Central New York’s worst kept secret is that the Syracuse offense is ugly. When SU needed one win in its final three games to become bowl eligible it scored a total of 34 points in a string of blowout losses. This is a massive concern because the head coach supposedly is a top-level offensive mind, and he’s probably coming back in ’23 no matter what. Syracuse, despite having one of the best running backs in football, had scoring totals last season of 3, 7, 14, 14, and 17 points. You guessed it, the Orange went 0-5 in those games.
The elite Sean Tucker comes back, and so does running threat at QB Garrett Shrader. In three of those losses, Tucker actually rushed for 95 yards or more. Tucker even had 157 yards in the loss to Clemson, a Tigers team that has traditionally one of the best defenses in the ACC. The Orange had blown some great performances by their runningback.
Shrader was just as effective on the ground in some ways, even though there were certainly yards that were the product of broken plays or frantic comebacks in losses. Shrader led the team in rushing three times, each game was over 137 yards. SU was 1-2 in those games.
Dino Babers has taken another swing by hiring a new OC Robert Anae, a man with experience running high-powered attacks at BYU and Virginia. The modern college football world loves the pass, as any Air Raid-type scheme garners headline and attention. It helps recruit big-armed QBs and fleet-footed WRs. But what if the Orange need to go back to the future? Or perhaps to its past? In the glory years of the ’80s and ’90s the SU attack routinely ran the option with Don McPherson, Donovan McNabb and Marvin Graves.
In the option, the quarterback takes the snap, rolls right or left, has a running back trailing and can decide to either keep it or pitch it. It’s an offense that is now the territory almost exclusively of the service academies who are looking for ways to outmaneuver bigger, faster, stronger opponents. After Georgia Tech ditched it, it’s a fossil in the Power 5.
However, does Anae’s offense, which has elements of a pro-style attack, benefit the Orange more? It will weave in concepts like short passes over the middle to open up big plays downfield. And jet sweeps will potentially be utilized as well. The two best talents on the offense are the running back and quarterback’s legs. Why not just build everything around running those two?
There is an ego problem in college football that the option (which was all the rage thirty years ago) and the triple-option are looked down upon. It’s seen as gimmicky child’s stuff that’s used by the overmatched. But SU should set aside the machismo and do what it takes to win games, no matter the style points. Long, clock-eating drives of 12 running plays helps your offense too.
It’s not sexy, and Anae will probably want to make his mark on the offense, but the Orange should at least incorporate some option packages (not just RPO) to take advantage of their two best weapons. They should put aside the ego and run the damn ball.