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Syracuse football: Pre-snap motion opens up options for Orange

The new offensive era brings in a welcome change

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Louisville at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange offense has been simplistic, to be kind, over the past couple years. While there was great excitement when the fast Baylor-style offense was introduced with Dino Babers, ACC defenses adjusted and learned that it was very easy to predict the Orange offense.

But with a new offensive system under Robert Anae, Syracuse exploded and looked great in its season opening victory for the Orange. And a big reason for that is one of the quirks of the new offensive system: pre-snap motion.

If you’re a listener of Troy Nunes is an Absolute Podcast with Andy, Steve and I (and if you’re not, why not join us every Sunday at 8:00 pm ET?), you know that we’ve been asking for some pre-snap motion for a while. It came out some time ago that opposing defensive coordinators knew every play that the Orange were going to run, in large part because of the static formations.

Now that has changed, especially with Syracuse varying up the pre-snap motion on almost every play. And not only did that make the Orange unpredictable, it confused the Louisville defense.

Let’s take a look at two plays - the touchdowns in the second half.

On this play, Devaughn Cooper starts at the X outside the numbers to the left of Oronde Gadsden. He motions to the right and when the ball is snapped, Cooper is pretty much in line behind Gadsden before starting to cut upfield.

  1. What happens here is one of the benefits of pre-snap motion: miscommunication. The two Louisville DBs are confused on their assignment in this play and both go to cover Cooper, which leaves Gadsden alone in the end zone.

Of course, you’re not going to confuse opposing defenses all the time. But making defenders think on every play and testing their mentality can wear them out, which creates confusion and deception.

Here’s the second play - Shrader’s rushing touchdown to seal the deal (1:43 in the video).

On this play, Sean Tucker motions out of the backfield to the left. One of the reasons why this is important is that early on in the game, Shrader targeted Tucker multiple times after he motioned out wide. If you recall, Tucker scored the first touchdown of the game after motioning to the outside on the right.

That’s important because Louisville has to send a guy to cover him, and it ends up being one of the defenders in the middle of the field. When the play starts, Shrader soon realizes that there’s a ton of space to his left, and he helps his case by giving a quick peek to his right to lead the defenders before cutting back to the left and walking into the end zone.

Creating space is so important for Syracuse, especially with two rushers in Shrader and Tucker. The most important thing is that the pre-snap motion keeps defenses on their toes and makes Syracuse unpredictable, a luxury the Orange haven’t had in quite some time.