Analysis of the Offense from Fort Drum

The production of the Syracuse offense had been a hot button topic this offseason. As the 2012 season rapidly approaches, CuseNation.com takes a look at where things stand on th offensive side of the ball.

Syracuse needs to create more big plays on offense. That has been a common theme during the offseason and fall camp. With the season opener less than two weeks away, CuseNation.com looks at the positives and negatives of how things have progressed so far.

Areas That Need Improvement

Dropped Balls  

Numerous receivers dropped passes, when being thrown to without a defender on in aired-out passes, in man-on coverage, and in team drills (seven-on-seven, nine-on-nine, and 11-on-11). In one practice, Tight End Max Beaulieu, Tight End Beckett Wales, Wide Receiver Christopher Clark, Wide Receiver Keenan Hale, and Wide Receiver Jarrod West each dropped a pass. Within the same practice, Tight End David Stevens and Wide Receiver Marcus Sales let two opportunities get away each.  

The Backfield  

Outside of the power shown by Ashton Broyld, there were few plays on the ground that gave any sign of separation as to who should be the dominant go-to runner. Prince-Tyson Gulley, Adonis Ameen-Moore, and George Morris, III, did not dominate on any plays. Moore and Morris both fumbled during 11-on-11 drills. Morris had had a nice run, but that was followed by his fumble. Jerome Smith had one memorable run where went horizontal and then came forward, bringing his feet over a fallen defender for more yardage.     

The Positives:  

Ball Placement  

Quarterback Ryan Nassib has done a good job of knowing where to put the ball to give the receiver an opportunity to make a play, while trying to take away a defender's opportunity to do the same. On a pass to Tight End Beckett Wales, Nassib put the ball over Free Safety James Jarrett's shoulder. Nassib had a similar play where he had a line of opportunity over Linebacker Cameron Lynch's body that he took, which resulted in a completion and touchdown for Tight End David Stevens. Also, Nassib continues to display comfort throwing the ball over the middle. Nassib's timing with his receivers there has been well.  

He also responded well to pressure on a play where Defensive End Robert Welsh came through the line and was running at him. Nassib got the ball over Welsh's hand, stretched up into the air, for a completion to Running Back Jerome Smith.  

Nassib has also been "placing" the ball better by surveying the field before merely telegraphing his pass to a receiver. On one play during an 11-on-11 drill, Nassib looked to the right side and found nothing, then looked to Wide Receiver Adrian Flemming, finding him wide open in the endzone after blown coverage by Linebacker Cameron Lynch.  

Tight Ends  

The receivers that Ryan Nassib had the best timing with were his tight ends. Beckett Wales and David Stevens abused the defense over the middle. In general, Wales and Stevens had some of the best hands on the offense, despite missing a few opportunities. Even when the ball hit their hands and they did not come out with it, they were trusted by Nassib and did not disappoint in repetition. After the ball hit Stevens in the hands on a play that he failed to gather it, Stevens caught the following pass.  

Wide Receiver Adrian Flemming  

Flemming was one of the only receivers to have constantly good hands. He had a nice one-handed grab in a passing drill. In a one-on-one drill, Flemming got low to gain a reception, protecting the ball from hitting the ground. Then, in 11-on-11 drills, Flemming continued to show good hands in the midst of an opposing defense. His best catch of camp at Fort Drum came when he was in the right corner of the endzone. Flemming had been running and as he came to that corner, he saw the ball coming over his head. Cornerback Jaston George was right behind him. Flemming caught the ball and fell, staying in bounds for the touchdown in close quarters with George. Credit also should go to Quarterback Charley Loeb for the placement of this ball.  

Wide Receiver Ben Lewis  

As a freshman, the expectations for mistakes are usually higher. However, Lewis has proved to have better hands than many of the veterans from his production at Fort Drum. In a passing drill with man-on coverage, Quarterback Terrel Hunt went low to the ground to Lewis, who got there and grabbed the ball for a completion. Later, Lewis had a defender on him in tight coverage and the ball was placed toward the sideline, away from Lewis' defender. Lewis reached out, caught the pass, and remained in bounds. Lewis also displayed speed after the catch, which will be a necessity, especially if Jeremiah Kobena does not pan out as a wide receiver.  

