Syracuse vs. Virginia: Jordan Fredericks Emerging as Top Running Back

Oct 16, 2015

Jordan Fredericks was lying in his bed and scrolling through Twitter on Monday when he learned the news. Syracuse had released its Week 7 depth chart ahead of Saturday's game at Virginia, and the freshman running back was listed as the starter for the first time this season.

“It’s pretty awesome,” he said in an interview with Cuse.com

On previous depth charts, Fredericks, a true freshman, was listed on the depth chart as the backup to Devante McFarlane. This week, however, it’s Fredericks at the top with McFarlane and George Morris II listed as co-backups.

Even though he hasn’t been starting, Fredericks has established himself through five games as Syracuse’s most used and most productive running back. He leads all SU running backs in rushing attempts (42),  rushing yards (236), yards per carry (5.6) and touchdowns (three, including two rushing touchdowns).

Frederick’s ability to replicate that success could be especially key this week for a Syracuse team that started slow last week as it struggled to run the ball. Syracuse could look to feature Fredericks more when it heads to Charlottesville to take on Virginia as the Orange look to improve to 2-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. SU

With Syracuse trailing 24-3 in the third quarter against South Florida last Saturday, Fredericks made a play to spark some life into the Orange. After quarterback Eric Dungey scrambled behind the line of scrimmage to avoid pressure, he checked the ball down to Fredericks around the 25-yard line of USF. Fredericks then juked out multiple defenders en route to a touchdown.

“It was just instinct,” Fredericks said of the play.

Unfortunately for the Orange, they couldn’t come up with enough plays like that one and ultimately fell, 45-24. That was partially due to their inability to run the ball effectively; they averaged only 2.2 yards per carry. And as SU fell behind, it stopped running the ball altogether -- Fredericks and Morris combined for just nine carries, while McFarlane didn’t touch the ball.

SU offensive coordinator Tim Lester said he would like to have more of a balance with his play calls, when it’s possible.

“Our final goal is to be fifty-fifty (with runs and passes),” Lester said. “I’ve called 70 runs in a game, I’ve called 70 passes in a game, depending on how it’s going.”

However, Lester said he prefers running the ball to passing the ball if he had to choose, because throwing the ball leads to more interceptions than running the ball leads to interceptions.

So if Syracuse gets an early lead against the Hokies, it might look to use Fredericks in a more extensive role

Lester and head coach Scott Shafer said that Fredericks was named the starter because of what he’s been doing, not because of what McFarlane and Morris aren’t doing.

“He’s been very effective,” Lester said. “He’s the most productive player we have on offense … He’s continued to produce.”

We try to make adjustments based on who has been the most productive,” Shafer said on Wednesday’s ACC teleconference. “For us, Jordan has been the most productive running back and it’s really as simple as that.”

Lester also acknowledged that even though Fredericks wasn’t starting before, he was playing significantly -- make the depth chart change less noteworthy.

“He’s like the sixth man on a basketball team that plays the second, third and fourth quarters like the starters.”

But just because Fredericks is starting, that doesn’t mean he’s the only running back Syracuse plans to use on Saturday. The Orange will still use a rotation of him, McFarlane and Morris II, Lester said. To get a much-needed win over the Cavaliers, SU will likely need at least one of them to be productive.

Said Shafer: “I love having those three guys on our offensive roster.”