We have morbid fun talking about Syracuse's offense around these parts. I mean, could anyone in their right mind want to talk about the 2014 Orange football offense IN FULL?! We certainly could and did, even if it was more painful for your humble blogger than you'll ever realize. All that aside, though, last year's SU offense was certifiably bad and we finally have a first-hand account as to some reasons why, thanks to QB Terrel Hunt on Tuesday.
Now that's not to say Hunt put former Orange offensive coordinator (now NC State wideouts coach) George McDonald on blast. Far from it, much to my (and your) chagrin. But he did share some interesting bits of information while comparing last year's approach -- particularly during spring ball -- vs. this year's.
Among the top-line points:
"Last year, we were a jack of all trades and a master of none, and (Coach Lester) just wants to master what have and then we can work around the other things. The things he really wants us to work on is wide receivers getting it a the right depth, quarterbacks throwing it at the right time – little things like that."
Fundamentals? We're discussing fundamentals?! YES! This is news, gang. Like BIG news after last year's fiasco. You might remember all of those times when fundamentals were assuredly out the window and it looks like those days are (hopefully) over in this new offense. The "jack of all trades" line probably sums up McDonald's offense better than anything other than the words "bubble screen bonanza," and got a big reaction from media speaking to Hunt at Tuesday's session.
"We’re way further than we were last year. And you can ask any player that. Everybody knows their job, they do their job right. We know the plays – you know, last year, we had a ton of plays we were trying to run and nobody knew exactly how to run them. So now we’re on track and Coach Lester’s got us right."
Again, jaw-dropping note by Hunt there, who describe's McDonald's offense in such a way that sums it up perfectly. The team LOOKED like they had no idea what they were doing on offense for much of every non-Central Michigan game last season. This confirms that they ACTUALLY did not know what they were doing, which should make you both happy that George is gone and concerned that we willingly watched a team that did not have any conception of its actions. That's not to blame the players. Just to point out a simple fact.
On what's caused the change:
"It's the different system. Coach Lester, he didn’t put everything in. Coach McDonald put a lot of things on us, as expected – that’s your job, you put a lot of stuff on us and you’re supposed to pick it up. Coach Lester, he just took a different approach that’s all it was."
Was it more the installation was more gradual – phase 1, 2, 3; instead George trying to do it all at once?
"They had the same phases. It was just that in each of the phases, Coach McDonald had more. It wasn’t a bad thing – we just had to pick it up. Some guys didn’t and some guys did. But now we have so much time because we started early, so now we have a bunch of time to add in whatever we need to and whatever we want to, so that helps a lot."
I would also infer from the above, though, that the different approach was the right approach, no?
I'd add this, after being asked the following question: Installation process and phases aside, do you feel that this scheme compared to George’s fits better with the personnel groupings you have on offense?
"Yeah, I would say so. I think that Coach Lester’s playing the right people in the right spots. We’ve got Ashton (Broyld) doing a ton of things, Ben (Lewis) doing a ton of things. We’ve got the receivers in the right spots. You know, Coach McDonald wanted us to run a different type of offense, and sadly we didn’t have the tools that we needed for that offense, so we kind of failed. But Coach Lester fixed it up, put little nicks and nacks into it. I think everyone’s in the right position and we’re going to excel."
And that's the line I was waiting for (and maybe you were too). Now, Terrel's too nice of a guy to throw McDonald under the bus, so he uses language like "we" failed, etc. He should be commended for that, as it shows an ability to put the team first and move on to this year's task at hand. Since I'm not too nice of a guy, however, I'll call for what it is: proof positive that McDonald, more than anyone else, was directly responsible for last year's unraveling due to a combination of not knowing how to install an offense the team was ill-suited to run, and a lack of caring that it was ill-suited to run it. That's disconcerting on a multitude of levels. And it once again makes you grateful Syracuse has a new offensive coordinator, I'd hope.
Hunt would go on to say various other things throughout the media session: talking about coming back from injury, how Kendall Moore and Aaron Roberts have looked in spring ball, complimenting the secondary's work and other notes on how the team's responding to the new offense (well). You can find a lot of those additional notes in Stephen Bailey's piece on Hunt, as well as our Tuesday summary piece (appearing this morning).
Until then, feel free to discuss offensive improvements and tee off on George if you still need to get anything else out of your system (like I did).