Syracuse seemed to have gotten back on track last week against Georgia Tech. Tommy DeVito was good enough to win, throwing for his first two touchdowns of the season. Nykeim Johnson and Taj Harris were on the receiving end of those, as the receivers scored just the second and third touchdowns of the season. Syracuse also seemed to find its starting running back in Sean Tucker. But there’s still plenty to work on in the off week.
Establish the Tight Ends
So far this season, Aaron Hackett and Luke Benson have a combined 11 yards receiving. That’s from DeVito’s first two completions of the Georgia Tech game. Despite the ridiculously slow start to the season for the tight ends, they need to be a focal point of the offense. Hackett was DeVito’s top red zone threat last season and Benson seemed like he was destined for a breakout sophomore season.
Before last week, DeVito hadn’t thrown over the middle of the field. He had rarely thrown past the line of scrimmage. But against Georgia Tech, DeVito found Johnson over the middle often. He needs to do that with his tight ends. Against some teams, the secondary will be better than the linebackers. Those are matchups where Hackett and Benson must be able to exploit a weakness.
Practice the Blitz
Through three games, the Orange have just five sacks. Three of those are from defensive linemen who have limited opportunities in the 3-3-5 defensive scheme. Since there’s only three down linemen, their goal is to eat up blocks, freeing holes for linebackers. Tyrell Richards and Stefon Thompson each have a sack, but SU needs more linebackers to step up. Against Georgia Tech, Jeff Sims dealt with pressure all game long. Syracuse never sacked him, but without the pressure Sims isn’t throwing four picks. The Orange need to make that a weekly trend.
Let Nolan Cooney Rest
Syracuse’s punter has punted more than all but one punter in all of college football. He’s been great replacing Sterling Hofrichter, punting more times per game than anyone else and ranking seventh in the country in yards per punt. While he was finally able to rest more than usual against Georgia Tech, a bye week is well timed for Cooney. Hopefully for Syracuse, he won’t be needed as regularly the rest of the season.