Last year, something became obvious: the Syracuse offense would struggle, and the defense was the strong unit. However, in the red zone, the offense was pretty good, while the defense was well below average. Basically, the red zone caused the units to do a role reversal. This year, it looks like both units could improve and based on last season, and small improvements could be enough to make both units top 50 in the nation.
Last year, on 46 trips into the red zone the Orange scored 37 times, or 80.4 percent. Twenty-nine of the scores were touchdowns.
While it doesn’t rank in the top 50 in the nation, that is a good percentage. The problem is that teams on the list of top 50 red-zone offenses in the country got inside the 20s way more often than the Orange. The Orange did just fine in the red zone, but need to get there more often.
This year, SU also needs to overcome the loss of Jerome Smith, who played a huge role in the red-zone offense last year. Adonnis Ameen-Moore, who had a very limited role last year after having success in the “tank package” in 2012, could fill that role. Ameen-Moore could be that power back the Orange needs in short-yardage and goal-line situations, even if it isn’t with a linebacker leading the way as fullback.
Another way the Orange could succeed is through the growth of Terrel Hunt. If Hunt is more accurate through the air, and picks his times to run a little better, then the red-zone efficiency could be even better this year.
The Syracuse defense was not good in the red zone last year, a big change from the rest of the field when they had success. Opponents scored 34 times in 40 chances inside the 20s. This gets a little better for the SU D when you consider that it allowed 25 touchdowns in those 40 chances. This is a big fall from a team that ranked 48th in the nation in overall defense. With the leaders in the country stopping teams in the red zone between 60 and 80 percent of the time, the Orange falls at about 85 percent.
As noted, the Orange does not fall too outside the range of the nation’s top 50 red-zone defenses, but that five percent can make a huge difference over the course of the year. For the Orange, it is hard to see this unit getting better this season with the losses of Jay Bromley and Marquis Spruill as run-stoppers up front. At this point, it remains to be seen who replaces Bromley along the defensive line, though it looks like Marquez Hodge will take over for Spruill. The defense as a whole maybe a little stronger with a better and more consistent secondary, but spots along the defensive line remain a bit of a question mark, as does Marquez Hodge at the middle linebacker position.
Posted by: Seth Goldberg