We move on in our series looking at the weakest and strongest positions on each team in the ACC with Syracuse:
Strongest position: Running backs
The linebackers were also considered for the biggest strength, but the Orange has a great mix of talented youth and experience at running back. Offensive coordinator George McDonald raved this spring about rising stars George Morris and Devante McFarlane, and lauded the previous staff for its recruiting efforts at the position and on the offensive line. Syracuse also returns the ACC’s only 1,000-yard rusher in Jerome Smith, and Prince-Tyson Gulley, who started three games last year and was named the MVP of the Pinstripe Bowl. He racked up a career-high 213 rushing yards, and had two touchdowns on 24 carries, and also added five receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown against West Virginia. Smith started 12 games last year and finished the season with 1,341 yards and four touchdowns on 264 carries.
Weakest position: Defensive line
This group lost three starters from a year ago in DEs Markus Pierce-Brewster and Brandon Sharpe and DT Deon Goggins. That doesn’t bode well for a defense that also lost its top two tacklers from 2012. The good news is that nose tackle Jay Bromley returns, and he could play either inside position. There are also several players competing for playing time in senior Zian Jones, sophomore Ryan Sloan and Eric Crume. At defensive end, juniors Micah Robinson and Rob Welsh, and redshirt freshman Josh Manley and John Raymon will battle for the starting job. Donnie Simmons will miss the season with an injury he suffered this past spring. The coaching staff is looking for an eight-man rotation up front, so building depth this summer will be key.