It’s well documented West Virginia and Syracuse are long time foes. But when they line up against one another in the Pinstripe Bowl, Geno Smith won’t have to deal with one very familiar face. He should be thrilled about that. Last year’s incredible Syracuse demolition of WVU at the Carrier Dome helped vault Chandler Jones into the first round. So how different will it be for Smith?
“It’ll probably be different for those guys. I really don’t see football like that. I really don’t key out specific players. Chandler Jones is a great player but it’s 11 man football and everyone has to do their job and that’s how we’re gonna go about it.”
Maybe he should have targeted Jones, because Chandler kicked his ass. The Patriots first-round pick was a disruptive force that turned a potent West Virginia offense into a sputtering mess. In fact, Jones always had success against WVU. He sacked Smith twice in each of the last two games against the Mountaineers, and added 6 solo tackles each and a number of batted balls. Syracuse has been watching film on West Virginia including the last two games against them, but Shamarko Thomas says SU has tried to avoid watching 99.
“We really haven’t been thinking about Chan in the film. Our defensive line is really good. It’s Brandon Sharpe. It’s Markus Pierce-Brewster. Brandon’s got 6-7 sacks on the season so we really weren’t thinking about Chan.”
The key for Syracuse (as it’s been all year) will be to create the same pressure while not asking Sharpe and Pierce-Brewster to do what Chandler now does in the NFL. Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer says he can’t ask current players to do what Chan did.
“Really I don’t talk that way to the kids. I think we’ll talk fundamental technique and things but each kid’s a little bit different. If you have someone similar – but there’s really no one similar to Chandler playing for us right now.”
Much like Syracuse, WVU’s offense is all about pace. Anything to disrupt that flow is paramount, meaning batted balls are just as important as sacks. If Syracuse pass rushers can’t get home to hit Smith, they’ve gotta get their hands up.
One of the ways Syracuse manufactured pressure recently was the okie package, but Shafer hasn’t used it much this season. Last year when Jones was hurt, the package was ineffective. However, with a month to prepare you wonder if we’ll see it on Saturday. SU will show a plethora of looks. Last year, Dana Holgerson said Syracuse’s first 18 blitzes were different.
In the end, no matter what fronts and pressures he faces, Geno will be trying to follow the same path as Jones. Make a huge impact on a big stage to solidify himself as a first round talent and a very rich man.
Posted: Craig Hoffman