One of the biggest problems last year with the Orange offense was the offensive line play. The O-Line struggled and that meant the running game could never get going, and the SU quarterback(s) were under pressure most times they dropped back. Well, now there are some interesting numbers to back this up.
David Hale of ESPN tweeted out a grid of the ACC sack rates from last year, basically it is a percentage of drop backs that ended in sacks. In games 1 through 6, the Orange sack rate was just 2.4%, second best in the ACC. However, while the best teams in the conference – FSU, Clemson, Louisville – had their rates decrease over the final 6 games (or 7 including a bowl), Syracuse’s sack rate went from 2.4% to 9.6%. An increase of 300% over the final 6 weeks of the season. That is by far the largest increase of any program in the conference.
So what happened the final 6 weeks of the season?
Well, there are a couple of factors here. First, the final 6 games were played with the combination of Austin Wilson, AJ Long and Mitch Kimble at quarterback after Terrel Hunt’s injury. Second, George McDonald was demoted from his role as Offensive Coordinator after week 5. So not only was the Orange working with a new play caller, but also with a new quarterback, in fact three new quarterbacks who split the playing time.
When you think about the circumstances however, that is even more reason the Orange needed strong offensive line play. And they never got it last year. Sean Hickey didn’t seem nearly has effective as he had in years past, and the rest of the line dealt with injuries of penalty problems.
At the top of the list of things that need to improve for the Syracuse offense is the line play. That is the core of everything. From there, the running game is given a better chance to succeed, the receivers are given more time to run routes and get open, and Hunt is given more time to find them. Everything stems from the offensive line.
The Orange don’t need to have the second best sack rate in the ACC, but they also can’t have a 300% increase from the first half of the season to the second half of the season.
Posted By: Seth Goldberg