ACC Football Player of the Week, Week 7: Anthony Boone, Duke

Duke Blue Devils' Quarterback Anthony Boone is the ACC Player of the Week for Week 7

Duke Blue Devils’ Quarterback Anthony Boone is the ACC Player of the Week for Week 7

Each week, we’ll be identifying the best ACC (plus Louisville) player from that weekend’s games. As always, it’s a completely arbitrary award with no specific criteria beyond the vague concept of “excellence.” No, we don’t take write-ins.

ACC Player of the Week, Week 7: Anthony Boone, QB/Duke

Since Boone exited the lineup with an injury in week two, Duke has not lacked for offensive production, though the team’s play has also been littered with mistakes — most notably turnovers. It’s not to take away from the job Brandon Connette did filling in, but rather to point out the fact that Boone had been named the starter months ago for a reason. In his first game back, the junior was accurate, composed and mistake-free, guiding the Blue Devils’ offense to a grand total of 435 yards and 35 points. Not only was he able to play a very smart game against a feisty Navy team, but he also moved away from over-reliance on Jamison Crowder as his primary receiver. While he certainly get the ball to the star ball-catcher, Boone was able to spread it around on 31 completions and run a much more fluid offense. If there was any doubt as to who’d be captaining this ship, the questions are over. Boone is back in charge and eying another bowl bid.

Honorable Mention:

Vic Beasley, DE/Clemson (5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery, 1 TD)

Prince-Tyson Gulley, RB/Syracuse (9 carries, 132 rushing yards, 1 TD)

Tajh Boyd, QB/Clemson (30/44 passing, 367 total yards, 2 TD, 0 INT)

Logan Thomas, QB/Virginia Tech (19/34 passing, 276 total yards, 1 TD, 0 INT)

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Syracuse Orange

Jerome Smith and the Syracuse Running Game Hope to Guide the Orange Back to the Postseason

Jerome Smith and the Syracuse Running Game Hope to Guide the Orange Back to the Postseason

Team: Syracuse Orange

2012 W-L: 8-5 (5-2 in Big East)

Head Coach: Scott Shafer (0-0; first season)

Returning Starters: 12 (6 Offense, 6 Defense)

After pulling his alma mater out from college football exile (more or less), former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone headed off to “greener” pastures this offseason: Buffalo, to coach the NFL’s Bills. While some might argue that he wasn’t exactly done with the job — after all, this was a program that just a decade or so ago was finishing in the top 15-20 every year — you can’t say he didn’t leave the program in infinitely better shape than how he inherited it. Most important in that is the Orange’s move to the ACC, and now without Marrone, they’ve got quite the challenge ahead of them. There’s faith that new coach Scott Shafer should keep the team on an upward trajectory, but it won’t be easy to keep the small private school from Upstate New York climbing.

All the concern — for this season, anyway — starts off with the changes on offense. QB Ryan Nassib is gone after a superb senior campaign, and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett (the architect of last year’s attack) followed Marrone to Buffalo. Last year’s top two receivers are gone too, as are standout linemen Justin Pugh and Zach Chibane. So needless to say, there’s plenty of rebuilding to be done. To replace Nassib, the team is still deciding between Terrel Hunt and Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen, both of whom look ready for the job (though my money’s on Allen) and a nice change of pace from the former SU record-breaker. Hunt, a junior, is a dual-threat, while Allen is a more polished pro-style passer, and it’s likely both will see plenty of playing time this year. As far as who’s catching passes, it’s Jarrod West and tight end Beckett Wales, most importantly, with a lot of unproven alternatives along with them. The line has more experience than most realize — Sean Hickey and Macky MacPherson have both seen plenty of playing time — and despite the losses, I think this group actually holds up compared to last season. Finally, George McDonald takes over the offense, and admittedly, we don’t really know what we’re getting there.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #10, Jerome Smith

Syracuse’s Jerome Smith is #10 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Syracuse’s Jerome Smith is #10 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

It’s finally game week! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 10, Jerome Smith, RB/Syracuse (Last Season: NR)

Halfway through last season, Syracuse and its pass-happy offense was 2-4 and struggling to move the ball. The running game had grown stale — though without getting a ton of carries, it was hard for the backs to actually get in the rhythm of the game. Things would change course mid-year though, as a balanced attack led SU to a 6-1 record the rest of the way. And while he wasn’t the only ball-carrier (far from it), starter Jerome Smith was at the center of it all. After amassing just 355 yards over the first six games, he had 816 over the final seven, proving himself to be a primary back, fully capable of carrying the load for this offense. He also racked up the Orange’s fifth straight 1,000-yard rushing season, entering him into an already elite fraternity and knocking on the door for much more in the team’s history books.