Blocking  

Offensive Tackle Zack Chibane looks to be the most comfortable linemen on the field, meaning he is rarely to fault for poor blocking. On numerous plays, he locked up his defender to protect Ryan Nassib and give the offense an opportunity.  

As newcomers to the line that is meant to protect Quarterback Ryan Nassib, Offensive Tackles Sean Hickey and Lou Alexander have both been locking up defenders. As camp progressed, Hickey and Alexander both began to lock up defenders more often than not. Hickey had a nice block to protect Nassib, while Alexander helped Center Macky MacPherson block and provide a hole for Running Back Jerome Smith on another play.

Alexander continued to show strong blocking when he kept Defensive End Markus Pierce-Brewster away. In the same drive, Alexander provided Nassib time to survey the field and then take to his feet. Overall, the offensive line did not seem to have too much breakdown with the additions of Hickey and Alexander.  

Backup Center Jason Emerich and Offensive Tackle Kyle Knapp have both looked good at Fort Drum, in picking up defenders. With Nose Tackle Zian Jones becoming more comfortable on the field, Emerich was able to lock him up during a play, as well as give Running Back Adonis Ameen-Moore good blocking on a rushing attempt later on. On one play, Knapp was pushing a defender off, the defender broke away, and Knapp immediately turned his body to prevent the defender from having a clear path to the ball. Knapp also had a nice block on a rush by Moore.  

Offensive Guard Omari Palmer and Offensive Tackle Andrew Phillips also got involved in the running game by blocking and creating a hole themselves for Running Back Adonis Ameen-Moore.  

Running Back Ashton Broyld was able to keep Linebacker Marquis Spruill from getting to the invisible quarterback on a drill between Running Backs/Fullbacks and Linebackers. This translated into 11-on-11 play, where Broyld picked up a defender on back-to-back plays to protect the actual quarterback on the field.  

Ashton Broyld  

Broyld is valuable in many areas for Syracuse. Aside from his ability to block, Broyld can also make hits, showing how much of an athletic specimen he is. On one running play during an 11-on-11 drill, Broyld leaned in to Free Safety Durell Eskridge with his shoulder to make a hit before he took a hit. Eskridge went down, while Broyld remained upright.  

As far as gaining yards, wherever Broyld has caught the ball or started running from on a rushing play, he always seem to attain some positive yardage. On the ground, he shows power in his lowering of his body and is always leaning forward for more yards.  

Catching the ball has not been much of an issue either. Broyld appeared to be one of the players that any of the four quarterbacks could trust to make a play whether he was the first target or not.  

Toeing the Equator:  

Wide Receiver Marcus Sales  

An outstretched grab Sales was one of the best offensive plays at Fort Drum. The ball was placed outside of his body and would have sailed into the endzone and into the hands of a possible defender. Instead, Sales fully extended his arms, coming off the ground to reel in the pass from Ryan Nassib.  

However, Sales also missed numerous opportunities when the ball hit him in the hands or sailed through his hands. Nassib got a pass through Durell Eskridge, Brandon Reddish, and Dyshawn Davis that Sales did not gather in.  

Wide Receiver Jeremiah Kobena  

Kobena has been targeted more and gotten his hands on the ball to give the offense positive yardage.  

But, Kobena does not show much strength after catching the ball in being able to shake off defenders. Kobena also looks late at times for the ball or does not look at all, which will cause fits for the offense in game situations.  

The one notion about Kobena that is clear is this, as seen in one of his kickoff returns: The man is fast and can maneuver through a defense. But with a lack of strength once he is contacted and not making a play on the ball every time it is sent his way, the question now becomes: Should he just be a returner?


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