Football

Gulley prepares to take on starting role, lead deep cast of running backs

Andrew Renneisen | Staff Photographer

Prince-Tyson Gulley said he expects close to 20 carries per game, up from 7.6 in 2013. He believes he’ll get 5–7 targets out of the backfield per game after catching just 15 total passes a season ago.

Jerome Smith is heading to the NFL. George McDonald plans to implement a “full-bore fast” offense. Terrel Hunt is much more comfortable running the show and has a revamped receiving corps to throw to.

Many elements of Syracuse’s offense will be entirely different in the coming months, but Prince-Tyson Gulley expects one component to remain constant.

SU will continue to run the ball regularly.

“It’s a running backs’ school,” Gulley said, “so that’s what we plan to do. We’ve just got to put in the work, and they’re giving us a shot to make plays for the offense.”

Gulley, George Morris II, Devante McFarlane and Adonis Ameen-Moore will look to fill the void left by Smith, one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s most prolific backs a season ago. Gulley and Co. know their ability to consistently produce will be imperative when SU enters its second season in the ACC, and are working diligently this spring to ensure there isn’t a drop-off with Smith gone.

Smith rushed 200 times last season, racking up 914 yards and 12 touchdowns. Gulley carried the ball 83 times for 456 yards and four touchdowns, while Morris and McFarlane each picked up close to 300 yards and found the end zone once.

With Smith gone, everyone moves up a spot. Gulley, who was the clear-cut second back last season and is the expected starter in the fall, knows replacing Smith will be a challenge, but it’s one he’s ready to tackle.

“I don’t like to bring all the light on me,” Gulley said, “but it’s a good feeling that I am No. 1 right now. I know that comes with a lot of stuff that I have to carry.”

Namely, the ball. Gulley said he expects close to 20 carries per game, up from 7.6 in 2013. He believes he’ll get 5–7 targets out of the backfield per game after catching just 15 total passes a season ago.

Gulley said he’s very comfortable running routes and catching Hunt’s passes — he’s not exclusively a rusher.

“Tyson never had to adjust to being the No. 1 back,” Hunt said. “We had Jerome as the No. 1 back, but they were both the No. 1 backs in reality. Tyson’s not adjusting at all.”

Whether or not Gulley shines or struggles in his increased role, he’ll have a slew of backups ready to decrease some of the burden.

Morris and McFarlane are preparing for a surge in carries, as well.

Morris said he felt more at ease as the season progressed last year. He had the apprehension and nerves that often come with being a freshman to start, but they quickly subsided.

“In the beginning I wasn’t as fluid,” Morris said. “I wasn’t myself. As the season went on I got more carries and I got more comfortable.”

Gulley said he feels as though Morris’ speed is one of his best assets. Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer said Morris broke free for a 15–20-yard run in SU’s scrimmage last Tuesday.

Morris said his main focus this spring is to work on protecting Hunt. When the ball isn’t handed off to him or thrown in his direction, he knows blocking is imperative to both stay on the field and help the offense click.

Shafer said he’s been pleased with McFarlane’s vision. He said he’s especially lethal inside and that he’s also capable of taking it against the grain.

“George and Devante, they’re doing exactly what they should be,” Hunt said. “What they’re trying to do is learn protection better. We all know they can run.”

Even Ameen-Moore, who carried the ball just five times last season, is coming on strong, Shafer said. He said Ameen-Moore, a rising senior, “sees some light at the end of the tunnel,” and is continuing to push SU’s top three backs.

“It’s a friendly competition,” Gulley said. “We’re always clowning each other, letting everybody know. We got a little joke about who catches balls and stuff like that. It’s always a competition, but we keep it in the room.”

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