We are not yet finished the 2021 Syracuse Orange football season, as you have probably already understood, especially given the long history of this site covering broadly average football. Over the next two weeks, we’re posting post-by-post report cards examining where Syracuse has passed – and failed too.
After yesterday’s conversation about the difficulties of the quarterback, we move on to more positive things with the running backs. We’ll finish off the offensive side of things this week, and then next week it’s going to be defense and special teams. So hopefully you’re ready for a much more subjective assessment – and maybe you even have some to share.
While the 2020 Syracuse football season has been an absolute disaster on most fronts, we felt like SU potentially had something special with running back Sean Tucker. Despite a terrible line, no noticeable play call and a lack of passing offense to balance things out, he still went over 600 yards and looked like he could make some progress the following fall. Oh, how we underestimated, though.
As you know, Tucker didn’t just improve – he was better by leaps and bounds, and was the main reason Syracuse had the success he had (when he did, anyway. ). The sophomore ran for a school record 1,496 yards this season and added 12 rushing touchdowns. He caught 20 more passes for 255 yards and two more scores, set school records for most 100-yard games in one season (nine) and has become one of the best memes in college football. Tucker finished the year with the fourth most rushing yards and scrimmage yards in the country while leading a top-20 rushing attack in the FBS.
Even given the staggering nature of these numbers, they could also have been a lot better. Tucker’s own frustration with Orange’s play call only scratches the surface of what Gilbert’s fleeting struggles and questionable decisions have done. In four different games, Tucker had less than 15 litters and he had less than 20 in each of the last three. The Garrett Shrader-focused offense installed mid-season vulture touchdowns and carries inside the 20. With the straw-like improvisation that stirred this particular drink, Tucker’s number was not called out. with the same frequency – something that was reflected both in terms of statistics and the lack of late wins of the team.
If there is one aspect of Tucker’s game that may have contributed to the offensive struggles, it is his pass blocking – something that came to light a lot more once the line injuries accumulated and Chris Elmore is out. You can of course counter that by asking him why he was in pass blocking situations so often.
Another blow to an otherwise strong racing season (Syracuse’s best as a team since 2018) has been the lack of real variance. Tucker (1,496 yards) and Shrader (781 yards) looked great from a production standpoint. But the team’s third and fourth point guard were Tommy DeVito and Jarveon Howard, both of whom were transferred before the end of the year. Cooper Lutz had just 17 carries for 60 yards, while Abdul Adams had 13 for 56. Almost all were also in trash time, so these experienced players weren’t used as rhythm changes, receivers out of the box. backfield, pass blockers. or in sets for two. Instead, they were just used to kill the clock.
Critics of carries are not a call for Tucker to decrease them, as much as they point out how one-dimensional this offense really was in 2021. You may or may not be surprised to learn that 84 PERCENT Syracuse’s offensive plays this season were either a Shrader pass, a Shrader run or a Tucker run. Of course, not all are the same, but many have.
If Syracuse was able to incorporate a certain tempo, you could also have seen more variance around the players involved in the offense. But with only 778 games recorded (106th in the country), there’s not much you can do until you get the ball out of the hands of your best players … or player in this case, with Tucker.
Whoever Orange hires as the next offensive coordinator must above all incorporate a capable passing game. But his next task will be simply to bring back any sort of tempo. We don’t even need to move the ball as fast as in 2018 (971 games in 12 games). But the more opportunities this offense can create to score points, the better.
Racing play will obviously be a big part of the sequel for this offense and its new coordinator, since you want to show Tucker that he has a reason to stay at least one more season. Those they hire will certainly understand that, and hopefully capable passes and a faster pace will actually lead to more success for Tucker – AND the rest of the tam’s running backs, who should be able to get more attempts. than what we’ve seen for backups this year.
If we just rate Tucker this year, he gets an A. But think the above issues – and how they surfaced in the last three ineffective games – matter and should affect those subjective ratings slightly. (even acknowledging that the struggles weren’t Tucker’s fault).