Since Rex Culpepper has taken over at quarterback, one element of Syracuse’s offense has greatly improved. It’s offensive line. Part of that is Culpepper getting rid of the football quickly. Another reason is Syracuse running quick pass plays to receivers Taj Harris and Anthony Queeley. But when SU does run plays that take time to develop, Culpepper has time to allow receivers to run lengthy routes.
In his three games as the starter, Culpepper is being sacked just over twice a game. While those aren’t great numbers, it also isn’t offense killing. Earlier in the season, Syracuse consistently lost yardage on first and second downs. Then on third and long, the Orange had no shot of reaching the sticks.
Sacks weren’t the only way SU was losing yards on offense. Penalties have been a problem all year long, but earlier this season running holes were clogged and rushers were dropped for a loss of yardage. But recently, Sean Tucker and Cooper Lutz have had big holes to run through.
Tucker is averaging over five yards a carry, and has scored three touchdowns. While Tucker has shown the importance of having a big running back who keeps his feet churning, he generally breaks through from the second to the third level of defenses. Earlier this year, rushers were trying to break free from tacklers at the line of scrimmage.
Lutz is a redshirt sophomore who’s a converted wide receiver. Earlier this season, he was the sixth running back listed on Syracuse’s depth chart. But he had a breakout game against Wake Forest last weekend.
Lutz averaged well over five yards as he ran for 81 yards. He also caught four passes out of the backfield which he sprung for 25 yards.
Maybe SU has found another weapon in Lutz. It seems like Tucker will be an emphasis on the future. But these running backs are doing well – and Culpepper staying upright – because of an improved offensive line.
Future early-round NFL draft pick Boogie Basham of Wake Forest didn’t record a stat last week against the Orange. That’s the 6-foot-5 287 pound defensive lineman’s first game this season without a tackle for loss or a sack. That’s signs of a much improved offensive front.