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Syracuse football: Will the Orange bring a bag of tricks to Clemson

Here’s hoping Robert Anae prefers to start Halloween early

Robert Anae Kendall Long Rich Barnes

When the Syracuse Orange announced the hiring of Robert Anae as offensive coordinator some of the immediate response from Virginia Cavaliers fans was to warn us about his penchant for trick plays.

Fresh in their minds was this play from Virginia’s game against the Virginia Tech Hokies last season.

A different variation on long-time Syracuse staple, the tight end throwback, but the result wasn’t McNabb to Brominski and obviously not what the Cavaliers hoped. Since it was late in a loss to their in-state rival the play call was widely criticized.

I bring this up because Anae has been creative without getting too far into gadgets so far this season. He has relied on pre-snap motion and play design which has given Syracuse opportunities for big plays. Yes, he dialed up the halfback pass for LeQuint Allen against Purdue but we haven’t seen anything else that we’d file under Trickeration.

That’s likely to change the rest of the season and we hope it starts at Clemson but not because it’s Syracuse’s only chance to win. We’ve seen some comments about not settling for field goals and being aggressive on 4th down calls, which may sense in context but might not in the flow of the game. The Orange are good enough on defense where punting and field goals aren’t failure and I know Dino’s struggles with these decisions, but he has to be smart about his risks in this one.

Where Syracuse can be aggressive is on offense and in situations where they feel they have a play that can result in a big gain. Each week we’ve watched Anae add some new wrinkles to the offense (which is really weird and really exciting after the last couple of years). We know that some of these looks have a purpose beyond the play we’ve seen and I think today is the day we see some of those.

The staff seems to understand that Garrett Shrader is at his best when he’s got one primary target and they have schemed some wide-open throws. Clemson is going to come prepared for what they think will happen and this is where Anae can mix it up and where we expect him to deviate from what we’ve seen so far. Don’t be shocked if special plays are dialed up for other receivers like Damien Alford, Trebor Pena, and D’Marcus Adams. That’s not to say that Sean Tucker and Ordone Gadsden won’t be heavily featured, just don’t be surprised if a key play in today’s game ends up with both of them as decoys.

This isn’t a time for moral victories or to play to keep it close. If the Orange dare to be great this season, they can’t be scared or safe.