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Changing of the Guard: Why Syracuse’s Pistol Can Still Work

SI.com

Over the summer, Syracuse fans were excited when they heard the idea of a flashy pistol offense being instituted into the playbook this season. Fast-forward three months, and now most of ‘Cuse Nation is clamoring to rip it up. The numbers don’t lie that SU’s offense is less productive through two games than a year ago. In 2012, the Orange gained 1,051 total yards, as opposed to just 694 this fall. But there is still a ton of hope for the Orange’s new offense that was pioneered a few years ago at Nevada with Colin Kaepernick.

Syracuse didn’t run the pistol with head coach Doug Marrone. In addition to the Orange’s other offensive formations, like the option read and the spread, the pistol was an extra brunt for quarterbacks Terrel Hunt and Drew Allen to quickly learn during the summer. Sophomore Hunt, who was here a season ago—as opposed to Allen—told the Fizz that this year’s playbook is bigger, and might be a little more confusing.

“We were running a little bit too many plays, it was just too complicated—well, not really complicated, but we weren’t maximizing on our opportunities. Now we picked up the tempo, now we’re going real fast kind of like last year, having only a few plays, but mastering the plays that we have and executing them very well.”

It seems like after two weeks of struggles moving the football against Penn State and Northwestern, the SU coaches may try and simplify things heading forward. WR Ashton Broyld said that it felt like SU was running “1,000 plays” against PSU, compared to, say, a dozen in 2012. He remarked to the Fizz that SU was almost “experimenting” with the pistol in Game 1 at Metlife.

That’s not very reassuring.

But fear not. Hunt can save the pistol, which shouldn’t be thrown into the dumpster yet. He’s a bit faster than Allen, and more of a threat to run, which is what you need. You can’t have an immobile QB running the pistol; that just eliminates an option that the defense has to game plan for.

Hunt truly likes running in the shotgun and the pistol. He did it almost exclusively while at Christ the King HS in Queens, NY. It fits his style.

“This year’s playbook is more on the quarterback with the reads, and personally I think this year’s offense is easier because it’s, ‘get that guy the ball at this moment’ and that’s it.”

Quarterbacks coach Tim Lester brought the pistol with him from Elmhurst College right outside of the Windy City to the Salt City. He’s been running it for the last few years. If there is one man to guide Hunt in the right direction, it has to be Lester.

“That’s all we ran. Yeah, I was a pistol guy. We were exclusively pistol. So many teams when you go [shotgun], they set their entire defense towards which side the RB is on because they know the way the zone read is going. The pistol, you can run anything, anywhere.”

And SU’s running backs, Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley, have said that it’s easier to read where they need to run in the pistol as opposed to lining up on the quarterback’s hip. When running backs coach Andre Reed and OC George McDonald jumped on board last spring, Lester unleashed his offense, which featured a 2,000 yard tailback in 2012. Granted, that’s Division III. But now after a few shaky weeks, everyone is on board according, to Lester.

“When we brought it in, they weren’t sure if they liked it, now Jerome [Smith] loves it, Terrel [Hunt] loves it, and it let’s the running back be down hill, they love their shoulders square to the line of scrimmage as opposed to sideways.”

There’s no need to trade in the car yet. Lester and company has to give Hunt the keys to the pistol.

Posted: Kevin Fitzgerald

 

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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