Q&A with Offensive Coordinator Tim Lester

Syracuse offensive coordinator Tim Lester discusses offensive struggles, Duke, recruiting and more.

On struggles against NC State: "It was a lot of what we thought. We turned guys loose here and there. Not staying on blocks long enough. Guys with one leg that are fighting, hard. Then some of the guys were being young guys. It was exactly what I thought it would be on film. We have to make more plays. I have to try to continue to put them in the best position to move the ball down the field with some limited play calling and limited people out there."

On injuries to the offensive line: "It's difficult. The positive part is the guys that are going in there. They're playing hard. They're young. They're inexperienced. The most frustrating part is the guys that are playing, they don't practice all week. We normally get them doing something on Thursday to see if their leg or ankle is OK. As soon as we see that they're feeling OK, we shut them down. So they don't practice all week. Even the guys that play, that have played, have probably practiced two times in the last month. So they're play, though they know where they're going, even their technique isn't as good as it once was. They're all out there fighting. I give them all the credit in the world for going out there and fighting. They come back time and time again, and that's what you have to do to break through. You just have to keep going at it. You can't quit. You can't blame it...they're fighting through injuries. They're limping trying to block a guy. So I give them a ton of credit. They're doing a good job."

On A.J. Long last week: "He was OK. They got him on the zone blitz drop. We ran the same play earlier in the game and they ran the same blitz and he got the ball there before the dropper got there. He ran it in practice and got the ball there before the dropper got there. That time, he just held the ball a little bit too long and the dropper got there. We knew the dropper was going to be there. They got him on that one play. That was the last of my worries because I've been there. It's happened to me. The biggest thing is he needs to continue to make good decisions. He does a good of finding matchups. He missed three critical matchups where they got aggressive on some coverages and he could have been aggressive with. He got caught on the wrong side of the field and had to scramble. That's my big thing is your decision making has to be close to 85% and I think he was 74% in the game. On the same hand, there's been time where half the line's gone right and the other half's gone left. So he catches the ball and he's running for his life. He's made some plays. It's been really valuable having his feet in the situation we're in. He's in there battling. There's a learning curve and that's all you can ask of him."

On if the offense is frustrated: "I think everyone is frustrated about injuries just because everyone's fighting and people seem to keep going down. The M.O. of this team is an unbelievable fighting mentality even until the end. We were going to go down and score, we were going to find a way. Then we were going to get an onsides kick. The fight in this team and the never quit attitude, that's probably the most important thing when we get it right and get everybody out there. The attitude has to be there to win, especially against good teams. It's fun to watch them battle although things have been against them. They don't make any excuses. They just keep going."

On the Duke defense: "They're good. I think they're 13th in the country in scoring defense. Super sound. They got a couple of great players. They have a safety that's pretty good. One defensive end that's really special. Their MIKE linebacker has a ton of tackles. They're just super sound. I'm looking forward to it. Their defensive coordinator was my d-line coach in college. He coached me. So I'm looking forward to seeing him. He's a great guy. They're another top-25 team. They're good. So we're excited about the challenge."

On being the offensive coordinator going forward: "I tell him I want to win right now. We're doing the best we can with the offense we have and everything that's going on. We're just going to continue to fight. Obviously I'd love the chance to be healthy and run my offense. If I don't, I don't. He's been continually positive and he's excited about what we can do whenever the time comes for that next step. Right now it's about winning this weekend. That's really all we focus on. I always say, it might not be my offense but it's my responsibility. So it it hurts just as much when we don't score as many points as we need to. No matter who's in the game, it's my responsibility to try to find a way to score points. No matter how crazy we have to get to do it. So I take it that way. I think that's the only way our players take it. Continue to fight and break through when we can."

On installing some of his offense right now: "Very little. Let's put it that way. I've tried here and there to put a couple of wrinkles in. Some of them have worked as far as protections that move the pocket more. Things to keep AJ moving. One for him and two for our offensive line. So that's really the only thing. I haven't been able to do a lot more. It (injuries) has made it, when new guys can't handle it anyway, let alone the new stuff, because our backups are still learning our stuff let alone anything new. We've simplified it as much as possible. We'll continue to simplify it. Just getting our guys relaxed and going out there and playing so we don't have people going the wrong way. That's naturally going to happen anyway and AJ's (or Austin) going to look the wrong way every once in a while and he's going to make the wrong read every once in a while. So for me to put anything more on their plate, most of the things have made it to a Tuesday practice and then they're taken out. They never make it to Saturday. You try it on Tuesday. The protections have made it, but none of the plays have really ever seen the light of day on a Saturday."

On changing positional focus in recruiting with his offense: "We've talked about it here and there for, like, 30 seconds in scripting. But we haven't really gotten into any of that. In recruiting, we're extremely excited about what's been going on. We have to kind of regroup, be able to sit down and have a meeting about where we're at. Where do we need people to move in the direction we want to move in. I think we have a couple of spots left. We're going to have a meeting in the next couple of weeks about the direction we want to go. I don't know if it'll be the same direction we're going or not. I haven't had a chance to get my brain around where we're at yet. So hopefully, in the next week."

Tags: Syracuse, Tim Lester

CuseNation.com's Mike McAllister and Nicole Todd contributed to this report.


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