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Syracuse football: Garrett Shrader’s passing has been given the runway to take off

Can he continue to pilot the offense through unexpected turbulence?

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Through the first two games of the Syracuse Orange football season, we’ve watched the improvement from Garrett Shrader and the Orange passing game.

After struggling to close out last season, Shrader has taken major strides forward under the tutelage of Robert Anae and Jason Beck. The quarterback who Mike Leach didn’t trust to run his Air Raid is now completing 79% of his passes in 2022 after he was at 52% in 2021.

A closer look at the Syracuse passing attack shows that a lot of the throws Shrader is being asked to make have come between the hash marks- like the quarterback has been given the all-clear on the runway,

Stats courtesy of PFF

One area of this chart which stands out is the intermediate throws in the center of the field. Last season Shrader was 15 of 35 on those throws between 10 and 20 yards in the middle of the field. Right now he’s 10 of 14 and those passes not only move the chains, but they are going to keep opposing safeties from cheating to the line of scrimmage to help in the run game.

Before the season we talked about how the coaching change could lead to improvements in scheme and play design which could help Syracuse, even if they still lack a true #1 wide receiver. Through two weeks we’ve seen how the offense has given the receivers opportunities to get in advantageous positions and how Shrader has been cashing in.

One advantage that Syracuse has this season is that there is no one receiver for opponents to focus on when Shrader drops back. With Shrader’s size, these throws over the middle allow him to get a good read on the coverage while being able to step into throws.

It’ll be interesting to see if teams try to take away these passes with safety help which will leave corners in man coverage on the outside. Can Shrader and the taller wideouts make them pay if they do that? Is this when we’ll see more routes for Sean Tucker against linebackers?

That’s something to watch for starting this Saturday as teams have some film on this Orange offense. We don’t expect Shrader to keep completing 80% of his passes but as teams try to take away shorter throws and the middle of the field, the opportunity for big plays on the outside will grow.