My 2022 SU Football Preview - Part 4: the Running Backs | Syracusefan.com

My 2022 SU Football Preview - Part 4: the Running Backs

SWC75

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RUNNING BACKS
Seniors:#5 Chris Elmore 6-0 286 (was 265)
Juniors:
Sophomores: #28 Juwaun Price 5-10 202, Sean Tucker 5-10 210 (was 202)
Freshmen: #20 LeQuint Allen 6-0 195, #38 Josh Escobar 5-8 170, #33 Mario Escobar 5-8 188, #23 David Obeng-Agyapono 5-11 183, #48 Joe Pinjuh 5-9 199,
Gone:
Abdul Adams had a disappointing career here after putting up gaudy numbers in limited play at Oklahoma. He gained 825 yards on 112 carriers, (7.4) as a Sooner and 411 yards on 108 carries (3.8) at Syracuse, although somehow he scored 5 times here, (twice in our bowl win over West Virginia), and only once as a Sooner, on this play, (it’s always worth looking at one more time):


So now he’s going, going gone – having declared for the NFL draft. He wasn’t drafted but at least his Facebook page shows him graduating.

Jarveon Howard had had more success here, gaining 731 yards on 151 carries and scoring 10TDs but only 7 carries for 13 yards last year after joining Adams in opting out in 2020. He entered the transfer portal shortly after this play, (at the 1:28 mark) where Shrader stole a touchdown from him:

Albany vs. Syracuse Football Highlights (2021)

Of course being a junior and playing back-up to a freshman who sets the school rushing record might have had something to do with his decision, as well. He’ll be back in Mississippi, playing for Alcorn State this year.

Cooper Lutz was a versatile back who could run, block and catch passes. In two years he carried the ball 60 times for 306 yards and a couple of scores and caught 12 passes for 67 years. He was a perfect third down possession back. He also got Sean Tuckeritis and will be playing for Vanderbilt this season, where I think he’ll do well.


Josh Hough was a 255 pound running back last year. He’s a 315 pound (!) defensive linemen this year.


Chris Elmore has played fullback, (where he is listed), tight end, offensive and defensive line but his position is basically ‘lead blocker’. 247 had him way back then as #1,390/#88 but as a defensive lineman. Chris has been here since 2017 and carried the ball 28 times, (23 in that first year) for 65 yards and three scores and caught 3 passes for 21 yards with no TDs. He’s all football player and a popular, inspiration guy but the numbers he helps to provide are mostly on the record of the people running behind him. His highlights are other people’s highlights. Here what they say about him:
Chris Elmore to Redshirt, Return for 2022

Sean Tucker is the team’s big star. He’s the best running back we’ve had since at least Walter Reyes two decades ago and maybe since Joe Morris four decades ago. Or even Little and Csonka six decades ago. Here is a list of Syracuse running backs who have averaged 100 yards per game in a season:
124.7 Joe Morris 1979 and Sean Tucker 2021
123.3 Jim Brown 1956
112.7 Larry Csonka 1967
112.3 Walter Reyes 2003
108.5 Joe Morris 1981
106.5 Floyd Little 1965
101.2 Larry Csonka 1966
100.1 Joe Morris 1978
Sean’s 1,496 yards broke Joe’s SU single season rushing record of 1,372 yards in 1979. His 6.1 yards per carry were the most for an SU rushing leader since Ernie Davis averaged 7.8 in 1960. He had a dozen rushing touchdowns, which was actually second on the team to Garrett Shrader’s 14, (the fake to the running back and walk-in by the quarterback was a very effective play for us last year). Reyes still holds the record there with 20, (including an incredible 5 vs. Notre Dame). Sean also caught 20 passes for 255 yards and more scores. The NFL likes backs who can catch passes and Sean can. He’s got good size, (5-10 205), great speed, (a hand-timed 4.29 in the 40 in high school and he ran track here last spring, trying to get even faster). He sees the whole field. Coach Babers, who was a running back in the old days at Hawaii, likes to line up behind the play in practice and, after the play, point out to the back what holes he missed. He recently said that last year, he could always point out something that Sean had missed. In practice this year, Sean is pointing out what Dino missed. Sean has all kinds of moves to get loose. He first got noticed against Georgia Tech in 2020 when he burst through the line, ran for about 15 yards, got tackled but rolled over the defender, avoided touching the ground with his knee and bolted into the end zone:

