Doug Marrone believes in it. He stands by it and continues to coach it to his players. He believes with the right execution, the current punt formation can be effective, telling Dave Rahme of the Post-Standard exactly that:
I absolutely believe in the scheme. It’s not a flaw with the scheme. It’s very protection friendly. The execution of it is something we’ve been working hard on.”
This is one of the few things that I disagree with Doug Marrone on. I realize he has forgotten more football than I will ever know, but bear with me here. As we all know, there are numerous different ways to line up when punting the ball. Syracuse takes advantage of a college rule that allows linemen to rush down field as soon as the ball is snapped, so he puts smaller, quicker players on the line, and has a bulk of the big protection in the backfield like so:
Marrone says the punters aren’t getting enough hang time on the ball, and that the return men are getting running starts and have opportunities to go vertical on the punt returns. This is all well and good, but if the smaller linemen are getting jammed when trying to cover the kick, the hang time is irrelevant. While I realize the punters haven’t been great this season, the coverage has not been good either.
Every time a return man fields the ball it seems like our coverage is already blocked and the blocking scheme for the other team is set up beautifully. This is in part due to the lack of sufficient hang time on the ball, but unless the smaller, quicker players can break through the blocking of the other team, their speed doesn’t matter. Syracuse has not had a punt blocked this season, but at the same time not many teams have really come after it due to the terrible coverage provided by the Orange on special teams.
It is an advantage that in the college rules linemen can release down field earlier than in the NFL (in the pros you have to wait until the ball is punted before rushing down field). But why not use that advantage for your traditional linemen and special teams and let them get down field? If you can’t shed a block, the returns are going to be big no matter how fast or quick you are.
Like I said, Doug Marrone knows more football than I will ever know, and he stands by this formation and this coverage, putting even more emphasis on it this week in practice. But with Syracuse ranked last in the country in the punting game, one has to wonder how much longer this formation will be in place if the Orange continue to give up big plays on special teams.
Do you think the punt formation needs to be changed? Vote on our poll to the right!