Bailey: Broyld finds role after pressure to switch positions at Milford Academy

Jenny Jakubowski | Staff Photographer

Syracuse H-back Ashton Broyld starred in high school as a quarterback, but his coaches at Milford Academy in New York predicted that he would end up playing defense.

NEW BERLIN, N.Y. — There’s a reason Ashton Broyld was scared about a position change when newly hired Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer sat him down in his office in January. For Broyld’s entire year at Milford Academy before coming to Syracuse, coaches suggested that he become either a linebacker or a safety.

“I could see that kid going in the weight room, putting on 20 pounds of muscle and having ‘NFL’ written across his forehead,” Milford quarterbacks coach Buff Bowen said.

Bowen worked with Broyld and the rest of the quarterbacks every day during Broyld’s season at Milford two years ago. And every day, Bowen and the rest of the coaching staff watched the then-235-pound Broyld work out at a position they thought was not his most promising. Fellow Milford-to-Syracuse product Dyshawn Davis had switched from wide receiver to safety the year before. Yet, despite frequent urging from Bowen, head coach Bill Chaplick and others, Broyld decided to remain a quarterback.

Now at Syracuse, he’s no longer a quarterback, but he still plays on the offensive side of the ball. The sophomore H-back has become arguably the most explosive and talented player on the Orange, playing a position originally designed to get the ball in his hands. And he’s thriving.

What seemed like an inevitability to Bowen and Chaplick — Syracuse turning Broyld into a linebacker or safety — hasn’t happened.

“I tried to get him to switch,” Chaplick said. “I threw the bait out there. You know how you go fishing, you throw the bait out there? He didn’t bite.”

Instead, Broyld focused on quarterback. After amassing more than 3,500 total yards and 48 touchdowns as a senior at Rush-Henrietta Senior High School in Henrietta, N.Y., he logged 686 total yards and 12 scores at Milford, splitting snaps with another quarterback.

He came to Milford with a run-first mindset and a throwing posture with the ball at his hip. But he left with a clean form and a very tight spiral for someone with small hands, Bowen said.

Still, neither Bowen nor Chaplick expected Syracuse to keep Broyld at quarterback. He was too big, better suited to be a Southeastern Conference safety or outside linebacker, Chaplick said. After one year on offense, Chaplick expected the Orange to flip him.

Occasionally, Broyld would hop into the safety position for skeleton drills at Milford — mostly to prove that he could, Bowen said.

And when he did, he put on a show.

“Just fooling around in drills, oh my God, he’d jump over himself every now and then,” Bowen said. “Even just doing 1-on-1s or (skeleton), he’d just take the field away. He was that good of an athlete.”

“If you jump to the other side of the ball,” Bowen would tell Broyld, “you’ll have every school in the country drooling.”

He was tough, too.

When approached at practice by patented instigating defensive tackle Dimitrius Smith — younger brother of New York Knicks guards J.R. and Chris Smith — Broyld didn’t back down, Bowen said. He stared Smith down face to face until Bowen could see in his eyes that Smith wanted nothing to do with Broyld.

Broyld never budged from his place in the backfield at Milford, either. Chaplick kept his preseason promise to allow Broyld to play quarterback. And Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone kept Broyld on offense — experimenting with him all over the field.

From running the Wildcat to taking pitches from the backfield and catching bubble screens in the slot, the Orange tried to find ways to get the ball in Broyld’s hands.

And while there were bumps in the road, it appears to have paid off. He has a position now. His position. And he can do more for the Orange there than he can on defense.

That’s why Shafer told the seemingly petrified Broyld eight months ago that he wasn’t going anywhere.

“I probably would if I was the defensive coordinator,” Shafer told Broyld, “but I’m the head coach now, so we’re going to keep you on offense to get the ball in your hands.”


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