Everyone at ACC knows the The strength of the Syracuse football team is the running game. Sean Tucker is a bona fide stud, named to nearly every watch list heading into the 2022 season. The SU single-season rushing record holder is virtually guaranteed to be a draft pick of the NFL after this season. Syracuse Athletics even has its own campaign for Tucker to win the Heisman.
But let’s not forget quarterback Garrett Shrader either. The transfer from Mississippi State was 781 yards last year (remember he only started in Game 4), third-best for ACC QBs. Some would consider Shrader more of a ground threat than an air forward, as his completion percentage was in the 50s. New offensive coordinator Robert Anae brings a more “Air Raid” style of passing attack to the Hill, but the attacking staff remains the same. Shrader might make a few throwing improvements in 2022, but he won’t become Dan Marino overnight.
Needless to say, opposing teams are going to play the SU running game in 2022. Let’s see how Orange’s week one opponent Louisville did last year.
First game of the game
Louisville is out in cover 1, which means there is a deep safety (the player standing on the first downline). He drops back into coverage, while the outside cornerbacks play man-to-man. The rest of the Louisville defense (three down linemen, three linebackers and a safety) are stacked inside the tackle zone (the yellow rectangle, which represents the tackle-to-tackle zone. Teams attempt fill in any gaps a team could potentially run the ball upside down.)
Other than moving safety to midfield, this is relatively basic cover. Shrader should be able to tell it’s a man-to-man based on the match between corners and receivers. Offensively, Syracuse has six guys in the box to block seven Cardinals, but Shrader and Tucker both acting as running threats means it’s 8-for-7 – defense must consider both QB and RB leading the ball.
The play is a zone-reading option, and Tucker ends up running the ball past center and right guard.
Louisville linebackers are frozen because they don’t know who has the ball. Tucker eventually takes it, but hesitation from the Cardinal defense allows the O Orange line to get up the field. SU gains four yards.
Later in the Drive
Now Louisville has brought an extra man into the tackle box. It’s still man-to-man at the bottom of the lineup, but the Cardinals can explain the quarterback and running back.
Syracuse executed a stretch zone read, faking the transfer from Tucker to the right and countering with Shrader to the left. Louisville’s defense grabbed Tucker and the ‘Cuse QB snuck in to the second tier for a seven-yard gain.
The final score of this game was 41-3, Louisville. The defense of the cardinals understood things.
There is now nine defenders in the tackle box. Syracuse runs a jumbo set with two tight ends, and Louisville responded with both safeties near the second tier. The Cardinals don’t mind being beaten by SU wides, who are 1-on-1 with plenty of green grass ahead of them.
Until the Orange can prove they can pass efficiently this year, expect a heavy dose of defenders inside the tackle zone to counter Syracuse’s run.