How’s it going folks. We’re running a little experiment this week. The first two weeks, I’ve the previews have come out on Friday. We’re going to bump it up a day or two this week to give y’all a little more time to peruse them. They won’t be as detailed, because Friday is one of my free writing days, but they’ll be out earlier in the week. We’re moving the previews up, which means most of the play breakdown stuff from the previous week will come out later.
There will be a poll at the end of the article, asking for your input.
Basic Syracuse Offense
Player Grouping: 11 Personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR)
Jason Beck, Syracuse’s former quarterback coach and new offensive coordinator, runs a standard spread offense. He moves the tight end around the formation but on a regular down and distance, he’s going with some version of what you see below. In theory, it’s a quarterback friendly offense set up by a former quarterback coach, for his former charge. The thing is, I have no idea if it’s any good. The first two games of the year came against Colgate, an FCS school, and Western Michigan, a rough looking FBS outfit rebuilding under a new head coach. Not exactly a murders row. In fact, I’m not sure either of Syracuse’s first two opponents could get a ticket for Jaywalking.
Still, they’ve opened the season by putting up 65 (vs Colgate) and 48 (vs Western Michigan). Purdue will be the first test, and it’s going to be a tough one for the Orange. Their first real game is on the road, at night, in front of a sell out, after a...shall we say...controversial outcome in their God forsaken dome last season. While I’m sure their players will be relieved to be playing on grass instead of a shag carpet stretched taught over a taught concrete slab, communication may be a little more difficult for the Syracuse players and coaching staff on Friday night.
Players to Watch
Garrett Shrader - Green Circle - Quarterback
At 6’4”, 225, Shrader is a big, athletic, tough dude. This offense is built to feature his ability to both run and throw the ball. Syracuse has understandably limited the run portion of their offense in the first two games. No need to get the quarterback killed against teams your 3rd string quarterback could handle easily. You’ll see the run game on Saturday.
The Syracuse offense will be as good as 5th year senior Shrader. This is his 3rd year at the helm for the Orange, and the results have been mixed. He’s played well enough, but the overall results haven’t been great. Last season they went 7-6, with Shrader throwing for 2640 yards, 17 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He also tacked on 444 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground. When you consider sacks, his actual rushing total was probably north of 550 yards. He’s a true dual threat quarterback.
I anticipate Syracuse running the zone read more against Purdue, and Shrader is always a threat to keep. The Boilermakers must continue to show improvement in their rush lane discipline. It was much, much better against Virginia Tech, and that’s good because if you don’t set the edge against this offense, you’ll spend your day chasing the quarterback down the field.
In terms of arm talent, Shrader is sufficient. He’s not going to fit the ball into a tight window on the 20 yard out, but he’s got enough to get the ball where it needs to go, and throws a catchable ball. After watching his first two games, the thing that impressed me the most about his passing is his touch on deep passes. I feel like I’ve covered this dude for the last decade and that’s an aspect of his game that is markedly improved from his days at Mississippi State. He’s not going to drive the ball deep down the field, but he throws a pretty deep ball when he can put air under it and let his giant receivers and tight ends go up and get it.
As I mentioned above, I expect to see him incorporated more in the run game against Purdue, be it designed runs, quarterback keepers on zone reads, and scrambles out of the pocket. He’s good at delivering passes on the move, and generally makes the right decision between keeping and throwing. If he can get a defensive back to bite, he’ll dump the ball over their head to an open receiver at the last possible moment. Against Fresno Purdue defensive backs had a bad habit of taking a peak at the quarterback when he moved outside the pocket and losing their man. If that happens on Saturday, Shrader will punish the Boilermakers.
What scares me the most about Shrader is his running ability. No one is going to confuse him with Kyler Murray in terms of elusiveness, he’s a tough guy runner. When he runs, he runs like a tight end (he played wide receiver at Miss State for a year under Mike Leach). He’s not looking to slide, he’s looking to take a safety and put them on their back. Outside of Thieneman (and he’s had a few freshmen moments), Purdue’s tackling in the secondary has left much to be desired. Kane is playing with one hand and Cam Allen isn’t exactly known for his ability to get ball carriers on the ground. In addition to his work as a runner, he’s a difficult guy to sack. Purdue’s outside linebackers and defensive ends will need to break down and wrap up, because you’re not going to get his guy on the ground with a run by arm tackle.
If Syracuse wins, it’s because Shrader was reasonably accurate with his throws and hurt Purdue with his legs.
