As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a unit-by-unit preview each week over the summer. This week, we’re discussing Syracuse’s 2022 running backs.
If there was one thing to hang your hat on after a disappointing 2021, it’s that Syracuse at least had an incredible ground game.
Sean Tucker was 6th in the nation with 1496 rushing yards, becoming the first Syracuse Orange player to eclipse 1400 yards rushing in a season. He finished the year All-ACC as the top offensive vote getter in the conference and looks to be the focal point for the offense moving forward.
That being said, Syracuse suffered not being able to pass the ball efficiently and complement the help that Tucker was giving them as evidenced by their 115.41 passing efficiency rating, good for 111th in the country. For reference, of the other nine teams that had a top 10 rusher, only two didn’t crack the top 50 in team passing efficiency. All seven were bowl eligible by the end of 2021. That is the area the Orange need to be. They have to learn how to complement Tucker’s excellence with an efficient passing game.
The good news there is that there’s not much to worry about in the run game. It’s a safe bet to assume Tucker will trot back out there and return to his streaks of 100-yard rushing games, but it’s worth looking at the rest of the depth chart in the event that the injury bug bites.
As I see it here in May, here’s what the depth chart for running backs looks like:
- Sean Tucker- 5’10” 209 pounds
- Juwaun Price- 5’10” 198 pounds
- Lequint Allen- 6’0” 193 pounds
- Mario Escobar- 5’9” 187 pounds
- David Obeng-Agyapong- 5’11” 183 pounds
- Joe Pinjuh- 5’9” 199 pounds
It goes without saying that Tucker is the starter and workhorse back, but the number two back role probably goes to Garrett Shrader after he set numerous team records for a quarterback with his legs last year.
All jokes aside, I’d like to see Juwaun Price solidify the number two spot and spell Tucker often, as the New Mexico State transfer impressed last season with a 5.13 yards per rush average and 10 touchdowns for the Aggies. His best performance was also his most recent one, in the last game of the year when he ran for 156 yards and four touchdowns against UMass.
I’m putting Lequint Allen behind Price for the time being as Price got the start over him in the recent spring game and was the leading rusher, although Allen impressed with a 41-yard score. The incoming freshman was the Gatorade New Jersey Football Player of The Year and is a three star prospect according to 247 Sports and Rivals, and possesses the talent to overtake Price for the number two spot on the depth chart but as it stands today has to go make it happen in camp.
» Related: Previewing Syracuse’s 2022 quarterbacks
Escobar is a local New York kid who played wide receiver for four years in high school, but only appeared in one game for the Orange in 2021 on special teams against NC State. He’s the smallest back in the room but possesses good speed and could be a nice change of pace for about 5-10 carries on the year.
Obeng-Agyapong and Pinjuh round out the roster as purely special teamers but both players have good size to get downfield, make tackles and take on blocks as needed in that phase of the game.
It remains to be seen what the run scheme specifics will look like with new offensive coordinator Robert Anae’s system expected to have air-raid and designed-QB keeper elements. With a player of Tucker’s caliber you can bet the Orange will still give their All-American back plenty of opportunities though, and here’s to hoping Price and Allen are an effective change of pace that keeps defenses on their toes throughout the year.
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