Now that Scott Shafer is officially the head coach at Syracuse, the eyes of Orange nation have shifted to offensive coordinator. We all know the story. Nathaniel Hackett was going to stay at SU as the OC until Doug Marrone asked him to slide down I-90 west to Buffalo. Like Marrone, it’s hard to blame him for wanting to pursue the height of his profession. Now, what to do with replacing him?
This question is far more complicated than some people believe, but also very simple. Daryl Gross has been clear. He wants continuity as he told Syracuse.com.
“We have put our focus on the system we’re running and not so much the guy running it. We will not have a new guy with a new system. Scott is committed to the current system. It will continue to be fast, up-tempo, spreading it out at times, going West Coast at times and running the ball when that is working… just what we’re doing. Whoever comes in is going to have that philosophy, because it’s a lot of fun for the players and the fans. That’s what Scott wants to do.”
Gross is referring to whoever replaces Hackett, however the player running it will be far more important. One day that will likely be Zach Allen. We can’t forget the offense that landed Marrone and Hackett in the NFL was designed around Ryan Nassib.
For 3 years we wondered why Syracuse wouldn’t go up-tempo. Nassib was at his best in the hurry up and finally we got our wish with a total redesign weeks before the season started. It worked because it played to Nassib’s physical strengths (strong arm, quick release) and mental capacity to run it.
Nassib was exceptional pre-snap. When things didn’t go according to plan in his sophomore and junior years, plays disintegrated. He had happy feet, threw to the wrong team and SU abandoned the run way too often. This year the attack was designed around quick decisions and balance. Nassib flourished and when the offense caught up (including Hackett calling the plays), SU went 6-1 and beat WVU in Yankee Stadium.
Nassib’s intellect allowed him to learn a brand new offense in less than a month which is abnormal. The offense also forced him to make quick decisions, and that’s brings us back to Allen.
By all accounts, Allen is a smart kid. Trent Dilfer doesn’t pick dummies for the Elite 11. That said can Allen pick up a college offense like this quickly? The more coaching the next quarterback needs, the slower the system works. Whoever it is, he won’t have the same comfort Nassib enjoyed by this season.
The candidates are aplenty, but no matter who is offensive coordinator the mandate from above is run an up-tempo system with balance and make it look like Marrone and Hackett never left. In the end though, players play and coaches coach. Which is why the loss of Nassib could mean far more than Hackett’s departure.
Posted: Craig Hoffman