they can.
 

All4SU

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It will be interesting to see how a new OC views this talent pool. I would guess any assumptions are out the window. Good write-up.
 

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