With much of last year’s passing game gone, the Syracuse attack will be taking on a very different look this season (or so it’s thought), likely running the ball at a much higher rate. Smith is the catalyst behind that strategy, as the 6’0″ 217-pound back mixes between-the-tackles running with home run abilities to keep defenses on their feet. Mixed with Prince-Tyson Gulley, who’s quicker and runs along the edge, you’ve got a perfect mixture of “thunder and lightning” the likes of which are difficult to fully prepare for. The two-back system already has folks excited this year — primarily offensive coordinator George McDonald, who’s regularly gushed to the media about the backfield’s abilities multiple times.

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ACC Football Positional Rankings 2013: Running Backs

Devonta Freeman and Florida State Headline the ACC's Running Backs for the 2013 Season

Devonta Freeman and Florida State Headline the ACC’s Running Backs for the 2013 Season

While we’re still over two months away from the season, it does indeed seem to be that time of year — when college football blogs like this one and so many others start churning out season preview materials. We’ll be holding off till July and August for the team-by-team season previews, but in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at each position on the field and evaluating ACC squads’ respective strengths and weaknesses.

This week, we’re on to the running backs (you can check out last week’s feature on quarterbacks, too). Though there’s not a whole lot of experience at the position — just one returning back (Syracuse’s Jerome Smith) rushed for 1,000 yards last year — this group makes up for a lot of that in potential. Many of the most talented runners this year will be sophomores or juniors, so that aforementioned experience will come with time. As for those who are seniors, many possess a significant leg-up, which you’ll find reflected here as well.

Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual quarterback is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of passers is. Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.

ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Running Backs

1. Florida State Seminoles: Injuries ravaged the Florida State backfield in 2012. But because of that, the team’s top two returning rushers, Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., actually have quite a bit of experience under their respective belts (221 carries between them last year). They’re both vertical runners for the most part, doing most of their work in the middle of the line, but Wilder, in particular, also has some pass-catching ability out of the backfield (19 catches for 136 yards and two scores last year). Expect that role to expand this year, while also incorporating Mario Pender, who’s the quickest back on the roster and anxious to contribute after red-shirting last season.

2. Miami Hurricanes: Miami’s ranking here is purely on the strength of sophomore Duke Johnson, and his success is likely to decide how far the ‘Canes go this season. Despite splitting carries with Mike James last year, Johnson still ran for 947 yards and 10 scores, while tacking on another 1,133 yards from receiving and kick returns. With that on his resume in just one season, he’s now being listed among the most dynamic players in the country and will be the focal point of every gameplan against Miami. He won’t be acting alone in the backfield, but there’s no telling what to expect from backups Dallas Crawford or Eduardo Clements either.

3. Syracuse Orange: SU’s offense was largely seen as a pass-first attack in 2012, but its success in the season’s second half was heavily reliant on the running game. The Orange bring back everybody this year, and arguably have one of the deepest backfields in the country. The group will be guided by Jerome Smith (1,171 yards last year), but this will be a multi-back, run-first system. Expect Prince-Tyson Gulley to approach the 200-carry mark as well, while the team gets additional contributions from short-yardage specialist Adonis Ameen-Moore and jack-of-all-trades Ashton Broyld in hybrid WR/RB slot role.

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ACC Football Standout Senior 2013: Syracuse

Jerome Smith Had a Breakout 2012 Campaign for SU; Can He Improve Upon it in 2013?

Jerome Smith Had a Breakout 2012 Campaign for Syracuse; Can He Improve Upon it in 2013?

Last season’s juniors are now this season’s seniors, and with that comes extra responsibility and expectations. In the ACC, while there were plenty of players selected in the NFL Draft, the conference still returns a strong group of seniors — many of whom are set to make a strong impact in their final seasons of eligibility.

Over these few weeks, we’re going team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his respective squad, and why he’s so important. Think we should’ve featured another player, though? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

Syracuse Orange: Jerome Smith, RB

Jerome Smith’s not the only key senior in the Syracuse offense — in fact, he’s not even the only key senior running back. But as last season showed, the Orange were markedly better when he performed well, and with all the buzz about the SU ground game this season, all conversations must start with Smith.

