For Syracuse football, the "preseason" is pretty much over and preparations for next Friday's opener vs. Rhode Island have begun. Stephen Bailey shared some thoughts on the progress of Tim Lester's new offense earlier, so we dive into those before focus shifts to the game against the Rams. First, what we knew already:
- Lester's offense is a largely pro-style scheme with spread elements included.
- Will utilize plenty of downhill running (to open up the pass).
- West Coast concepts will be a big part of the passing game.
- "Hybrids" are going to be focal point of attack (creating mismatches, etc).
Next, some key quotes that should have you at least a little optimistic with the season just a week or so away:
"It's kind of gone as I thought… There's really nothing that I've seen and said, 'Hey, we don't have the talent to run this or that.'"
Terrel Hunt, discussing the SU defense struggling to adjust to the new offense (could be good or bad, depending on the narrative you have in your head):
"That's when we really realized, 'Hey we could do something here. We just have to listen to what Coach Lester says and buy in to it."
"Once the plays started to come around, we'd get rolling and then it's contagious to the whole team. "We'll score four or five touchdowns in a row (during team period)... I have an extremely high level of confidence in this offense heading into the season."
Sure, the above are just quotes, but they're also a sign of confidence for a team that sorely needs it. Rhode Island, Wake Forest and Central Michigan may not be the most challenging opponents to start a season, but gaining a head of steam against those three could be contagious and helpful toward executing well the rest of the year. The fact that everyone feels comfortable with the system after feeling out of sorts last year is a major plus before they step on the field against a real opponent.
Elsewhere in the offense, we get another big update on the scheme past the bullets above. Hunt is adjusting well to the speed option elements we saw teased out at Fan Fest. But there are still a few kinks to work out before that part sees game action (which it will on Sept. 4). The main issues, as detailed in the above link from Syracuse.com's Nate Mink simply seem to lie with Hunt trying to take everything on by himself, and the fact that he hasn't been hit during camp. Said Hunt, regarding the first item:
"My problem is I like to run, so the pitching part is the toughest... After you get a few trials and errors, you actually understand it. It becomes, not second nature, but it becomes a lot easier when you start understanding why we do certain things, why it is you pitch certain ways, things like that."
Lester seems to get this part, and explains those reads are just part of the implementation process. While things didn't look overly crisp there during Fan Fest, a lot can happen in a short period -- especially with a veteran QB seemingly hell-bent to get the new system down pat. As far as the lack of hits, Hunt describes practicing fading away as the pitch is released, to diminish the impact of the hit. That's great, of course, but... we'll see how Hunt reacts to his first real contact against Rhode Island. Since he hasn't seen true game action since the Louisville game last fall, there's both a mental and physical aspect to get over there. He should be fine, of course. But you never know what the lingering effects of a major injury can be until you just go out and do it.