Improvement is critical to the success of any college football program. A player improves by developing over the course of his career with film study, work in the weight room and drills. If Syracuse hopes to reach a bowl game, the offense has to utilize some of those techniques in order to move past their recent struggles.
The secondary has taken strides this season. Brandon Reddish has become a playmaker, Darius Kelly played what head coach Scott Shafer called the best game of his career against Clemson, and Julian Whigham has cut down on allowing the big play. The Orange offense can take a page out of their book in order to turn things around.
”Preparation (is they key),” senior safety Darius Kelly said. “Preparing hard at the beginning of the week and just getting better at that point. We’ve done a lot of work in the film room. Just pounding it, pounding it, pounding it. It’s finally started to pay off towards the end of the season.”
The defense has carried the 2014 Syracuse Orange thus far this season. A point that isn’t lost on freshman quarterback A.J. Long.
”They are absolutely balling at this point,” Long said. “We need to step it up as an offense.”
Indeed that is the key for the rest of the season. For the hopes to reach the postseason. As the offense continues to put in work in the film room, the Orange are harping one aspect of their offense that can drastically improve their production.
”We don’t execute well enough, that’s the bottom line,” offensive coordinator Tim Lester said. “I always tell my guys, if you were in my room right now and you said is it about them or us, they would say it’s about us. The whole season long, when it comes to the plays and the selection, it comes down to execution…
”We just have to execute better which comes down to technique. That’s really what we’re hammering is just how do we run the routes cleaner, how do we make sure we’re throwing the ball more accurately and how do we stay on blocks longer.”
The Clemson game certainly showed a lack of execution in a variety of areas. While those types of outings are never fun, they can help a team refocus and learn from their mistakes.
”You learn more from difficult situations than you do from easy ones,” head coach Scott Shafer said. “Just like in real life in my opinion. I’m looking forward to seeing how A.J. comes out and plays against this N.C. State. Because I think there were a lot of good lessons that he’s taking from the Clemson game…
”I think a young guy like A.J. and the rest of the players can really learn a lot from a great defense and going against them. Saying, look, see how important it is to be in sequence with our mindset and our systematic approach to looking from 1 to 2 to 3 to A and B and C. All of the things that you teach a kid whether it’s a quarterback or an offensive lineman.”
Behind a freshman quarterback and battered offensive unit, Syracuse will take the field against North Carolina State looking to take coach Shafers advice and find the end zone more than they have in recent weeks. For Long, his part in that larger picture is quite simple.
”Just keep my mouth shut and go to work,” Long said. “Going out every day and playing every play like it’s my last.”