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Syracuse Orange | 2020 College Football Highlights

He’s a threat to go all the way any time he gets the ball and Babers and Anae will make sure he gets the ball as much as possible. He’s a quiet leader and has been loyal. Under the current rules he could have decided to see how much he could have gained running behind Clemson’s line but he’s still here. It’s assumed he’ll move onto the pros after this season but we’ll see. There’s no ‘downside’ with Sean but there are two concerns: injury, (he missed a couple games as a freshmen and running backs always have people diving at their legs), and the difficulty of a great running back carrying a team in this era. Jim Brown led Syracuse to a 7-2 record in 1956, losing the Cotton Bowl to Texas Christian by a single point. Sean had a similar season last year and we wound up 5-7.

To have a season like 1956, we’re going to need to throw the ball more effectively. It’s been argued that that would reduce Tucker’s numbers but Dino past teams suggest that the opposite might be true. On his 2013 Eastern Illinois team, Jimmy Garoppolo threw the ball 568 times and yet his two running backs, Sheppard little and Taylor Duncan, who alternated, each ran the ball 217 times. They rushed for 2,539 yards and 22 touchdowns while Garopollo completed 375 passes for 5,050 yards and 53 TDs. That team engineered 367 first downs and 1,120 plays in 14 games. That’s 26 first downs and 80 plays a game, compared to 20 and 65 for SU last year. Two years later, at Bowling Green, Matt Johnson completed 383/569 for 4,946 yards and 46TDs while Travis Greene and Fred Coppet ran the ball 368 times for 2,124 yards and 20TDs. They averaged 28 first downs and 81 plays. I don’t expect those kinds of numbers this year, (but would love, beyond describing, to be wrong), but they prove that an improved passing game doesn’t limit the running game. It gives it more opportunities, in the form of more plays and having the defense back off and spread out to cover the receivers. That’s what we – and Tucker - need this year.

Tucker, (247 had him #867/58 as an RB) was 1st or 2nd in rushing yards in the country most of last season. He wound up 6th after defenses realized we didn’t have much of a passing game and put everybody in ‘the box’. (Sean gained only 229 yards in the three November games and scored just once, all losses.) Yet a national writer recently listed the top ten running backs in the country and didn’t include Sean. We haven’t had a player in New York for the Heisman banquet since Don McPherson in 1987, (they usually invite the top 3-4 contenders). Tucker deserves to be there. But induvial recognition, as Coach Mac used to say, comes with team success. We need to get that passing game going, get Sean the ball 300+ times, (266 last year), and have at least the kind of year we had in 2018 to get Sean there. I don’t know if we can do that but he deserves to be there. His 2021 highlights:

Sean Tucker 2021 Regular Season Highlights | Syracuse RB


Each year I make my plea to return to the old days of a classic fullback, (Nance, Csonka) and a classic halfback (Little), and each year it falls on deaf ears. It’s a pointless argument this year, now that Josh Hough has moved over to the dark side, (err… the White side). There’s no one on the roster who has the look of a traditional fullback. When you go with just one running back, you either have to have a dominant offensive line that can protect your quarterback in the pocket and open holes for the single running back or you’ve got to use your quarterback as the second running back to keep the defense honest and allow you to run misdirection plays. That’s what we did last year once Schrader took over. He and Tucker made an amazing combination. Against Florida State, Tucker ran for 102 yards but didn’t score: Shrader ran for 137 yards and 3TDs. Against Wake Forest, Tucker ran for 153 yards and 2 scores, Shrader 178 and 1. Clemson decided to take Shrader’s running out of the game and spied him. He ran for just 6 yards but scored a touchdown. Tucker didn’t score but ran for 157 yards. Tucker ran for 112 yards and a score against Virginia Tech. Shrader ran for 174 yards and 3TDs and passed for 236 yards and 2 scores, including the winner. Tucker had his biggest game with 207 yards and a score vs. BC. Shrader’s passing troubles really began at this point but he added 78 yards rushing and a score in our final win. They can be an awesome rushing combo but Shader needs to stay healthy despite taking hits and he needs to get the ball to his receivers to keep the defense honest.

