In the days leading up to each SU football game, The Juice Online will address questions about the team in our “Kickoff Countdown” segment.
Today’s question: The Orange have had plenty of pleasant surprises on the offensive side of the ball this season. What has been the best surprise of them all?
The Orange will finish up its regular season against Temple on Friday at 11 a.m. in Philadelphia. SU enters the game bowl eligible with plenty of players to thank for that, especially on the offensive side of the ball where there have been plenty of pleasant surprises.
Here is a look at the best surprises this year:
Alec Lemon: Lemon has been on a torrid pace lately. He followed a 176 yard, two touchdown game against Louisville with a 244 yard, two touchdown performance against Missouri. After not topping 100 yards in four of his first five games, he’s now surpassed 100 yards in four of his last five games.
Marcus Sales: Lemon’s season is the mirror opposite of Marcus Sales’ season. He started with three straight 100 yard games to open the season, and has only topped 100 yards twice since then. Still, he did have a solid showing against Missouri, with eight receptions for 85 yards.
Jerome Smith: Smith emerged from a crowded preseason backfield that included Prince-Tyson Gulley, Ashton Broyld and Adonis Ameen-Moore. He needs just 77 yards to surpass 1,000 yards when it seemed like it would be a running back by committee this season.
Prince-Tyson Gulley: While Gulley isn’t the starting back, he’s been a perfect compliment for Smith, reminiscent of when the New York Giants split Tiki Barber and Brandon Jacobs in the backfield. While Smith has bullied and bruised his way to his yardage, Gulley’s slippery running style has allowed him to net 534 yards and a team-best six touchdowns.
Ryan Nassib: No conversation about best surprise would be complete without Nassib. He has shattered all kinds of single-season Syracuse records. With 3404 yards and 23 touchdowns this year, Nassib has exceeded expectations. He’ll leave Syracuse, statistically, as one of the top quarterbacks of all time, and he’s turned more than a few pro scouts’ heads along the way.
Offensive Line: Of course, Nassib and the running backs wouldn’t have been able to do what they’re doing without the O-Line. Macky MacPherson and Justin Pugh have led a unit that was underrated at the beginning of the season, and should get recognized for the work they’ve done.