- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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I had a chance to catch up Tuesday morning with Syracuse offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett following the Orange's second practice at Fort Drum, N.Y. Here are some notes from our conversation.
Hackett said that the offensive system will remain the same from the past couple of years, the unit will try to present more different formations this season to keep defenses honest. A lot of that is a result of having an experienced quarterback in Ryan Nassib, who is entering his third year as a starter and can read defenses much better.
Surprise, surprise: Hackett raved about 6-foot-4, 229-pound newcomer Ashton Broyld, joking that he'd even line the freshman up at right tackle because he is so versatile. "The biggest thing about him is just maturity," Hackett said. "He's such a nice guy. He's such a wonderful guy, and he wants to be great. He doesn't want to be good; he wants to be great, and he wants to be great now. He wants to be a disciplined football player. He wants to understand what he's doing. He worked hard at it, which is just so wonderful for us because when you get a guy that's highly-touted, sometimes he's a little bit excited, a little bit overconfident. And the best thing about Ashton is he is not. He is not overconfident. He wants to work. He wants to do what we ask. He believes in us. He believes in [running backs coach] Tyrone Wheatley, and that's all you can ask, and that's why it's such a pleasure to work with him. So if something happens, you're OK with it, because you know he's going to learn from it. He's going to work hard, he's going to be upset about it and I think that's what makes it such a pleasure to coach him."
Hackett said that Broyld has spent time pretty much everywhere on offense, though in the backfield he is joined by Jerome Smith, Prince-Tyson Gulley, Adonis Ameen-Moore and George Morris III. Despite the group's lack of experience, Hackett wasn't too concerned about a big drop-off following the departure of all-conference back Antwon Bailey, citing the depth of the unit. Syracuse will use a zone-read offense at times, too, which could force Nassib to carry the ball a little bit more: "It's exciting. You're never going to replace Antwon Bailey; he was an all-around back. Antwon Bailey's biggest issue was there was nobody behind him, so [he] couldn't play as fast as he wanted to because he was so tired. Now there are a lot of guys, there are going to be fresh legs all doing the things that they do best. So it's an exciting time for that position."
The offensive coordinator said the team's camp period at Fort Drum was the best thing it could have done and called being around the Army a humbling experience, as it has upped the ante for both coaches and players in terms of their discipline: "Sometimes it's just good to get away and really unite instead of being at the same spot, the same place, the same people. Now you're forced to be around everybody, so everybody gets to know each other more. They're in this together, there's no distractions and it's a fresh start once we get back. It's not, 'Oh, we've been in Syracuse for three weeks in camp.' It's now, 'Hey, we're back in Syracuse.' Just that energy to go home instead of being home, tired and getting tired of home. I think that's one of the best things about getting away even for just any point of time at all."
The Orange will remain at Fort Drum, about 90 minutes north of campus, through the rest of the week.