In part two of Syracuse.com's excellent football season preview "The Maze Ahead", Dave Rahme discusses the three most prominent 'tweaks' being done to the established Syracuse pro-style offense this season:
-Change of pace
While many Syracuse fans were/are already fed up with this offense, and would rather have Nate Hackett cast out forever, in reading the article, I think there is some legitimate reason for hope.
Of course, it all starts with the fifth-year quarterback Ryan Nassib:
"My first thoughts are reducing what we’re doing from a concept standpoint," Marrone said. "We probably had too much in from a passing game standpoint. We’ve had a lot of volume, and Ryan has been able to grasp an understanding of that volume. But at the same point I think we had to do a better job of cutting that stuff out and reducing it to a point where we get more repetitions at the things we’re doing well."
I think that this 'streamlining' already began last year, if haphazardly. By the end of the year our passing game was almost entirely predicated on wheels to Nick Provo and slants to Alec Lemon. Granted, those were the two things that we knew worked on a consistent basis, but I really hope that with an entire off-season to fix the offense, 'streamlining' doesn't mean becoming more predictable. If simplifying the total playbook leads to a number of plays opening up as SU's 'bread and butter', rather than just a handful, I'm all for it. Added depth to our receiving corps should add to this as well.
In the running game, the coaches are looking to feature Ryan more as well. Expect to see more options, and more 'Stallion/Express/Wildcat/Whatever' with Ashton Broyld in the backfield:
"We have to look at ways to run Ryan more," he said. "Because that is where a lot of the big plays are coming from. You have to defend the quarterback runs as well as the quarterback passing. We want to get our quarterback more involved in our running game because now you can create more misdirection, you can create more gap assignment on the defense, and now you can also handle the rush a little better."
Nassib's always been mobile, but it was fairly obvious that the coaches didn't want him running much last season. In 2010, Nassib broke big runs against both Akron and Washington, and was always a threat to get something when plays broke down. Aside from drawn up quarterback runs, I'm glad that scrambles are no longer off the table.
Finally, Syracuse is looking to take advantage of one of the simplest yet most important aspects of the game, the pace:
SU spent most of camp switching up its tempo against Scott Shafer’s aggressive defense, keeping it on its heels at times. The offense went no-huddle some in camp with Nassib in the shotgun. It went quick-count out of the huddle. And it slowed down the tempo to last season’s pace, too.
Last season, Syracuse ran the no-huddle on a few occasions, and it was pretty effective if I remember correctly. I'm glad that this is becoming a larger part of the offense, because keeping defensive players on their toes and on the field by speeding up the pace can be a great weapon for an offense.
While I don't believe that Coach Marrone will find himself on the hot seat this season with anything short of a G-Rob-ian disaster, if the offense can't put points on the board, this might be it for Nate Hackett and the pro-style offense. Hopefully these changes take, and Syracuse is, if anything, more fun to watch this season, at the very least.