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Syracuse plans to incorporate face-off specialist Ben Williams into its offense

first_img Published on February 15, 2016 at 10:24 pm Contact Connor: [email protected] | @connorgrossman Having not taken an official faceoff in nearly 10 months, it took Ben Williams five seconds to do what he did 256 times as a sophomore last year.He pried the ball away at the faceoff X from Hunter Sanna, and popped it in the air to Tom Grimm five yards behind. While Grimm took off down the field, Williams ran forward about 20 yards before retreating to the bench.If only for a moment, Syracuse’s electric faceoff specialist teased a run toward the goal. A run he made successfully only three times last year, and one SU has toyed with him making more frequently going into this season.“We’ve been incorporating some things where I’ll stay out on the field,” Williams said. “… We’re still kind of messing around with it. It’s been fun, I’m excited to see how it gets put to work here in the early season.”Williams broke out last season with the second-best faceoff percentage in the country, and didn’t have to play anything more than a “faceoff-get off” role. But with 63 percent of SU’s points from last year gone, head coach John Desko will look at new places on his roster to fill the offensive void.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAfter a shoulder procedure sidelined Williams from taking faceoffs in the fall, it left him with ample time to practice free shooting in anticipation of his expanded role. He didn’t unfurl any shots toward the net against Siena on Saturday, but maintained dominance on the draw with 12-of-16 takeaways.Syracuse didn’t need to leaf too deep into the playbook in its 18-5 win, but is soon expected to roll out scenarios with Williams leading the charge toward the goal.“Face-off guys are a different kind of breed,” Saints head coach John Svec said. “Those guys, they’re (lacrosse) junkies, and I would imagine (Williams) is the same.“He’s athletic. He’s got more than one move.”Thirteen times last year Williams managed to get a shot off after the faceoff, each one usually coming off a breakaway from the X.He last broke free toward the net and scored on March 22 against Duke. Williams swatted the ball away from the Blue Devils’ Jack Rowe and sprinted forward while holding the stick in his left hand.He ran about 35 yards and through four defenders to score in the span of seven seconds. Williams’ quickness, perhaps more than any other quality, makes him an ideal candidate to break the barriers of a cookie-cutter faceoff specialist.“I think he shoots the ball pretty well on the run, which not a lot of face-off guys do,” Desko said. “I think that’s an added threat.”The 6-foot junior said there were discussions last season about getting him more involved in the offense. Usually after faceoffs though, Williams gave way to an SU midfield line that accounted for three of the team’s top six scorers.The Orange features a reshaped first line of middies this year with former second-line players Tim Barber and Sergio Salcido and transfer Nick Mariano to round out the trio. It’s a more balanced line than it’s predecessor, one that likely won’t account for nearly one-fourth of the team’s points like last year’s.That leaves Williams with slightly more freedom to take advantage of open lanes he sees instead of immediately dishing away the ball. And freedom is exactly what Williams has been looking for.“I’ll do whatever I can to get more balls in the net,” Williams said. “Having the opportunity, potentially, to score some more would be great.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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