Scott Shafer made himself a lengthy to-do list after a disappointing 2014 campaign. It isn’t a secret that Syracuse needs to make a number of fixes if it wants to avoid another disappointing season, but when you look at the statistics from last year, there are a few that stick out as the biggest points of concern.
The Syracuse offense was miserable in 2014. 329.3 yards per game, 17.1 points per game and 4.9 yards per play were all 13th in the conference (Wake Forest was the worst in all three). Most people considered it a disappointing season for running backs Prince-Tyson Gulley and Adonis Ameen-Moore, but the running game wasn’t quite as terrible as everyone thinks. 4.1 yards per rush was in the middle of the pack; 8th best in the ACC. The passing game is where things fell apart. 0.5 passing touchdowns and 1.4 interceptions per game are both worst in the conference, and 54 percent passing was second worst to Georgia Tech. This year’s Orange will have the same guys under center this year, and top receiver Jarrod West is gone. If Terrell Hunt stays healthy the passing numbers should get a little better, and Steve Ishmael is lined up for a breakout year. The passing game should be Shafer’s first priority.
The defense kept Syracuse in more than a few games in 2014. Middle of the pack as a unit, the team’s 349.2 yards allowed per game was sixth in the ACC. The run defense was exceptional, with 0.8 rushing touchdowns allowed per game being the best rate in the conference. Only allowing 3.4 yards per rush will be hard to repeat, however, as Syracuse lost key players such as Cameron Lynch and Dyshawn Davis to the NFL. The passing defense was not as good; opponents threw for an ACC-high 65.2% against the Orange, and that was with Durell Eskridge. Eskridge is out, and the secondary is in disarray. Zaire Franklin has the tough task of leading what’s left of the defense as a sophomore, and he’ll need to find some more playmakers if the Orange are to be as good as it was last year.
In short, Syracuse needs to get better at passing the ball and stopping other teams from passing the ball. Special teams are a bright spot going into the season, as kicker Cole Murphy was named to the Lou Groza Award Watch List earlier this offseason.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson