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Syracuse football: will the Orange passing game become super-sized?

Spring deployment of wide receivers could be telling

NCAA Football: Louisville at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange football team is without starting quarterback Garrett Shrader this spring, but that hasn’t stopped new Offensive Coordinator Jason Beck from some changes in the deployment of the wide receivers.

You might have noticed from Mike’s practice reports that Oronde Gadsden II is listed as wide receiver but is still working in different spots inside and out. His position change might be in name only, but Damien Alford/Isaiah Jones are now in the slot along with Trebor Pena. Typically the slot receivers are smaller players like Pena, but putting size in the middle of the field can make for easier throws for Shrader.

Here’s how his passing chart from 2022 looked and you can see Shrader was at his best throwing to the left, but most of his attempts were between the numbers at a depth up to 20 yards.

Shrader was 94 for 125 on those throws, which is a 75% completion rate. He’s got to cut down on the interceptions in these zones, but when it came to moving the ball down the field this is the area where the Orange found a lot of success, especially getting Gadsden into the middle in single coverage.

Adding a bigger receiver inside can also help the running game. We saw the struggles that last season’s offensive line had moving opponents off the ball and with Matthew Bergeron gone, it might not get easier. A player with the size of Jones or Alford can combine with Max Mang to help seal off linebackers and defensive ends to get the Syracuse backs to the second level more often.

As teams play more defensive backs to cover four receivers, the Orange offense could use the extra size to gain an advantage without being as predictable. Last season teams were able to key in on Syracuse’s play-calling when Mang and Wes Hoeh were on the field. Being able to use a receiver instead of another lineman can avoid that same situation in 2023.

It’s something to keep an eye on as the team moves through spring practice, especially when we see the team at the spring game.