Item: By now all of Orange Nation knows that quarterback Garrett Shrader is just as prolific guiding an airplane in the sky as he is throwing a football in the air. With a low-key and Southern gentleman personality off the field, Shrader is simply getting better by the week on the field. Named Monday as the Davey O’Brien Great 8 winner for Week 2 of the season, automatically placing him on the midseason O’Brien watch list for the award going to the nation’s top quarterback, Shrader is busy preparing Syracuse (2-0) for its ‘next’ biggest game of the season Saturday afternoon (12:00 p.m. ET / ESPN2) in the Dome against Big Ten foe Purdue (1-1).
Perhaps the principal night and day difference of this year’s Syracuse football team compared to last year’s team that missed out on a bowl invitation by one victory, is just how much influence new offensive coordinator Robert Anae and quarterbacks coach Jason Beck have had on Shrader, and how his play has created a ‘wow’ factor for those inside and outside the program.
Especially Shrader’s passing touch on short and deep balls, the latter with great fake handoffs. On the ground he’s making the right decisions on run option plays the majority of the time in wins over Louisville and Connecticut by keeping the chains moving.
“That’s one of the biggest things that we’ve put an emphasis on starting with coach Anae and coach Beck is four yards on first down, get half of it on second, convert on third, at the bare minimum,” Shrader said after a career high 292 yards passing with an 87% completion rate (third highest total in the FBS this season) in the rout of UConn last weekend.
“That’s something we keep track of, we put an emphasis on, especially in the red zone,” Shrader added. “Making sure we’re keen to that, not trying to take shots on third and two. Just play within the offense.”
Dino Babers has also been the beneficiary of assembling his best coaching staff over his seven-year tenure, he’s watching the complete evolution of Shrader when it comes to a passing quarterback matching his running skills.
“I’m not going to get caught up in what happened last year, I’m really getting caught up in what’s happening this year,” Babers said Monday at his weekly press conference.
“He does a fabulous job of making the football disappear (fake handoffs) on the practice field. He makes the ball disappear, which is amazing. So, when the big guy pulls it up and throws it…(remarkable),” Babers added in tribute to Shrader’s marksmanship. “The one he threw to Damien (47-yard TD pass to Damien Alford late in the first quarter vs. UConn) was an absolute dime. That’s NFL (caliber). When you’re throwing the ball like that good things are going to happen.”
As a captain, Shrader’s leadership has not gone unnoticed. Babers singled him out Monday as one of the key reasons the team has had a steadfast resolve since summer workouts to remain focused and committed to a winning season.
Shrader has repeated that message to all of his teammates on a daily basis.
“Learn from the good things that you do and try to repeat them. The bad things, obviously try and correct them,” Shrader summarized. “Keep building the momentum in all three phases. I thought we’re doing a good job, keep that trend up.”
“Work harder especially as this season starts getting tougher and playing some more conference games, tougher games. We’ve got a big one at the Dome this weekend.”
So, Garrett the pilot is making an announcement: ‘Attention all Syracuse football fans. Please report to the Dome Saturday at noon to cheer at your loudest.’