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Syracuse Football: 2006 (Part III)

Does Moose have any more eligibility?

Eds. Note: This essay is the third in a series of approximately eighteen previewing the 2006 Syracuse Orange. Previous installments can be found here.


CAPS: Returning starter from 2005
Bold: 2006 Pre-Spring projected starter
*: Injured
#: Suspended from spring practice
^: Eligibility issues
$: Heisman Trophy Candidate

2006 Syracuse Fullbacks
Returning PlayersB. EvansJr.
T. FiammettaSo.
E. MitchellRFr.

The Orange has done a nice job in its history developing fullbacks. From Daryl Johnston to Kyle Johnson, Syracuse has managed to recruit, cultivate, and highlight functional contributors at the fullback position.

Unfortunately, this has had little to no direct impact on Syracuse’s success on the football field.

Contemporary football strategy and scheme has all but turned the fullback position into a dinosaur. With the onset of the spread offense and the deep passing game, the days of fullback dives through the heart of the defense on a classic triple option has all but disappeared. Nowadays, the best place to watch classic fullbacks are during point after tries and kickoff returns.

The glory of the fullback, however, still has the potential of being displayed on the Carrier Dome carpet in 2006. The West Coast Offense – while primarily concerned with a short, precise passing game – has not wholly abandoned the role of the fullback in the system. Whether utilized as a backfield blocker, an option on the swing pass, a lead blocker in short yardage situations, or a goal-line masher, the fullback does have a place in the Syracuse offense this year.
Brian White, Syracuse's new offensive coordinator, hinted as much in a March 31, 2006 sit-down with Syracuse Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb:
Neither of the fullbacks distinguished themselves or got lost in what happened last season. Do you have a plan for them?

"I really feel very comfortable with both Breyone (Evans) and Tony (Fiammetta) . I think they're extremely talented young men. I haven't really had the luxury of working with Stephen (McDonald), who is working in a limited capacity (because of injury), but he was a starter last year and I think he's got ability. That will be a position of depth on the football team. We'll utilize them. That is a position, everyone is always asking if they're going to get more carries, it just doesn't happen as much any more. It's sort of a dying breed position a little bit. But these are very unselfish guys that can run and catch. They're strong and physical."
This year’s edition of the Orange offense features two quality fullbacks in Breyone Evans and Stephen McDonald. Both players play the game similarly, yet with different attributes and approaches.

Stephen McDonald, the Orange’s 2005 starter at the fullback position, is a classic fullback in the mold of a Cory Schlessigner. McDonald packs a punch in his broad 6', 240-pound frame and rarely misses the opportunity to dump a defender charging on the blitz. While the fact that McDonald had to miss spring practice due to injury is troubling, McDonald is expected to fully recover and should return to the field in 2006 as a reliable starter in the backfield.

Evans, a Connecticut product that came to The Hill with much acclaim and expectations prior to the start of the 2004 campaign, also packs a punch in his 6', 239-pound frame. While a high school stud in Bristol, Connecticut, rated Evans as the nation's 13th-best fullback and SuperPrep rated the young back the seventh-best prospect in New England. According to, Evans brushed off offers from Big Ten powers Iowa, Michigan State, and Wisconsin to mash heads for the Orange.

As for Evans' style, he does not appear to block as well as McDonald from the snap to the end of the play. However, Evans does have a bit more footspeed, maneuverability, and a nice set of hands as a receiving option. As a short yardage back, Evans has a modicum of elusiveness that is attractive considering the woefulness of Syracuse’s offensive line. While Evans may not provide the overall package that McDonald does, Evans is a dependable option for Brian White should McDonald fail to return to the form he displayed in 2005.

The options behind Evans and McDonald are somewhat uproven. Tony Fiammetta, the sophomore from Walkersville, Maryland, has plenty of potential having been rated the 25th-best prospect in the Mid-Atlantic region by SuperPrep. He has a large body at 6'1", 237, and certainly has a lot of growth ahead of him in his future. However, seeing mostly special teams action last season has not really provided enough exposure to the young fullback to accurately assess where Fiammetta fits in Brian White's scheme.

Elon Mitchell, Syracuse's fourth option at the fullback position, redshirted last season. Thus, simply observing his height and weight -- 6'2", 260 pounds -- is a bit of a hallow assessment of what Mitchell can actually do on the gridiron.

The operative question, therefore, is how Brian White plans to use McDonald and Evans this season. While Wisconsin – White’s former employer – has utilized the fullback in the past, the real centerpiece in the Badger attack has been terrifically innovative running backs finding holes in a gargantuan offensive line. The fullback, at least superficially, was never the primary blocking cog in the Wisconsin rushing attack. It was merely a tool that Wisconsin runners could employ if one felt the need.

That leads to a secondary query: do any of Syracuse’s current rushers fit the mold of those classic Wisconsin runners? Well, Curtis “Boonah” Brinkley and incoming tailback Delone Carter have the outward appearance of shifty runners that may in fact be impeded by a straight ahead, fullback-driven rushing strategy. For them to follow McDonald or Evans may be a detriment to Syracuse rather than a vehicle for achievement. The role for McDonald and Evans, consequently, seems somewhat decreased in a Brinkley/Carter-driven attack.

Whatever form the rushing attack may take come September 2nd at Wake Forest, Orange fans can at least take comfort in the fact that Syracuse actually has some functional offensive talent, albeit at a position that may have as much impact on the game as the marching band’s clarinet section.

Player(s) to Watch: Stephen McDonald/Breyone Evans

2 Responses to “Syracuse Football: 2006 (Part III)”

  1. # Blogger michaelcuse

    Syracuse has ALWAYS had a strong running game, but, we desperately need a passing game to complement the running game. A little TRICKERY doesn't hurt either!!! ;o)  

  2. # Blogger Matt Glaude

    Michaelcuse -

    You're preaching to the choir, brother.

    As an aside, get that blog cookin'. Need more orange in the blog universe.  

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