The Syracuse Orange haven’t executed well in the red zone until recent times. In each season between 2019 and 2021, Syracuse had a red zone efficiency under 80%, which ranked among the bottom 30 teams in the FBS. That turned around last year with an 87.5% red zone efficiency, and that trend has continued this year.
Syracuse currently sits at an 80% red zone efficiency through the first three games of the 2023 season. Scoring at the goal line is a big reason why the Orange have the 5th best scoring offense in the FBS and have a perfect record. And after a primetime win over Purdue on national television, a lot of eyes saw one of the biggest reasons for Syracuse’s success near the end zone.
The Orange have been trotting out their version of a jumbo goal line package to punch the ball into the end zone. What Syracuse does is bring David Clement and Rashard Perry in the game as extra blockers. Clement sets up on the line of scrimmage as a tackle. Depending on the side that he lines up on, the tackle he replaces slides to the other side of the line, acting as a second guard. That means either Mark Petry or Enrique Cruz becomes another interior lineman on the opposite side of the ball.
That’s not the only extra protection that Syracuse deploys. The Orange have Max Mang line up behind the moved tackle to create an even stronger side of a line. And just for added blocking, Syracuse brings in defensive lineman Rashard Perry as a strong-side fullback. Perry played on the offensive line at Bennett High School in Buffalo, so blocking isn’t new to him.
We’ve seen a variety of guys as well get added and subtracted from this package to give it a unique flavor on every set. Sometimes Syracuse sends Damien Alford out wide as a receiver that needs to be respected. The Orange have even brought in an additional lineman, usually Joe Cruz, to give the blockers even more beef. Even converted quarterback Dan Villari has gotten in on the blocking action for the jumbo package.
Syracuse first showed this jumbo package against Western Michigan. LeQuint Allen scored three times using the offset line. The Orange used the package to also score three touchdowns against Purdue. Allen added another touchdown and Garret Shrader scored twice. The Syracuse quarterback turned heads on social media with a fake handoff into a bootleg run in the jumbo package.
“I love the concept of it.” said Shrader.
And it’s easy to see what Syracuse is going for. A lot of narratives were woven about the Orange being undersized on both sides of the trenches last season. Those narratives only grew as the injuries piled up. Syracuse counteracted this with just more people.
“The biggest thing is if we have two more offensive linemen than they do and they happen to have defensive linemen and linebackers, the numbers are just in our favor, unless they want to bring in a lot of big bodies to match it.” said Shrader.
In recent seasons, Syracuse used Chris Elmore to carve a path in the running game. However, no one has quite matched his blocking production since. So, the Orange have decided to just overwhelm opponents with so many big blockers that it is hard to prevent at least one yard being gained.
While Syracuse hasn’t added the QB push that the Philadelphia Eagles have employed in short-yardage situations, the Orange have their own version of getting big guys to create a yard of space. And the Orange have great athletes to improvise and tweak the goal line package into a play that is very unpredictable once it is executed.
As such, the recent Orange goal line struggles can start to roll away.