Over on Syracuse.com, Nate Mink and Stephen Bailey kicked off their first of five articles dissecting the big questions around Orange football this fall. While we won't take the exact same angle on these questions or answers, it's worth examining each piece, and crafting our own respective take, where applicable.
Today, they asked:
Can QB Terrel Hunt, OC Tim Lester revive a dismal offense?
To start, the short answer is yes. They have to, actually, since last year's results could not have been much worse. So little scoring, so little production from every position. It was an unmitigated disaster, and one that seemed to only get worse as the season wore on.
Both Hunt and Lester have described the new offensive scheme as simpler, and that's a good thing compared to last year's overly-complex setup that failed to really fit SU's personnel (and ultimately led to George McDonald's release). As long as the feedback is true, improvement -- at least in part -- should be expected right off the bat.
But what are the issues this group could face to derail that rebound?
According to Bailey, the biggest problems come from depth, especially on the offensive line. Those injuries were part of what killed the Orange's production last year, though even when healthy, the red zone futility was by and large the offense's biggest trouble spot. For Mink, the problems could come from a lack of continuity (as he cites, there's been a lot of tumult on this side of the ball lately), as well as an over-reliance on a few key players.
And he's right. McDonald's second "system" last year blew up whatever potential SU had for 2014, and 2013's bubble screen-centric attack did very little to inspire hope either. This year's attack should focus more on the run and short passes, playing to the personnel's strengths (in theory). The over-reliance on Hunt and Steve Ishmael should certainly be examined and prevented, especially given the team's tendency to lean on them (separately) for a lot of 2014. Ishmael has some real breakout potential at wideout, and Lester's offense must find the balance between utilizing that talent and over-relying on him to power the offense's ability to move up and down the field.
This is where the run game -- a considered but not stressed part of the Syracuse.com piece -- comes in. While not starters in years' past, Devante McFarlane and George Morris II are experienced ball-carriers and players with the on-field know-how to guide an offense that would be smart to lean on the running game more. Maybe neither's a top-tier back, but they don't have to be. Plenty of Orange backs have tallied 1,000-yard seasons without an amazing skillset, and either (or both) could add their names to the list this fall. While Hunt is a key part of the offense, the run game and Lester's system's ability to take advantage of it (more than McDonald's) should be the key to SU's success and/or failure in 2015. (and for what it's worth, I think they'll pull it off)
But what do you think? Can Lester and Hunt fix this offense? Or if it can be fixed, is it more reliant on the run game and the offense line than anything Hunt can do, or pass plays Lester can draw up? Is improvement likely because it can't get worse, or because of actual increased production? Share your own thoughts below...