FOGO: It's an acronym with which only a true lacrosse fan would be familiar. For Syracuse Orange fans, it's the easiest way to describe Ben Williams and the role he has played for the Orange since coming over from the Holy Cross Crusaders last year.
That role, as the "faceoff-get off" specialist for the Orange, is one in which Williams has thrived in the year and a game since he first put on the Syracuse uniform. He finished last season with the second best face-off win percentage in the country (.674) and the highest number of ground balls per game in the country (9.56), on his way to earning second team All-American honors.
A case can easily be made that says that Williams is the most important player on the Syracuse roster. Without his expertise at winning face-offs, the scoring opportunities for the offense would be far fewer. Simply put, they would have the ball less if fewer face-offs were won. The defense would be put under more pressure, and as a result, it would be a lot tougher for the Orange to win games.
Now, however, it appears that arguably the most important player for Syracuse will be taking on an even larger role in his second season in orange: a role as an offensive midfielder.
In 2015, Syracuse had the luxury of starting three fifth-year seniors at midfield who all sat among the top six scorers on the team. There was really no need for Ben Williams to be involved in the offense beyond winning possession for his team. From there, Nicky Galasso, Hakeem Lecky, Henry Schoonmaker, and all the rest took the reigns for the second highest scoring offense in the country (14.87 goals per game).
After losing 63 percent of their points from last year, this year's Syracuse team will be looking to new sources to replace those points. One of the potential replacements is Ben Williams.
Although necessity plays a role in the possibility of Williams playing more offensive midfield this year, his offensive abilities are undeniable. As a senior at St. Thomas Academy in Minnesota, he put up 35 goals and 25 assists for a total of 60 points; not exactly numbers to be ignored.
Coach John Desko, who used the scrimmages and the Orange's 18-5 dismantling of Siena to try out different looks with his offensive midfield, had this to say about Williams's potential expanded role in the offense:
"We're toying with using Ben a little bit more offensively and defensively because he isn't just the traditional face-off guy that doesn't run very well, is not athletic. Ben is very athletic. He's got good speed. He can shoot the ball on the run. He's been working on that quite a bit in the offseason".
For Williams, it was an offseason that included sitting out fall ball to nurse a shoulder injury. It turns out that this may have been a blessing in disguise for two people: Williams and backup face-off man, Cal Paduda.
Since Ben couldn't work on face-offs in the fall, it gave him a chance to focus his training on improving his shooting for the spring. With Ben sidelined, Paduda was able to take the majority of the reps and prepare himself for an expanded role this season, as well. If Williams is logging more minutes on offense, that will necessitate Cal taking more face-offs to give his buddy extra rest and keep him fresher, especially in the context of a long season.
Time will have to be the judge of how Ben Williams is utilized in this year's Syracuse offense, but for now, Williams has a scary thought for opposing teams to ponder: "I'm not nearly as good as I think I can be at the X".