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Multiple fronts: Ashton Broyld gives Syracuse a new offensive weapon who can attack defenses from a variety of positions
Ashton Broyld doesn’t feel pressure, and he insists there isn’t any to begin with.
Broyld’s name has become synonymous with Syracuse’s plans to make “big plays” that can be the difference between a win and a loss. He’s the dynamic weapon the unit has lacked in recent seasons — someone who can line up in various positions and attack defenses in multiple ways.
The mere mention of the freshman’s name elicits hype from fans who believe Broyld is the player who can take the Orange to the next level.
Broyld doesn’t hear any of it.
“I don’t feel pressure; there is no pressure,” Broyld said. “My job is just to come in here and do what I can do for the team, and that’s all I’m going to try to do.”
Where exactly the 6-foot-4, 229-pound Broyld fits into the Orange’s offense remains to be seen, but he is expected to be a big part of Syracuse’s game plan. The Orange’s offense in recent seasons has been based mostly on short, methodical passes up the field. Since the spring, head coach Doug Marrone has preached the need for “big plays,” and Broyld is almost certain to become a big part of that.
“Where he’s going to be, I don’t know,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “I want to see what he can grasp the most. Whatever we can do to get him on the field is what I’m going to want to do. Where he goes from here is really going to be determined in the fall.”
The Orange’s offense needs a boost after finishing 84th in the nation and seventh in the Big East in scoring last season with an average of 24.7 points per game. It was 95th in rushing offense and sixth in the conference at 120.4 yards per game.
With the Orange’s nonconference schedule, settling into the offense quickly will be critical.
Former Syracuse head coach Dick MacPherson said how the team plays early will set up the rest of the season and give clues as to how Marrone is trying to change the offense and the program as a whole.
“I think it’s a very, very tough schedule to open up with Northwestern and Southern Cal and then go into the league, is a very, very tough grind,” MacPherson said. “I say right after the month, we’ll be able to tell exactly who he is and who the football team overall will be.”
At the team’s media day to open training camp, Marrone said Broyld will line up at running back and in the slot. Broyld will also take snaps in a wildcat formation, which gives opposing defenses another aspect to prepare for each week.
Broyld’s skill set is what Marrone and the Orange have been searching for to send the offense to a higher level and come through with big plays.
“It’s accountability that when it’s there, we need to take it. That’s how you create it,” Marrone said. “You also create it through speed. You don’t really see the lack of a big play with the lack of some type of speed, so we’ve helped ourselves in that area.”
As a senior at Rush-Henrietta High School, Broyld passed for 1,961 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for an astounding 1,540 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Playing defense isn’t beyond his ability level either.
Joe Montesano was among the first to see that firsthand.
In the 2010 state championship game against Troy High School, Rush-Henrietta traded touchdowns for the entire game. Whenever Troy scored, Broyld brought the Royal Comets back into the game.
He threw a 66-yard touchdown pass, and he scrambled for 8- and 15-yard touchdown runs. But late in the game, Troy started to make a comeback, and Montesano, the Rush-Henrietta head coach, knew his team needed a big defensive stop.
“I don’t feel pressure; there is no pressure. My job is just to come in here and do what I can do for the team, and that’s all I’m going to try to do.”
Ashton Broyld, SU running back
Montesano put Broyld in at safety in the biggest game of the season.
“We threw him in there because we were kind of on our heels a little bit defensively,” Montesano said. “He made three plays in a row and basically closed out the game for us.”
Arguably his biggest defensive play came when he sacked Troy quarterback Brian Marsh for an 11-yard loss at the Flying Horses’ 27-yard line.
Broyld’s stat line earned him the game’s Most Valuable Player honors, as he rushed 23 times for 196 yards and two touchdowns and completed five of his 11 passes for 94 yards and one score.
“I’ve never had a kid who you feel like you can put him anywhere, and he can just take a game over,” Montesano said. “He’s just a football player.”
Montesano said Broyld has a unique combination of speed and strength. Once he gets free into open space, he can break tackles with his size and elude them with his feet.
After playing at Rush-Henrietta, Broyld attended Milford Academy for a semester to improve his grades before enrolling at SU in January. Both schools ran spread offenses, giving Broyld a chance to make plays outside the pocket.
At Milford, he threw for 427 yards and six touchdowns, and rushed for 259 yards and six touchdowns.
Milford head coach Bill Chaplick said Broyld understood the team’s offense from the start.
“He has no problem picking it up. He won’t have a problem. You just have to give him the time to do it,” Chaplick said. “We were multiple, we ran the ball, we did stuff out of the shotgun with him. He can do just about anything.”
When Broyld first met running back Jerome Smith, he told him just that, listing off every position he could play.
Smith didn’t think Broyld could possibly have any quickness. Broyld simply looked too big to be able to move freely in open space, but Smith soon saw him go to work on the field.
“And then he’ll give you a move here and there, and you’re like, ‘Whoa,’” Smith said. “He’s a natural running back; he’s a natural playmaker.”
Hopefully for the Orange, one who can make those elusive “big plays.”
It’s a determination to provide a different element to SU’s offense, which rarely caught opposing defenses off guard. Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib has a young weapon to hand the ball off or throw to.
Getting the ball in his hands is the ultimate key.
“Ashton’s definitely a talented player. He’s got some skills that can really help us,” Nassib said. “Myself and the coaches just really have to do a good job of getting him in the right place, getting him the ball in areas where he can show off those talents, do what he can do.”
Broyld said the coaches slowly teaching him Syracuse’s system paid off. While Broyld adjusted to the college game, he said he also understood the offense and his role in it better by the day.
How he helps the team, where he plays and how he challenges opposing defenses should unfold early in the season. Broyld said he doesn’t care where he lines up.
“I’ve really like began to grasp and get a feel for the game because it’s much faster, and things happen way quicker, and guys react a hundred times faster,” Broyld said. “And I’m just trying to help the team win.
“I just want to be back on top with the Orange, and I think we can do it.”
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