So, as if things weren’t bad enough for Syracuse football following the last two weeks of offensive ineptitude, the last 12 hours or so have helped things go from bad to worse with the double barreled assault on the Orange with the news that there’s been a coaching staff shakeup and our starting quarterback is probably done for the rest of the season. To make things really fun, we get to host some team called Florida State on Friday, a squad that happens to be ranked No. 1 and features the reigning Heisman winner.
The coaching shakeup is obviously understandable, albeit a little strange in terms of timing, having come during the middle of the season. If you haven’t heard by now, George McDonald has been demoted from his role as offensive coordinator and will now serve only as the wide receivers coach. Meanwhile, Tim Lester will not only serve as quarterbacks coach, but will be the new offensive play-caller. Of course the timing is unfortunate, and we could see the ripple effects down the road should McDonald not be retained in any capacity since he’s our go-to recruiter, but…
Can things really get any worse offensively? McDonald’s play calling left a lot to be desired, with a lot of bubble screens and a very peculiar rotation at the running back position, with seemingly no rhyme or reason as to who was getting carries, and when. After all, anytime you set up in shotgun and run a slow developing toss play to your power back in your own endzone (which obviously resulted in a safety), people are going to question just what the hell you’re doing.
McDonald had never had any experience calling plays, and it showed. Lester, on the other hand, has several years of experience as an offensive play-caller, though obviously at a much smaller level, having come from Division III Elmhurst. Not that we’re saying that takes anything away, of course, since Chip Kelly started out at some smaller schools, and flipping over to basketball, guys like the Van Gundy brothers were both D3 level guys when they started out (I had to get the mention in there about the Van Gundys, because my dad coached against Stan at that particular level).
Moving on from the coaching carousel, we also have the potentially bigger game-changer: Terrel Hunt fractured his fibula, and will be missing at least the next 4-6 weeks. Considering we’re halfway through the year, that means Hunt’s season is pretty much over, especially since at this point any hopes of a bowl game are pretty much out the door.
So who steps up and plays quarterback? Austin Wilson has gotten the call when Hunt’s gotten banged up this year so far, but with a new offensive coordinator that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be the guy lining up under center the rest of the year. Lester is reportedly a big fan of AJ Long, so we could see the true freshman – who doesn’t have Wilson’s arm, but has vastly superior mobility – as early as Saturday.
Chances are we’ll see more than one quarterback, of course. At this point, the season is pretty much lost, so frankly we may as well open up the quarterback competition and see who is able to go out there and make the most plays, whether that’s Wilson, Long, or Mitch Kimble.
One interesting tweet from this morning, before the news of McDonald or Hunt became official, he tweeted the following Instagram picture about being prepared for success. It may have been coincidental, but the timing seems a little too convenient. Maybe AJ has already been told to be ready to take the field on Saturday?
Gotta be successful! http://t.co/9gRiWiiGSo
— s4g03 (@FoeBoy_Cuse4) October 6, 2014
Hopefully, AJ and Austin and even Mitch will be ready to roll, and with Lester calling the shots maybe the offense will finally start to take some real shape. It’s unfortunate that McDonald had to suffer this public embarrassment, and that Hunt had to have his season cut so short, but with the season rapidly going downhill maybe it was time for things to get shaken up. This has become the very definition of a “play for next year” kind of season.
But please, Jimbo Fisher…go easy on the young guys when Saturday rolls around.