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Scheme, not speed will be key for Syracuse football in 2021

“Orange is the New Smart” would be a better plan

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Duke James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange football team hasn’t lived up to the #OrangeistheNewFast moniker for the past last two seasons. That’s understandable when you have an offense that isn’t moving the ball consistently because you can’t create tempo when it’s three and out after three and out. As we get ready for the 2021 season I don’t think it’s imperative that the Orange go fast as it that they get more creative on offense.

The Baylor offense that Dino Babers wants to run is predicated on being relatively simple. You spread the defense and force them to cover the full width of the field leaving the offense with the ability to run between the tackles or throw outside. Syracuse has struggled to be consistent enough to force defenses to leave them a preferred attack so how can they change that next season?

Where’s the tempo?

Year Plays per game Yards per game Yards per play Points per game
Year Plays per game Yards per game Yards per play Points per game
2016 80.8 440.9 5.5 25.7
2017 85.6 456.3 5.3 27.4
2018 81.2 466.8 5.7 40.2
2019 75.8 394.6 5.2 28.2
2020 59.6 265.3 4.4 17.8
Averages 76.6 404.78 5.22 27.86

The 2021 Syracuse team might not be full of NFL playmakers but the Orange offense has some intriguing weapons and now’s the time for Babers and Sterlin Gilbert to get creative with them. With a healthy offensive line and experienced quarterbacks the time has come for Syracuse to employ more pre-snap movement and creative alignments to create open spaces. The Orange aren’t going to be able to line up and overwhelm most opponents with superior talent but there are plenty of pieces available to win the chess game.

Readers know that I’m big on borrowing from the pros, and football is no different.

Obviously the practice limits make it difficult to develop new plans each and every week but there are some pieces that would benefit the Orange. Luke Benson’s size and speed make him an appealing weapon at tight end but moving him around like we see Travis Kelce and George Kittle do would make it easier to get him in the open field on a linebacker. He doesn’t have to be those players to be utilized in a similar manner and throwing different looks can lead to defensive breakdowns.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Taj Harris has been the top target for Syracuse quarterbacks but we spent last year wondering why he was just running go routes and not attacking over the middle. In the final two games last season Harris moved around and hauled in 21 passes. There’s no reason for Syracuse to line him up in one spot and send him on go routes all game. He’ll be the receiver teams will focus on so getting him in different spots can force the defense to leave their safeties inside it opens up single coverage for players like Anthony Queeley and Damien Alford on the outside.

With a veteran group on the offensive line and experienced quarterbacks this is the perfect time for Syracuse to add some wrinkles to their game plan. The adjustments to the scheme can help find some easy passing throws to keep the defense from being able to key on one area. Controlling the ball will give the offense more plays and allow it to be the Orange to be the one wearing down their opponent in the second half of games.