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Syracuse football focused on improving run game in 2018

If they manage it, this offense could look a whole lot more explosive.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not news to Syracuse Orange football fans that the team has struggled to run the ball in recent seasons.

SU’s gone five straight years without a 1,000-yard rusher, and while Dino Babers’s offense uses the run game as table-setter for downfield passing, that hasn’t necessarily been the case in two years with the Orange. Though they’ve managed to improve from year one (115th in rushing yards per game) to year two (70th).

Still, a lot of those gains are courtesy of quarterback Eric Dungey, versus the running back duo of Dontae Strickland and Moe Neal — though we saw some glimmers of hope last year from both. The two players are aware of the need to get more out of the rushing attack this year. They spoke to the Daily Orange about it this week, noting the “tough inside yards” required of them in this system.

It’s revealed that the two veteran rushers refer to themselves as Thunder (Strickland) and Lightning (Neal), a moniker that’s been tossed around numerous backfields over the years, but the New York-area fans among us might remember attached to the 2000 New York Giants’ duo of Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne. That’s not to say Strickland and Neal are Barber and Dayne at their peaks. But the idea of them playing two different roles is probably a good one to get the ground game going.

That, plus more of today’s Syracuse-related links below:

‘Thunder and lightning’ look to restore SU’s stability out of the backfield (Daily Orange)

“(Strickland) gets that tough yardage, and that’s something that I want to work on as well,” Neal said, “being able to get those tough inside yards.” But as much as the unit is looking to improve its ability on the ground, it’s also working to protect Dungey. In addition to that improved and more experienced offensive line, the running back unit has constantly been working on keeping Dungey upright, Neal said.

Who are Syracuse football’s best QBs and where does Eric Dungey rank? (Syracuse.com)

There have also been losses -- too many for his and Syracuse football’s liking -- and injuries, which means the ultra-competitive Dungey is not low on motivation heading into 2018 to add to his list of career accolades. If everything breaks right for the Orange in Dino Babers’ third season, it could mean Dungey is remembered among the all-time great quarterbacks in program history (some might think he’s already there).

5 SU basketball recruits to watch in 2018-19 (Daily Orange)

SU has already signed one player, Brycen Goodine, from the Class of 2019. Goodine is a 6-foot-4, 170-pound guard from St. Andrews (Rhode Island) School. Goodine is a combo guard who will likely help replace the graduating Howard and potentially NBA-bound Battle in the Orange’s backcourt in 2019. Goodine verbally committed in September 2017, prior to his junior season at St. Andrews

2018 MAC Football Preview: Syracuse Orange @ Western Michigan Broncos (Hustle Belt)

It will be a similar story for the Orange offense. QB Eric Dungey will do a good job moving the ball in short bursts. A very good Western Michigan defensive backfield should keep the big plays at bay, as Justin Tranquill and company bring a lot of experience and talent. The Orange will score, but not every time, and not quickly.

Countdown to college football: Picking every team’s win total in the ACC (Las Vegas Sun)

Over/under: 5.5 (plus-105, minus-125); Last Year: 4-8 straight-up, 6-5-1 against the spread. Remember when Syracuse upset Clemson as 24-point underdogs last year? How about when the Orange knocked off Virginia Tech while getting 23 points on the betting line in 2016? Unfortunately, those might remain the highlights of coach Dino Baber’s early tenure for another year.

College football strength of schedule rankings and how to make them much more useful (SB Nation)

Watch Syracuse coach Dino Babers shock walk-on Kyle Kleinberg with scholarship (Syracuse.com)

Roos Weers named ACC Co-Defensive Player of the Week (Daily Orange)

WMU Broncos looking to contain standout Syracuse quarterback (WMMT-TV)

Girard drawn to Gridiron (Times Union)