The departures of Adams, Howard and Lutz and the movement of Hough emptied out the running back room behind Tucker so Babers and his men had to find some replacements and they came up with a couple of interesting ones.

Juwaun Price came here from New Mexico State where, as a redshirt freshman last year he carried the ball 135 times for 692 yards (5.1) and 10 touchdowns and caught 26 passes for 181 yards, (7.0), and returned 20 kicks for 358 yards (17.9). 247 rated him 2 stars and the #172 running back. He’s about the same size as Tucker (5-10 202) and has some speed, elusiveness and the ability to catch the ball. His former roommate at NMS, Jason Simmons, transferred here last year and is a defensive back. Nunes: “The addition of Price might give Tucker a break every few possessions. Price is most likely the No. 2 running back on the depth chart and given his numbers at New Mexico State, he’ll probably get some valuable playing time.” 247: “Syracuse already has one of the nation’s best running backs in Sean Tucker, a legitimate All-American candidate that will stuff the stat sheet. But the Orange desperately needed depth beyond him. The next-leading rusher at running back from 2021 was Jarveon Howard and his 79 net yards. Price will give Tucker some much-needed relief, as the New Mexico State transfer is coming off a year in which he scampered for 692 yards and 10 touchdowns.” Price played well in the spring game, running for 64 yards on just 6 carries. Here are some highlights from his year with the Aggies:


He’s athletic and quick and should be a good back-up for Tucker.

The other new face is LaQuint Allen, a freshman out of New Jersey rated by 247 at #913/69. He’s got good size at 6-0 195. He enrolled in January and played in the spring game, running 41 yards for a touchdown. He was coming off a senior season where he ran for 1,903 yards on 229 carries (8.3 avg.) and 26 touchdowns. He also caught 17 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns. He was also a standout DB. Nunes: “I expect a redshirt season. Even with his raw speed, the RB room is pretty crowded, and Allen could use the time to continue to bulk up and prepare for a serious positional competition next year. His best bet to see the field would be very late in the Wagner game.” I find that an amazing statement. We’ve got three scholarship running backs and he’s one of them. Here are his high school highlights:

Covid Season Highlights ⚰️

Much of the running is power running. Then they show him going deep on pass patterns and playing DB aggressively. They guy’s a football player!


Mario Escobar, Obeno-Agyapono, Pinjuh are redshirt freshman walk-ons. Mario’s younger brother Josh is a true freshman walk-on. Given the lack of scholarship running backs, these guys could see some action. Tucker was 5th string at the start of his freshmen year but was 1st string just a few games into the season. 247 didn’t rate any of these guys. Nunes on Mario: “If he’s going to get back on the field this fall, it’s likely to come as a member of special teams units. Escobar was a versatile player in high school and can contribute on kick coverage teams.” On Josh: Nada. On Obeno-Agyapono: Zilch. On Pinjuh: “Playing time is already hard to come by when you’re not a scholarship player. Joe happens to have a potential Heisman candidate in front of him on the depth chart as well. It’d take a lot for him to see the field except in a rout.” Cuse.com always has something to say. “Mario was a wide-out for four years in high school but he did run the ball in the spring game and scored on a short run.” Even Cuse.com has nothing but a picture of Josh. Obeno-Agyapono made the honor roll. Pinjuh “Registered 27 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 11.3 yards per carry as a senior … Led team in special teams tackles and sacks”. His father ran track here.

I think we’d better look at players currently at other positions who could be pressed into service at running back if needed. If Josh Hough is now 315, he could only be used for “Refrigerator Perry” type plays – and we already have Elmore if we want to that. Marlowe Wax was quite a running back in high school but he’s become such a good linebacker I don’t think the coaching staff would switch him. One guy I think could make the switch is Trebor Pena. Cooper Lutz was a high school running back switched to wide receiver here and pressed into service at his old position to back up Tucker two years ago. He’s gone but Pena has a similar resume and a spectacular high school highlight tape:

Trebor Pena Senior Highlights
 

SWC75

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On the new depth chart, LeQuint Allen beat out the more experienced Juwaun Price for the back-up spot behind Sean Tucker. I’d like to know what we have beyond them. Tucker was 5th string to start the season two years ago and became the #1 guy two games later. Who is the #5 guy now?
 

