Marrone expects production from running back rotation to continue
Syracuse employed three different running backs in Saturday’s 28-17 win over Stony Brook. Head coach Doug Marrone said the “running-back-by-committee” approach is one he likes so far and won’t be changing anytime soon.
When the season started, Marrone tabbed Jerome Smith as the starter, though that was little more than a technicality. Evaluations were ongoing, and for now, all of the tailbacks will be taking their share of snaps.
“I don’t think I had a choice,” Marrone said during the Big East coaches’ teleconference on Monday. “That’ll be evaluated, obviously, as we work through the season. We’re getting the quality reps that we need from those players right now.”
While Smith is listed as the starter, Prince-Tyson Gulley lined up in the backfield for the Orange’s first few offensive plays. Eventually, Smith came in and ended up finishing with a team-leading 96 rushing yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. But Gulley and freshman Ashton Broyld also took snaps and both scored a touchdown.
Gulley took a screen pass from quarterback Ryan Nassib in the first quarter and ran 61 yards for a touchdown. And then, in the second quarter, Broyld sliced through the Seawolves defense for a 22-yard touchdown run.
Marrone said Monday he was happy with the production the team got from its running backs in its first win on Saturday.
“We’re just very happy with the way that group, our running back by committee, is doing,” Marrone said during the teleconference. “We just need to keep working hard and we need to get quality touches, which I think they’re all getting right now.”
Going for two
Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray suffered a high-ankle sprain in the Gophers’ 28-23 win over Western Michigan on Saturday and could be out for as long as a month. That means Syracuse will likely face Minnesota’s backup quarterback, Max Shortell.
The sophomore played in eight games in 2011 — starting two — and completed 26 of his 54 passes for 309 yards. He threw two touchdowns and two interceptions in his limited action.
When he replaced Gray on Saturday, the Gophers didn’t miss a beat. Shortell finished 10-of-17 for 188 yards and three touchdowns, including one on his first drive.
Since Minnesota hasn’t completely ruled out Gray for this weekend’s game against Syracuse, the Orange is left in the precarious spot of preparing for two quarterbacks. Marrone said Monday that they’re both very good quarterbacks, and Shortell has played beyond his experience level.
“The throws that he makes for a guy that hasn’t played in a lot of football games is someone that you see is very confident, he feels very comfortable,” Marrone said. “I really think he’s an outstanding young talent.”
Marrone said he doesn’t want to get too caught up in who’s playing and who isn’t because it can distract the team from focusing on what it needs to do improve.
“We know at the end of the day whoever’s playing quarterback or any other position for Minnesota, they’re going to be a pretty damn good football player,” Marrone said.
Sales consistent through three games
Marrone’s not surprised by how well Syracuse wide receiver Marcus Sales has played this season. He said as long as Sales practices consistently, he can put up big numbers.
So far this season, the senior has done just that, establishing himself as the team’s most dangerous receiver. Sales has finished with at least 100 yards receiving in all three of the Orange’s games and ranks seventh in the nation in receiving.
Said Marrone: “I think he’s a player that, if he practices well, and Marcus and I talked about this, that he can have this type of production every game.”
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