Syracuse football comes into this season with a whole lot of questions and considerably low expectations. A 1-10 season tends to be the reason why, and the Orange suffered through such a lean year thanks to a particularly paltry offense. It’s worth wondering if the Orange will shift away from their up-tempo attack this Fall. If they do, it’s because personnel and lack of previous results may dictate a change.
You’ve probably heard Dino Babers’ “Orange is the New Fast” motto a hundred times before, but so far into his tenure “fast” hasn’t always equalled “good”.
Since Babers arrived in 2016, the SU offense has produced mixed results. Within the ACC, Syracuse has ranked 11th, 9th, 2nd, 8th, and 15th (dead last) in points-per-game since 2016. Total offensive yardage has been a little better ranked 6th, 3rd, 2nd, 7th, and 15th during those same years, but the past two years without now-Bengal Eric Dungey have been rough. With such unpredictable production, Babers’ record at SU is now 24-36.
It’s worth bringing up Dungey’s name again because, with perfect hindsight, we can now see how much he did to bring a different dimension to the SU offense. In 2017 and 2018, Dungey carried the ball a combined 327 times for 1,349 yards. This potency on the ground didn’t translate to wins during a 4-8 2017 season, but SU went 10-3 and won a bowl game in 2018 with Dungey calling the shots.
Since then, Syracuse quarterbacks haven’t run the ball at all, much less effectively. Tommy DeVito totalled just 122 yards in 2019, and Syracuse’s trio of 2020 quarterbacks carried the ball just 81 times. The 2019 and 2020 teams combined to go 6-17.
It’s easy to see that at this point, Dino Babers’ offense only works to its full potential if he has a quarterback who can run. The Orange ranked dead last in the conference in every major offensive category last year, so it might be time to entertain the idea of a different approach.
Syracuse’s running backs might be the best group in the ACC this year, and Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader’s presence in the quarterback room means Babers now has a signal-caller who can run (113 carries, 587 yards 6 TD in 2019), at least more than the pocket-passing DeVito. Throw in a thin, inexperienced receiver room, and it’s not hard to see why Dino might be inclined to turn his up-tempo attack into a more ground-based, option-heavy approach if DeVito and company stumble out of the gate.
If things break right, a philosophy shift to utilize talented ball-carrying assets would go a long way in jump-starting an ice-cold offense and ensuring the Loud House lives up to its billing this fall.