The Syracuse offense came alive the last two games of the season last year as Terrel Hunt finally looked comfortable as the quarterback of the Orange. However, for much of the season, the offense looked lost. SU failed to score more than 14 points in four of its 13 games and only topped 21 points five times, although two came against Tulane and Wagner. Between the Tulane game and the regular-season finale against BC, the Orange offense looked stagnant and the passing game was nonexistent. Constant calls for changes were made by fans and critics, so what can we look for from the Orange in George McDonald’s second year as offensive coordinator.
This year’s offense will be different from last year’s for two big reasons. One, Jerome Smith is gone. Smith was a workhorse running back and somebody the Orange could rely on to grind out carries. He was the lead back last year and that could be difficult to replace, regardless of how many running backs the Orange have. The other reason is Terrel Hunt’s development. Hunt grew up in the weeks between the BC game and the Texas Bowl, as shown by his MVP performance. And it is very reasonable to expect that he will grow even more over the course of a full spring and summer as the starting QB. Not only is it expected, but also it is necessary in order for the offense to take strides and win some games.
Aside from those factors, George McDonald needs to do a better job with play calling. Many times last year it felt like a series would go: run-screen-incomplete-punt. McDonald needs to mix up the play calling a little more. Maybe there is room in the offense to put Hunt in an option with George Morris II or Prince Tyson-Gulley or to roll Hunt out of the pocket. Hunt is a quarterback who can run. Last year made running the ball a big park of his game, but it was almost always when the pocket broke down and not on a designed run. Now is the time to add in some designed running plays for Hunt, or an option of a run for Hunt—possibly out of the pistol set McDonald liked last year.
Another big adjustment to this year’s offense will be getting Jarrod West involved early and often. West is a big-bodied receiver; why not take advantage? Many thought West would start contributing more when Hunt took over for Drew Allen, though that was not really the case. West struggled, catching just 26 passes and one touchdown. He needs to produce more, but with more receiving options than last year—new recruits, Quinta Funderburk, Brisley Estime, and Ashton Broyld—thats easier said than done. If West does not get into the mix, whether it is because of himself, Hunt, or play calling, there will likely be somebody else to take his place this year.
This could be a big year for the Orange, especially if the offense steps up. But they’ll have to commit 100% to that.
Posted by: Seth Goldberg