We're all well-versed in the storied tradition of the number '44' here at Syracuse, and the running backs who famously wore the number. But despite the fact those digits have been retired, there's still a very impressive running back tradition that has revitalized itself in recent years. Standouts like Curtis Brinkley, Delone Carter, Antwon Bailey and Jerome Smith have all broken the 1,000-yard barrier and it's inspired a whole new tradition of backs ready to carry the torch for the Orange.
So who's next for Syracuse? The team sports a stable of impressive runners this season and it's conceivable that any of them could assert themselves as the Orange's best option. On top of the five running backs, there are also two capabale fullbacks -- all of whom could find carries this fall. Who are they all? We meet the entire depth chart below:
Prince-Tyson Gulley, (Redshirt) Senior: Gulley received a gift by getting another year of eligibility at Syracuse, and it's unlikely he squanders it. While not necessarily the team's "feature" back (we haven't had one of those in a while), the senior has the most experience on the roster and a track record of big gains. But will his lack of size cause him to get buried by others on the depth chart, despite that aforementioned experience? Last year was neither healthy nor excellent (barely 500 yards and five TDs total) and those fond memories of the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl can't necessarily carry him forever. Expect him to be a stabilizing, veteran force this year, though. With that same homerun potential he's always sported, too.
George Morris II, (Redshirt) Sophomore: The darling of the comments section, big things are expected of GMII this fall. While his carries were certainly limited last season (79 all year), he was able to show off some great bursts of quickness that compliment his 6'0" 200-pound frame rather well. That size gives him some benefits on inside runs, but where he seems to truly excel is in the open field -- something play-calling may or may not adjust for and help exploit. There's also the issue of his receiving skills out of the backfield: something that could ultimately make or break just how much he sees the field.
Devante McFarlane, (Redshirt) Sophomore: McFarlane was a bit more consistent than Morris last season, but also seemed to be redundant of Jerome Smith's production. Despite the similar size to Morris, he seemed to excel more up the middle and also had an extreme case of boom-or-bust running. He's another back who may have to up his game a bit catching the ball, but at the same time, there are certainly enough players at H-Back, tight end and wide receiver to catch passes all day. McFarlane may appear to be "third" on the overall depth chart, but it's easy to see just how important his running style will be.
Adonis Ameen-Moore, Senior: We all remember the success of the "tank package" and Ameen-Moore's central role in its success in turning around Doug Marrone's offense in 2012. And it's likely we also remember how much he struggled in a switch to fullback last season, too. Now back at running back, Ameen-Moore should return to productivity, and maybe even cure Syracuse's red zone woes, too. It's a welcome change from 2013's short yardage struggles.
Greg Tobias, Senior: Greg's a walk-on and is unlikely to play much at the running back position in 2014. Still, worth mentioning him here as he may get some mop-up time and will obviously play a role on special teams.
Clay Cleveland, (Redshirt) Senior: Fullbacks don't really carry the ball in this offense, but they are certainly utilized in the passing game. Though used sparingly in 2013, Cleveland still managed to make an impact both as a pass-catcher (six catches for 38 yards and two TDs) and as a blocker in select situations. As the starter once again, he'll be similarly involved and similarly utilized.
Travon Burke, Senior: Don't expect to see much from Burke on offense, though special teams may give him some additional opportunities. At 248 pounds, he fits the fullback mold much better than Cleveland, size-wise, however his lack of experience at the position (only switched there last summer) plays a part in why he's second and not first on the depth chart.
Nothing we really didn't know up above. The running back position is extremely well-stocked, but obviously fails to have a dominant back (though who really has that anymore anyway?). Gulley should lead the way, but we'll see plenty of the other three in their own respective roles. How they each carve out their respective niches, however, will be the most intriguing subplot of the season's first few weeks.
Miss last week's quarterback preview? Go catch up!