Chatting with an old friend of the blog about the new additions from UVA.
While most Syracuse Orange fans would’ve taken nearly any replacement for Sterlin Gilbert as offensive coordinator, Dino Babers actually wound up making two quality hires to run the offense in 2022. Following the surprise resignation of Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia’s Robert Anae and Jason Beck became available, and now they’re Syracuse’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, respectively.
We’re still months away from seeing what that looks like on the field, so we could use a hand figuring out what to expect with Anae and Beck running the offense for the Orange. So to help us out, we had some questions for long-time friend of the blog Caroline Darney. While she’s now at BetFTW, Caroline’s still plenty familiar with the Hoos, so she was happy to share some insights below.
Virginia had a top-five offense this year, which seems like a plus from this end. Is that ranking to be believed or is there more to it than just the raw numbers (which are pretty damn good)?
I think you can believe it! This was the first time in a long time that I’d watch a Virginia offense and not only think they were going to score, but expect it. Having the right pieces in place – Brennan Armstrong, Dontayvion Wicks, Keytaon Thompson, a really good O-Line to name a few – certainly helped, but Robert Anae and Jason Beck know how to get the most out of all the players. There are some reasonable questions to be asked about Virginia’s running game and the sheer number of passes that Armstrong threw this season, but also why stop a guy from throwing when he’s that good?
One of the big reasons why Syracuse is interested in hiring both Robert Anae and Jason Beck is their collective success with dual-threat quarterbacks. Do you feel like guys like Bryce Perkins and Brennan Armstrong came to UVA as the excellent players they wound up being? Or were Anae and Beck key parts of their progress while in college?
I think both were players with high upsides, but Virginia’s coaches definitely got the best out of them. Perkins was a four-star recruit out of high school when he committed to Arizona State, but a broken neck derailed his Sun Devil career. Virginia brought him in from junior college, and his 2019 season is one that Cavalier fans are going to remember forever. This past season for Brennan Armstrong was record-breaking in just about every way, and for my money, he was the best QB in the ACC. What I love about Beck is his clear ability to spot and develop talent as both (and Kurt Benkert!) improved year-over-year at UVA.
Anything we should be most excited about with an Anae/Beck offense? Any major concerns you see?
They run a fun offense. It’s just fun. Anae is seemingly one of the brightest offensive minds in the game, and he finds a way to make the most out of the players available. Early on, Virginia ran simple stuff as they dealt with inexperience at the offensive line or new players fitting into the system. We were so used to screen pass after screen pass before they arrived, and this certainly isn’t that. Anae utilized Keytaon Thompson so creatively, even if calling guys “football players” was easy for outsiders to make fun of. He’s big on finding a way to get the best players on the field, and that seems like a good idea.
Now it wasn’t all roses and puppies in Charlottesville. He’s on the quiet, gruff side, and some fans found it easy to blame bad plays on him without giving much credit for all the good ones. There are also times where things got a little too cute (why with some of these trick plays?), but I am a fan of his system and the way the offense ran.
How about how it could mix with Dino Babers’s existing system (or whatever’s left of it)? How about how they could help Garrett Shrader?
I’ll admit I’m not the most up-to-date on my Syracuse offensive systems and returning players, but my guess is that Shrader will have a chance to thrive. Shrader is a guy that can use his legs, and that’s something that Beck and Anae have worked well with (and look for) in quarterbacks. There were fewer designed runs for Armstrong this season due to a really, really good O-Line and some small injuries, but being able to make something out of nothing is where Virginia QBs have thrived in recent years.
Any concern around how Sean Tucker stands to benefit (or not) from the offensive change?
This is a great question!! I think so much relies on the offensive line (not to be a broken record). Virginia definitely didn’t have any running backs that rival Tucker’s abilities, and having a player like him will force defenses to respect the run game. That, in turn, opens up the passing game, as we all know. Again, these are both really bright, creative coaches that should be able to plan and take advantage of all of this.
Maybe weird, but are there any recent transfers from Virginia you could see as potential adds for Syracuse?
YOU STAY AWAY.
Thanks to Caroline for getting us a better read on how Anae and Beck plan to run things at SU, and how they could fit into the Orange’s offensive personnel. There will be plenty more to learn about this new offense in the coming months. Granted, this program doesn’t share much. But we can dream, or at least speculate, right?