When Villanova showed up as the season opener for Syracuse on the 2014 schedule, many expected a dominating performance by the Orange. Specifically being able to control the line of scrimmage against an FCS opponent. Things did not go as planned, however, and offensive line coach Joe Adam was not pleased with the way his unit performed.
”Unacceptable,” Adam said. “There aren’t words to express how pissed I am. I can’t explain our play. Disappointed, upset and I know those guys were too. Not how I wanted it to look on film. Not how they wanted it to look on film. The only thing to do is to work on the things we didn’t do well. Foster that attitude of being physically tough.”
The bye week may have been a blessing in disguise this early in the season. It gave the entire team a chance to hit the reset button and focus on correcting the mistakes they made in week one.
The offensive line has worked on getting better as a unit in order to open up bigger holes in the run game and stronger in pass protection.
”We’re working on our combos,” Adam said. “We’re ramping that up and getting some live bodies in there. Our zone and outside zone combos. Our double teams. I’ve been throwing the kitchen sink at those guys as far as blitz pickup and those types of things. My job is to make it as hard as humanly possible in practice. I do give the kids credit. They do work in practice. We have to try to squeeze out every minute we can in practice.”
Syracuse also has some reinforcements up front who are back at practice. Guards Nick Robinson and Omari Palmer are both recovering from injuries that kept them out of the week one victory, but coach Adam things they have a good chance to play against Central Michigan.
”Good, they looked good,” he said. “Nick especially just brings that mean, nasty, junkyard dog attitude. He plays the game the right way. He provides that energy. He’s always going to give you that shove at the end of the play. He’s always going to be finishing. You never have to question that. Omari looked really good. He has to continue to work on his conditioning because he’s been out for so long. It was a good shot in the arm for us up front.”
Center John Miller played in his first extensive action for the Orange against Villanova. There were positives and negatives in his performance.
”He played like I expected him to play in the first game,” Adam said. “It was his first game of really ever playing college football. He did play some junior college football. He sparingly played last year. To get his first start under center, I knew there would be some speed bumps. I just took it back and evaluated that and looked at what we can do better and what he can do better. We’ve worked on that. It was more so his second step and he’s had a much better week of practice.”
The Central Michigan Chippewas are up next for the Orange. Their defensive line is an impressive bunch on film, coach Adam says.
”They’re very physical,” he said. “They’re very well coached. They get after people. They’re relentless. I think they’re a good bunch. It’ll be a good test for us to up there and try to match and exceed their physicality. Especially on the road in a tough place to play.”
Syracuse is looking to get off to a 2-0 start when they hit the road on Saturday. In order to do that, the offensive line must play better than they did in week one.
”I think it’s low-pad level,” Adam said. “Sustaining blocks and making sure that we finish on second level defenders. Making sure their linebackers don’t make a lot of plays. Turning those two and three yard gains that we saw against Villanova and turning those into five and six yard gains. I think it can be done.”