SYRACUSE — George McDonald wants his offense to run like a fast food drive-thru: Fast and efficient.
The second-year Syracuse University offensive coordinator told Sports Illustrated in February that he wants his offense to “open it up and go full-bore fast.”
Orange football fans will get their first taste when the season opens Friday with a 7:30 p.m. game against Villanova at the Carrier Dome.
SU is coming off a 7-6 season overall, 4-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, that ended with a victory in the Texas Bowl, its third bowl win in four years.
“We’re always trying to push faster,” McDonald said. “Our goal is to try and increase our plays, but also increase our execution. The more we execute the more plays we’ll get. In terms of tempo, it might be a little bit faster, but we were pretty good last year in terms of the amount of plays we ran.”
In McDonald’s first season as coordinator, the Orange averaged 74 offensive plays per game, which was the fourth-most in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 54th in the nation.
McDonald said he wants to increase that number while significantly improving on the team’s poor offensive ranks.
The Orange finished 100th in the nation with 22.3 points per game and 87th with an average of 377 yards per game last season.
“It’s just like racing a car. If you hit 80, you want to go 90,” McDonald said. “You just want to go as fast as you can go, but the biggest thing we’re always trying to do is maximize our execution.”
He added: “Every year you’re trying to get better. We want to take the next step, whatever that next step is, whether its win one more game than we did last year or try to be more efficient on offense.”
The quicker pace puts more responsibility in the hands of returning starting quarterback Terrel Hunt, a redshirt junior, who will call more plays from the line of scrimmage than he did a year ago.
Hunt showed promise late last season, accounting for the game-winning touchdown in a win over Boston College to clinch bowl eligibility then rushing for the game-winning TD in an MVP performance at the Texas Bowl.
But overall, Hunt presided over a passing offense that ranked 105th in the nation with 182 yards per game. He also went through a six-game stretch without throwing a touchdown pass.
“Last year was mediocre, now we want to be on like this,” Hunt said while snapping his fingers. “It gives me enough time to read the defense and most of the time, the defense isn’t even ready because they’re still waiting for the call, so going high tempo is really going to help us a lot.”
Prince-Tyson Gulley, a fifth-year senior running back that will head the backfield committee, said he believes he will benefit from the quicker pace.
Gulley is sixth all-time at SU for receptions by a running back with 53 and is in the school’s career top 10 with a 5.39 yards-per-carry average.
“It’s perfect because with me being a more quicker back, that’s what I would like to,” Gulley said. “We want to catch the defense off balance, and this will make it easier for us (running backs) to get through the holes and do what we want to do.”
Sophomore Brisly Estime and junior Ashton Broyld – two of the quickest and most dynamic members of the wide receiving corps – also seem to have the skill set that would thrive in a faster offense.
“We want to contribute to us winning games and we want to be a reason why we’re winning games, so the biggest thing for us that we always talk about is execution and playing with maturity and playing with poise,” McDonald said.