Oronde Gadson II - Blue Circle - Tight End
One of the drawbacks of getting this out on Wednesday is the injury report. That last time I saw Gadson, the 6’5”, 225 pound tight end / wide receiver hybrid was in a walking boot, hobbling around on crutches after getting twisted up on one of Syracuse’s first offensive plays of the game last week.
The last time most of y’all saw Gadson was last season. He was finishing up a 6 reception, 112 yard, 2 touchdown game by breaking Boilermaker hearts with the game winning touchdown reception with about 30 seconds remaining.
Is he going to play?
Don’t read too much into the walking boot or crutches, in terms of injury severity. They throw the walking boot on right after the X-Ray these days for added ankle stability. I’m sure he’s received intensive physical therapy this week in an attempt to get on the field. Even if he plays, it’s hard to imagine he’s going to be 100%. Since this isn’t a conference game, I’m inclined to think he’ doesn’t play, but that’s a guess. If I’m right, that’s a huge break for the Boilermakers.
In the shot of the formation, ‘Cuse flexes him out as a second slot receiver and worked him over the middle of the field. Purdue does not have an answer for Gadson in the slot, outside of his balky ankle. Shrader is Syracuse’s most important player, Gadson is their best player by a wide margin.
Donovan Brown - Purple Circle - Wide Receiver
It was tough to decide which Orange receiver to feature. They are huge on the outside, with 6’6”, 205 pound Damien Alford at the boundary and 6’4”, 200 pound Isaiah Jones at the field. Then there is Sophomore receiver Umari Hatcher, at 6’3”, 170, who doesn’t start, but leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. Keep in mind, Syracuse went to their backups early against Colgate and Western Michigan, so these number are inflated.
Instead, I’m going with redshirt freshman Donovan Brown. At 6’1, 180, he’s still a decent sized receiver, especially coming out of the slot. I will once again remind everyone that Purdue has yet to cover a slot receiver, and was saved when Virginia Tech’s starter went down with an injury.
On the season, Brown is second on the team in receptions with 8, and second on the team in receiving yards with 154 for a hefty 19.3 yards a reception. He has one touchdown grab. I don’t think he’s Syracuse’s best receiver, but until Purdue covers a slot receiver, it’s hard to focus on anyone else. In the second half against Tech, Purdue had some success in dealing with slants and crosses by either buzzing a safety down, or dropping an outside linebacker underneath to get into passing lanes. You’ll probably see more of it on Saturday night.
At some point,however, a defensive back will be matched up one-on-one with Brown. That defensive back will most likely be Cam Allen. When the opposing offensive coordinator sees Allen on the slot receiver, he immediately dials up a slant or an out, and thus far, has been handsomely rewarded. The good news for Cam is this defense puts you in a position to make plays every week, and shutting down Brown would go a long way in shutting everyone up. I don’t know if he’s up for the task, but I’m ever hopeful.
Despite playing a pudding soft schedule, the injury bug has been none-to-kind to Syracuse. It’s hard to believe that a team as bad as Western Michigan could have a major impact on the Orange’s season. Both Gadson II and their starting right tackle David Wohlabaugh went down with lower leg injuries last week. The turf monster is particularly vicious in the Carrier Dome (I know it’s not the Carrier Dome anymore, but I refuse to lean the new corporate sponsor).
Gadson is hands down the best player on their team. If he can’t go, or is limited, Syracuse could be in a bad way on offense. He’s their dude, and if he's not available, someone less talented is going to have to step up and fill the void. They’ve got a few decent options but no one with his talent. I’m going to guess the largest chapter in the playbook revolves around getting Oronde the ball.
That turns the game into a referendum on Garrett Shrader. If Purdue lets him play his game, they will lose. They have to make him work from inside the pocket and turn him into a one dimensional quarterback. If they let him get outside the pocket, he’ll punish Purdue’s secondary. When the Boilermaker defensive line has a chance to bring him down, they’ve got to get him on the ground by any means necessary, otherwise he'll put up close to 100 rushing yards, close to 300 passing yards, and enough points to beat Purdue twice.
Ryan Walters and Kevin Kane vs Garrett Shrader and Jason Beck is the most important match-up on Saturday night. Can Purdue’s defensive brain trust put together a scheme to limit Shrader as a runner? If they can, he has a tendency to get frustrated and try to force things in both the run and pass game. If they can’t, Cuse walks away with an easy win.
It’s just that simple.
Do you prefer a less detailed preview early in the week or a more detailed profile later in the week?
This poll is closed
Early with less
Later (most likely Friday) with more