Coming off a 1-10 season, it’s understandable that opposing coaches are willing to pile on the Syracuse Orange football program — perhaps even more so than normal. While many of those conversations occur behind closed doors or potentially with recruits, Athlon’s annual discussions with coaches grant some anonymity. As a result, coaches are a little more willing to speak their mind, and even lay into opposing teams without fear of repercussion.
Though we can’t say for sure who added this year’s batch of quotes about Syracuse, but we can at least take some guesses.
“If you had to pick one program that falls apart this year, it’s probably here or Duke. Right now it’s a train wreck, at least externally. Dino [Babers] has a lot of respect in our league, I’m not trying to say the issues are internal, it’s just that the era of ‘go real fast and throw verts’ has sort of run its course for the moment, compounded by the fact that other teams in this league run that system better, and with better players.”
Well for one, this wasn’t Duke’s David Cutcliffe, obviously, since he saw Duke potentially looking at a trainwreck season. And while the quote doesn’t completely blast tempo, it doesn’t necessarily endorse it either, which could help us narrow things down. Though it also shows someone not really paying attention to what’s happened at Syracuse for the last two years, when tempo was way down (so perhaps the teams haven’t played lately).
Every ACC team is in the top half of the country by plays run last year, but that number’s a bit skewed. Georgia Tech is a candidate here due to the lack of tempo (last in total offensive plays) in 2019, and the fact that they may have an axe to grind with both schools given their current status fighting it out at the bottom of the league.
Geoff Collins wasn’t really hear for the #OrangeIsTheNewFast era, though, and this sounds like someone who was around back then. As always, I’ll assume the most elaborate, anti-Syracuse quote was from Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi, since he theoretically benefits more than anyone but BC from the Orange being down.
“The offensive line is probably the worst in the league, maybe worse than Georgia Tech’s after two years since the triple. You don’t have to blitz to get home on them, so you don’t really have to disguise much of what you’re doing.”
A misguided opinion not because of its view of Syracuse’s line — that part’s accurate. But because it feels that Georgia Tech’s line was disadvantaged by a long-time option focus. That’s not to say that it’s geared toward proper pass protection (and last year’s 23 sacks allowed bears that out). But you have to think this is also someone coaching a much better offensive line than either school.
Admittedly, not many teams were great at preventing sacks — though it’s also not the only measure for what makes a quality offensive line. Clemson, Virginia and Virginia Tech were the only ACC teams to allow two sacks or fewer last year, but there’s a familiarity here (something only Clemson has of those three). So that could point to North Carolina (seven sacks vs. SU last year), Pitt (seven), Duke (six), NC State (six) or Boston College (four). I’m tempted to say Mack Brown and David Cutcliffe wouldn’t say things like this, and Narduzzi’s covered above. So perhaps it’s Dave Doeren?
“They struggle up front on defense, that’s where you notice the lack of talent compared to the top half teams in the league.”
In league play, Syracuse had two or fewer sacks vs. North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Duke, Wake Forest, Boston College and Notre Dame last year, but I’d assume the Irish aren’t included here since they’re not in the ACC for 2021. This could be either Dave Clawson or Jeff Hafley, in my opinion. I know Babers and Clawson are friendly, but this is a fair and light observation rather than outright setting the team on fire. So that would fit.
“I don’t see things getting much better for them because the offensive scheme is really the identity, and recruiting to it when you’re up in New York just isn’t going to work.”
“Up in New York” can eliminate a few teams like BC and Pitt. One program that benefits from a less-than-stellar Syracuse is actually Miami, since the school does pull plenty of its students from the Northeast as it is. I’d be tempted to say this is Manny Diaz. Scott Satterfield is another.
“I think their situation is a lot like Duke’s success a few years ago — it’s possible to have one or two really good years in this league if the division is down. They’re on Clemson’s side, but I think they feasted on programs dealing with their own down years and now that’s not the case. Boston College is better, NC State is better.”
A couple notes: Both Boston College and NC State went bowling in 2018, and the Wolfpack won nine games that year. So I’m assuming this is a well-tenured coach that’s not at State, BC, Clemson or Duke and is probably on the Coastal side of things since they’re making lazy generalities about the Atlantic. Justin Fuente or Bronco Mendenhall could fit the bill here. I’d pick the latter.
“It would be surprising if they were able to make another run.”
Clemson would say that...