Toga

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RUNNING BACKS
Seniors:#5 Chris Elmore 6-0 286 (was 265)
Juniors:
Sophomores: #28 Juwaun Price 5-10 202, Sean Tucker 5-10 210 (was 202)
Freshmen: #20 LeQuint Allen 6-0 195, #38 Josh Escobar 5-8 170, #33 Mario Escobar 5-8 188, #23 David Obeng-Agyapono 5-11 183, #48 Joe Pinjuh 5-9 199,
Gone:
Abdul Adams had a disappointing career here after putting up gaudy numbers in limited play at Oklahoma. He gained 825 yards on 112 carriers, (7.4) as a Sooner and 411 yards on 108 carries (3.8) at Syracuse, although somehow he scored 5 times here, (twice in our bowl win over West Virginia), and only once as a Sooner, on this play, (it’s always worth looking at one more time):


So now he’s going, going gone – having declared for the NFL draft. He wasn’t drafted but at least his Facebook page shows him graduating.

Jarveon Howard had had more success here, gaining 731 yards on 151 carries and scoring 10TDs but only 7 carries for 13 yards last year after joining Adams in opting out in 2020. He entered the transfer portal shortly after this play, (at the 1:28 mark) where Shrader stole a touchdown from him:

Albany vs. Syracuse Football Highlights (2021)

Of course being a junior and playing back-up to a freshman who sets the school rushing record might have had something to do with his decision, as well. He’ll be back in Mississippi, playing for Alcorn State this year.

Cooper Lutz was a versatile back who could run, block and catch passes. In two years he carried the ball 60 times for 306 yards and a couple of scores and caught 12 passes for 67 years. He was a perfect third down possession back. He also got Sean Tuckeritis and will be playing for Vanderbilt this season, where I think he’ll do well.


Josh Hough was a 255 pound running back last year. He’s a 315 pound (!) defensive linemen this year.


Chris Elmore has played fullback, (where he is listed), tight end, offensive and defensive line but his position is basically ‘lead blocker’. 247 had him way back then as #1,390/#88 but as a defensive lineman. Chris has been here since 2017 and carried the ball 28 times, (23 in that first year) for 65 yards and three scores and caught 3 passes for 21 yards with no TDs. He’s all football player and a popular, inspiration guy but the numbers he helps to provide are mostly on the record of the people running behind him. His highlights are other people’s highlights. Here what they say about him:
Chris Elmore to Redshirt, Return for 2022

Sean Tucker is the team’s big star. He’s the best running back we’ve had since at least Walter Reyes two decades ago and maybe since Joe Morris four decades ago. Or even Little and Csonka six decades ago. Here is a list of Syracuse running backs who have averaged 100 yards per game in a season:
124.7 Joe Morris 1979 and Sean Tucker 2021
123.3 Jim Brown 1956
112.7 Larry Csonka 1967
112.3 Walter Reyes 2003
108.5 Joe Morris 1981
106.5 Floyd Little 1965
101.2 Larry Csonka 1966
100.1 Joe Morris 1978
Sean’s 1,496 yards broke Joe’s SU single season rushing record of 1,372 yards in 1979. His 6.1 yards per carry were the most for an SU rushing leader since Ernie Davis averaged 7.8 in 1960. He had a dozen rushing touchdowns, which was actually second on the team to Garrett Shrader’s 14, (the fake to the running back and walk-in by the quarterback was a very effective play for us last year). Reyes still holds the record there with 20, (including an incredible 5 vs. Notre Dame). Sean also caught 20 passes for 255 yards and more scores. The NFL likes backs who can catch passes and Sean can. He’s got good size, (5-10 205), great speed, (a hand-timed 4.29 in the 40 in high school and he ran track here last spring, trying to get even faster). He sees the whole field. Coach Babers, who was a running back in the old days at Hawaii, likes to line up behind the play in practice and, after the play, point out to the back what holes he missed. He recently said that last year, he could always point out something that Sean had missed. In practice this year, Sean is pointing out what Dino missed. Sean has all kinds of moves to get loose. He first got noticed against Georgia Tech in 2020 when he burst through the line, ran for about 15 yards, got tackled but rolled over the defender, avoided touching the ground with his knee and bolted into the end zone:

