Coming into the season, the running back position was a question mark. Seven games in, there finally appears to be some separation. Jerome Smith has been getting better each week for Syracuse. He had his best performance of his career against Connecticut, rushing for 133 yards. He believes it's hard work that has allowed him to improve.
"You go through and you get older," Smith explained. "You become a different player. You just have to learn things. The game changes from what you really can do versus what you think you can do. The offseason was a time that allowed me to really sit down and really start working on what I really needed to work on.
"I had seen I could play from the Pittsburgh game, so I went into the offseason with a little bit of confidence. So I thought I could play at this level. This offseason, I became the oldest person in the room. I had to take on an older role. I had to make sure my kitchen was clean before I could coach up Ashton (Broyld) or Adonis (Ameen-Moore)."
Taking on that leadership role among the running backs, Smith has spent time mentoring Ashton Broyld. He was happy to see Broyld be successful against UConn.
"That's what you want to see," Smith recalled. "You want to see young guys. He's going through a lot. I can only imagine with the way his role is and the job is going as a freshman. It's probably crazy going through what he's going through. I'm proud of him and excited for him."
The offensive performance against Rutgers and Connecticut were night and day. Smith says the reason for the improvement was not panicking.
"It was important not to force anything," he said. "You something get to pressing things and rushing things to get them to go the way you dream it to go. Like having a big run. But you just take what they give you and continue to just get back to practice and work every week on the good things that you've done."
A big reason for the success against the Huskies was the emphasis on establishing the run. When Smith sees that in the game plan, he gets excited.
"It makes you raise your level of play," Smith described. "You know it's on you. You can't look around now. Any running back, it's all you ever ask for. I mean, you watch other college teams play. You watch teams like Wisconsin and teams that constantly run the ball. You want to do that. There's things you have to do to be able to do that.
"You have to come in and condition a little bit more. You've got to take care of your body a little more. So it comes with a toll. If you want to run that ball, it comes with a toll. It helps that I've got three other guys that can split the road up a little bit. Everybody gets the job done."
The Syracuse offense will look to continue their stellar play this week against South Florida. Consistency is now the challenge as the offense has shown they are more than capable of putting up big numbers.
"Like all season, we try to get a lot of plays done in the game," Smith said. "Our thing is to continue to get better each day and be intense when we run the ball. Everything will take care of itself. If we're intense in practice, hopefully it will just get pushed over to the game and it will be instilled in us to push over to the game. So, we'll be good."
As a running back, Smith knows that a big key is how the line blocks for him. He was happy they made his job easier against UConn.
"They've always done their job," Smith said. "Even from the past, they've got a couple thousand yard backs behind them. They've always done their job. It's more of us learning and getting comfortable back there. I don't think the new offense had anything to do with it. It's just us as young backs learning some of the things we're seeing and some of the defenses we're seeing.
"But the offensive line has done a great job. Working with us as we go through these tough times."