Syracuse was 6-1 when Smith racked up 90 or more yards — the only loss being a turnover-riddled disaster against Cincinnati in which he ran for 116 yards. And while that loss stung, it was right in the midst of Smith and the entire SU running game hitting their respective strides; the most important factor in the team’s turnaround from 2-4 midseason to 8-5 by the end. Now, without a proven passing game to drive things, it’ll be up to Smith and fellow senior back Prince-Tyson Gulley to keep the offense on pace with last year’s prolific attack. Both showed off how they could function in featured roles during December’s Pinstripe Bowl (Smith, in particular, amassed 152 rushing yards on 29 carries), and this team could be relying on similar production from both moving forward.
But is that realistic?

For Smith, it would appear so. Once he started receiving a consistent number of carries in 2012, he seemed to flourish in his role as an impact runner. At 5’11” and 213 pounds, he’s a bit of a bruiser, but when paired with the lightning quick Gulley, it’s an exciting mix. Smith can be productive on limited carries (still had over five yards per rush last year), but ideally, you’re looking at him as the featured rusher at 20 carries or so. He ran for 95 yards or more in all seven games in which he saw 18 or more touches, and it’s likely the coaching staff’s already caught on to that. What they will have to work on a bit, however, is his involvement in the passing game.

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ACC 2012 Season Preview: Syracuse Orange

After a Disappointing Finish Last Year, the Heat is On Syracuse Head Coach Doug Marrone to Deliver a Winning Season in 2012

Team: Syracuse Orange

2011 W-L: 5-7 (1-6)

Head Coach: Doug Marrone (17-20; fourth season)

Returning Starters: 12 (5 Offense, 7 Defense)

The 2011 season couldn’t have been more frustrating for the Syracuse Orange. Coming off the high of their first bowl win since 2001, big things were expected from SU under coach Doug Marrone. And yes, there were plenty of big accomplishments — a huge Friday night win over West Virginia at the Carrier Dome, the invite to the ACC and Chandler Jones‘s rise into the mid-first round of the NFL Draft, in particular. But what will stick out most is almost certainly the bad. The media smear campaign against them just because they were charter members of the Big East (oh well). The botched referee call versus Toledo. And of course, the horrendous five-game losing streak to end the season. Needless to say, ‘Cuse fans would love to move on to 2012 and leave last year dead and buried in the backyard.

After scoring 30 or more points in four of their first seven games (all wins), SU would never score more than 21 in any of their final five contests. The running game went stale, and quarterback Ryan Nassib — the picture of accuracy throughout the season’s first seven games — tried too hard to pick up the slack and as a result, began making poor decisions that ultimately removed SU from games completely. From a fan’s point of view, play-calling appeared unimaginative and downright suspect, repeatedly going after the same holes and same receivers with the same maddeningly awful results. But still, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett maintained his position and is back on for another go-around with his Tecmo Bowl playbook. Continue reading

ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Syracuse Orange

Syracuse Receiver Marcus Sales Returns as a Featured Part of the Offense Once More

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: Syracuse Orange

After losing their final five games of 2011, the Syracuse Orange are surrounded by questions. What happened to the team that lit up West Virginia back in October? The offense, the defense — all of it? Though that questions will likely remain unanswered, a lot of work needs to be done to replace the team’s key departures. Major contributors on both offense (Antwon Bailey, Nick Provo) and defense (Chandler Jones, Phillip Thomas) are headed to the NFL and head coach Doug Marrone would love nothing more than to have those spots settled this spring. At running back, the Orange are set by most accounts. Rising-juniors Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith both showed promise in limited action last year, and at worst, they could split time until a clear starter is chosen.Tight end, on the other hand, features enough unproven targets to make it a complete crapshoot. Lucky for ‘Cuse they’re already settled at quarterback and wide receiver though, giving these other skill positions time to develop. While the seasoned Ryan Nassib won’t have his normally TE safety valve, the hope is that reinstated big-play receiver Marcus Sales can team with SU record-setter Alec Lemon to give the passing game much-needed firepower. Sales’ homerun capabilities were sorely missed in 2011, and we’ll see how quickly he can shake the rust off this spring. Continue reading