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Syracuse Orange | 2020 College Football Highlights

He’s a threat to go all the way any time he gets the ball and Babers and Anae will make sure he gets the ball as much as possible. He’s a quiet leader and has been loyal. Under the current rules he could have decided to see how much he could have gained running behind Clemson’s line but he’s still here. It’s assumed he’ll move onto the pros after this season but we’ll see. There’s no ‘downside’ with Sean but there are two concerns: injury, (he missed a couple games as a freshmen and running backs always have people diving at their legs), and the difficulty of a great running back carrying a team in this era. Jim Brown led Syracuse to a 7-2 record in 1956, losing the Cotton Bowl to Texas Christian by a single point. Sean had a similar season last year and we wound up 5-7.

To have a season like 1956, we’re going to need to throw the ball more effectively. It’s been argued that that would reduce Tucker’s numbers but Dino past teams suggest that the opposite might be true. On his 2013 Eastern Illinois team, Jimmy Garoppolo threw the ball 568 times and yet his two running backs, Sheppard little and Taylor Duncan, who alternated, each ran the ball 217 times. They rushed for 2,539 yards and 22 touchdowns while Garopollo completed 375 passes for 5,050 yards and 53 TDs. That team engineered 367 first downs and 1,120 plays in 14 games. That’s 26 first downs and 80 plays a game, compared to 20 and 65 for SU last year. Two years later, at Bowling Green, Matt Johnson completed 383/569 for 4,946 yards and 46TDs while Travis Greene and Fred Coppet ran the ball 368 times for 2,124 yards and 20TDs. They averaged 28 first downs and 81 plays. I don’t expect those kinds of numbers this year, (but would love, beyond describing, to be wrong), but they prove that an improved passing game doesn’t limit the running game. It gives it more opportunities, in the form of more plays and having the defense back off and spread out to cover the receivers. That’s what we – and Tucker - need this year.

Tucker, (247 had him #867/58 as an RB) was 1st or 2nd in rushing yards in the country most of last season. He wound up 6th after defenses realized we didn’t have much of a passing game and put everybody in ‘the box’. (Sean gained only 229 yards in the three November games and scored just once, all losses.) Yet a national writer recently listed the top ten running backs in the country and didn’t include Sean. We haven’t had a player in New York for the Heisman banquet since Don McPherson in 1987, (they usually invite the top 3-4 contenders). Tucker deserves to be there. But induvial recognition, as Coach Mac used to say, comes with team success. We need to get that passing game going, get Sean the ball 300+ times, (266 last year), and have at least the kind of year we had in 2018 to get Sean there. I don’t know if we can do that but he deserves to be there. His 2021 highlights:

Sean Tucker 2021 Regular Season Highlights | Syracuse RB


Each year I make my plea to return to the old days of a classic fullback, (Nance, Csonka) and a classic halfback (Little), and each year it falls on deaf ears. It’s a pointless argument this year, now that Josh Hough has moved over to the dark side, (err… the White side). There’s no one on the roster who has the look of a traditional fullback. When you go with just one running back, you either have to have a dominant offensive line that can protect your quarterback in the pocket and open holes for the single running back or you’ve got to use your quarterback as the second running back to keep the defense honest and allow you to run misdirection plays. That’s what we did last year once Schrader took over. He and Tucker made an amazing combination. Against Florida State, Tucker ran for 102 yards but didn’t score: Shrader ran for 137 yards and 3TDs. Against Wake Forest, Tucker ran for 153 yards and 2 scores, Shrader 178 and 1. Clemson decided to take Shrader’s running out of the game and spied him. He ran for just 6 yards but scored a touchdown. Tucker didn’t score but ran for 157 yards. Tucker ran for 112 yards and a score against Virginia Tech. Shrader ran for 174 yards and 3TDs and passed for 236 yards and 2 scores, including the winner. Tucker had his biggest game with 207 yards and a score vs. BC. Shrader’s passing troubles really began at this point but he added 78 yards rushing and a score in our final win. They can be an awesome rushing combo but Shader needs to stay healthy despite taking hits and he needs to get the ball to his receivers to keep the defense honest.

