It's that time of year again...where football season is still oh-so far away and I start dreaming up ways Syracuse once again dominate College Football, if not the universe. Surely I can't be serious, right? Seriously. And don't call me Shirley.
Syracuse Football team after beating up USF, insulting their mothers and taking their milk money. (via 2.bp.blogspot.com)
This time last year at, my thinking was that 2010 season would feature a much more potent offense than in 2009, given their performance in the last two games of the 2009 season when HCDM reportedly took the keys to the offense from Rob Spence and reduced his duties to towel-boy for the remainder of his short-lived career at SU. Surely, with that evil and incompetent OC out of the way, Syracuse was bound to score a bazillion points en route to a 12-0 season in 2010, right?
Well, that's not really what I was envisioning, but I did think we'd do better than 97th best offense in all the land. Truth is, we didn't really see the same offensive firepower that we saw to close out the 2009 season in 2010 until the Pinstripe Bowl. So where does that leave us for 2011? I'd like to focus on a few key areas:
Marquis Spruill, introducing himself to Tino Sunseri (via media.syracuse.com)
Wait...wha? This fanpost was supposed to be about offense, right? Well, the truth is the defense won most of our games last season and I freaking loved it. But if we are to enjoy the same type of success as last season or improve upon it, we need more juice out of the offense. I don't think the defense will totally suck, no sir, not at all. Scott Shafer is the MacGuyver of building defenses - give him a few players from a broken regime, some fresh recruits and a roll of duct tape and he'll put a defense on the field that will keep you in ball games. But I don't think it's realistic to expect the defense to be as good or better than they were last season, especially right out of the gate. In which case, increased offensive production becomes a kind of self-filling prophecy. We'll need to score more points to win games.
Consider also that we won't have Rob Long booming punts across the length of the football field. Winning a game of field position is going to be a lot tougher than it was in 2010.
Ryan Nassib, not fumbling (via bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com)
Well, if the Syracuse offense did one thing right...errr...better in 2010 it was protect the football. SU won every game in which they won the turnover battle last season. They even managed to win two games in which they lost the turnover battle vs Arkon and Rutgers, further proving just how awful those football programs are (mwahahah). Part of the reason for this success however was due to the fact that Delone Carter was rock-solid carrying the ball. Antwon Bailey, for all his strengths, is much more prone to put the ball on the turf, not to mention we have a stable of young and unproven RBs behind him, so this is an area of concern for me. More on them in a bit though.
But the main focus here is going to be at the QB position. Make no mistake, I'm a Ryan Nassib fan. I though he did a fine job in 2010, given what he had to work with. But one area I'll knock him for is his tendancy to fumble the ball. We can blame the O-line all day for not giving him enough protection, but dammit, I don't remember guys like Patterson, ARob or Dantley coughing up the ball as much as Nassib did last season, and all know how awful the O-lines blocking for them were. Fortunately for Nassib, he, his receivers and the O-line are all improving. Because of these things, I think he (and hopefully Bailey as well) will be even better at protecting the ball this season. Which is a nice segway into my last point...
The Offensive Line
Many people are starting to believe that Syracuse has one of, if not the best O-line in the Big East. If that is true, I believe we'll win the Big East. Now before I go all point-blank-period on you, lets remember that it's often said that football is a game that's won in the trenches. I also believe this O-line is built for shifty, speedy backs like Bailey and PTG. Not saying we won't miss Carter this season, but lets give credit to the guys that cleared the way for his 1000 yard season. And who's to say that a combo of Bailey and PTG can't be as effective as Carter/Bailey? I for one think it's possible. You don't necessarily need two vastly different types of runners for an effective running game.
Antwon Bailey, when he's not too busy making defenders stand on their head (via cdn.bleacherreport.net)
Lets also consider the transformation that's happened across this unit since HCDM took over. I don't think there is a single unit that embodies the transition from Greggers to HCDM's regime more than the O-line. You've seen the photos, you've watched the games. You know what I'm talking about. HCDM has made it his mission to whip this line into shape. Not just because he was a linemen himself, but because it's where we were hurting the worst. I'm not ready to declare that all of our troubles will be gone, but certainly I'm not the only one who believes our O-line could be the best we've had in a long, long time.
Oh, and having a center that can make a shotgun snap to the QB is always a plus.
Doug Marrone, taking his first proper shower since taking over Syracuse Football (via www.besoccer.com)
In short, I believe that the best days of offensive production are yet to come under HCDM. We know he is capable of putting together a creative game plan when we needed it in order to win (Exhibit A: the Pinstripe Bowl). Will we need that type of effort every game in 2011? I certainly hope not. But I think the formula for winning in 2011 will be much different than 2010, which consisted mostly of playing to our strengths: namely, pounding the ball with Carter and letting the nation's #7 defense do the rest. As with all things...we shall see.
What say you, nunesmagicians?