Syracuse coach Doug Marrone has several options at running back

After a long few weeks of closed practices, fans and the media finally got a chance to see the Syracuse Orange football team in action during the 2012 spring football game. The offense went scoreless but there was still plenty to take away from the action.

The defense looked strong and some young talent stood out. Ryan Nassib and Marcus Sales are seemingly clicking as they connected on a couple deep passes. Even the special teams unit looked respectable. But what really stood out was the depth in the backfield for the Orange.

This season, Syracuse has a few different weapons lining up behind Nassib.

Jerome Smith seems to be front-runner for the starting position at running back. He’s versatile in the backfield and made a few good plays during the spring game. He had a couple seven and eight yard carries, but more impressively, he made some good blocks in the backfield to give Nassib more time, which will be important this season.

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Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone said Smith has really improved over the last couple of weeks.

“A good example of an upperclassman coming on is Jerome Smith,” Marrone said. “Jerome Smith had as fine of a season as any running back we’ve had here in the spring.”

Prince-Tyson Gulley saw the field quite a bit last season behind Antwon Bailey. Against Toledo, Gulley rushed for a career-high 66 yards and gave the Orange a good one-two punch out of the backfield. Gulley’s season was cut short after he was stabbed in the collarbone at a South Campus party, but he’s back and ready to contribute again this season.

Not only can Gulley run, but he can catch the ball too. During the spring game, he had an explosive run up the middle and also made a couple good catches.

Ashton Broyld is the guy everyone has been waiting to see. He made his Orange debut at the Carrier Dome and didn’t disappoint. Broyld is listed as a quarterback, but he didn’t play under center in the scrimmage. He lined up mostly as a running back, or a slot receiver.

Broyld really showed off his mobility in the spring game. He had a nice six-yard run that featured a couple different jukes. And more impressively, he caught a pass in the flat and tore up the open field, running for 44 yards.

“You could label him a playmaker,” Marrone said. “He’s a special kid as far as a talent, and we just need to bring him along where he’s able to help us in whatever role it may be.”

Marrone isn’t the only one impressed with Broyld. Ryan Nassib said he plans to help carry him along to make sure he develops all the talent he has.

“Ashton is a very raw football player, the kid has got tremendous upside,” Nassib said. “We know how much he could help us out there.”

Broyld, Gulley and Smith impressed in the spring game but there was one piece missing. Adonis Ameen-Moore sustained an upper body injury during practice in November of last season. It was an injury that forced him to have season-ending surgery and he remains out but should be back by the time the season rolls around.

Fans saw glimpses of Ameen-Moore last season. He didn’t get many carries, but in the carries he did get, he showed off his ability to run downhill. His 5-foot-10, 244 pound frame gives him a great power running game that we never got to fully see due to his limited playing time. Ameen-Moore will be great for goal line situations. He is a Jerome Bettis-like runner who will be dressed in Orange, not black and yellow.

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The guys splitting the most time next season will be Gulley and Smith. Ameen-Moore will get carries, most likely in short yardage situations. But Broyld could end up anywhere on the field. Marrone said he could be a duel threat quarterback, a receiver, or a running back.

Regardless of where Broyld ends up, he’ll be making big plays for the Orange.