The departures of Adams, Howard and Lutz and the movement of Hough emptied out the running back room behind Tucker so Babers and his men had to find some replacements and they came up with a couple of interesting ones.

Juwaun Price came here from New Mexico State where, as a redshirt freshman last year he carried the ball 135 times for 692 yards (5.1) and 10 touchdowns and caught 26 passes for 181 yards, (7.0), and returned 20 kicks for 358 yards (17.9). 247 rated him 2 stars and the #172 running back. He’s about the same size as Tucker (5-10 202) and has some speed, elusiveness and the ability to catch the ball. His former roommate at NMS, Jason Simmons, transferred here last year and is a defensive back. Nunes: “The addition of Price might give Tucker a break every few possessions. Price is most likely the No. 2 running back on the depth chart and given his numbers at New Mexico State, he’ll probably get some valuable playing time.” 247: “Syracuse already has one of the nation’s best running backs in Sean Tucker, a legitimate All-American candidate that will stuff the stat sheet. But the Orange desperately needed depth beyond him. The next-leading rusher at running back from 2021 was Jarveon Howard and his 79 net yards. Price will give Tucker some much-needed relief, as the New Mexico State transfer is coming off a year in which he scampered for 692 yards and 10 touchdowns.” Price played well in the spring game, running for 64 yards on just 6 carries. Here are some highlights from his year with the Aggies:


He’s athletic and quick and should be a good back-up for Tucker.

The other new face is LaQuint Allen, a freshman out of New Jersey rated by 247 at #913/69. He’s got good size at 6-0 195. He enrolled in January and played in the spring game, running 41 yards for a touchdown. He was coming off a senior season where he ran for 1,903 yards on 229 carries (8.3 avg.) and 26 touchdowns. He also caught 17 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns. He was also a standout DB. Nunes: “I expect a redshirt season. Even with his raw speed, the RB room is pretty crowded, and Allen could use the time to continue to bulk up and prepare for a serious positional competition next year. His best bet to see the field would be very late in the Wagner game.” I find that an amazing statement. We’ve got three scholarship running backs and he’s one of them. Here are his high school highlights:

Covid Season Highlights ⚰️

Much of the running is power running. Then they show him going deep on pass patterns and playing DB aggressively. They guy’s a football player!


Mario Escobar, Obeno-Agyapono, Pinjuh are redshirt freshman walk-ons. Mario’s younger brother Josh is a true freshman walk-on. Given the lack of scholarship running backs, these guys could see some action. Tucker was 5th string at the start of his freshmen year but was 1st string just a few games into the season. 247 didn’t rate any of these guys. Nunes on Mario: “If he’s going to get back on the field this fall, it’s likely to come as a member of special teams units. Escobar was a versatile player in high school and can contribute on kick coverage teams.” On Josh: Nada. On Obeno-Agyapono: Zilch. On Pinjuh: “Playing time is already hard to come by when you’re not a scholarship player. Joe happens to have a potential Heisman candidate in front of him on the depth chart as well. It’d take a lot for him to see the field except in a rout.” Cuse.com always has something to say. “Mario was a wide-out for four years in high school but he did run the ball in the spring game and scored on a short run.” Even Cuse.com has nothing but a picture of Josh. Obeno-Agyapono made the honor roll. Pinjuh “Registered 27 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 11.3 yards per carry as a senior … Led team in special teams tackles and sacks”. His father ran track here.

I think we’d better look at players currently at other positions who could be pressed into service at running back if needed. If Josh Hough is now 315, he could only be used for “Refrigerator Perry” type plays – and we already have Elmore if we want to that. Marlowe Wax was quite a running back in high school but he’s become such a good linebacker I don’t think the coaching staff would switch him. One guy I think could make the switch is Trebor Pena. Cooper Lutz was a high school running back switched to wide receiver here and pressed into service at his old position to back up Tucker two years ago. He’s gone but Pena has a similar resume and a spectacular high school highlight tape:

Trebor Pena Senior Highlights
Do you have any facts to back that up?
 

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