My 2019 SU Football Preview Part IV The Players: RB and OL

SWC75

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Running Back
Seniors: Moe Neal 5-11 195; Otto Zaccardo 5-10 212
Juniors: Abdul Adams 5-11 202;
Sophomores: Jack Guida 6-0 200; Jarveon Howard 5-10 213; Markenzy Pierre 5-11 214
Freshmen: Nicky Clifton 6-0 217; Jawhar Jordan 5-9 167; Garrison Johnson 5-10 237

The first couple years of Dino Baber’s tenure here we had no conventional running game to speak of. Dontae Strickland and Moe Neal ran seemingly the same draw play over and over again, right into the waiting arms of the defense. But they improved and the line in front of them improved and last year they both performed well. Strickland, who had averaged 3.6 yards per carry his first three years, carried the ball 121 times for 588 yards, (4.9) and 6TDs and Neal, whom Babers had once criticized for “having a high school body” really emerged as a quality tailback with 869 yards in 155 carries, (5.6) and 5TDs. Of course it helped that Eric Dungey rushed for 754 yards and 15 scores. How we replace that will be a huge question this year. Strickland is also gone but Neal returns for what should be a big senior year. He started out as a speedster but has become a fully rounded and versatile running back. We haven’t had a 1,000 yard rusher in 7 years but he could be it.

So could Abdul Adams, a transfer from Oklahoma who got to play in the bowl game against West Virginia and scored twice. Adams’ numbers at Oklahoma were nothing short of fabulous. In two years at Oklahoma he carried the ball 112 times for 825 yards, (7.4 per carry). He rushed for only one touchdown but it was a spectacular one:
He averaged 15 yards a carry in that game and 9.2 for the season. He and Neal will probably alternate at the running back positon this season and make quite a duo. But they are far from the only talented running backs on the roster, which is suddenly rich in this area.

Jarveon Howard, who came here from Mississippi, (I don’t remember getting recruits from there before), had a spectacular high school highlight tape:
Jarveon Howard!! Senior Season!!
He showed everything you’d want to see in a running back: power, moves, vision, a nice change of pace stutter-step, and explosive burst and the ability to put defenders in the rear view mirror. He was used mostly as a goal line and short yardage back as a freshman but managed to squirt free on some runs. Unlike his high school tape, he could never get away from those pesky college defensive backs who are just a bit faster than those high school kids. But he gained 315 yards at 4.6 per pop, including a 52 yarder and scored 7 times.

Then there’s the forgotten man, Markenzy Pierre whose high school highlight film looks a lot like Howards: Showtime
He showed promise his first year here but also fumbled a couple of time and barely played last year. He’s listed a s a “reshirt sophomore”, so they must have been able to redshirt him under the new rules. He basically the same size as Howard and is now in the same class. They may alternate at the top spot someday. The opposition won’t know the difference.

And here comes Jawhar Jordan, not a big guy at 5-9 167, (but neither was Joe Morris). Jordan is said by the people who have seen him that he’s got the best combination of speed and moves of anybody on the team. Here’s his highlight film:
Season Highlights (Editing)
I’m not sure that I saw any moves better than what I’ve seen from the other guys and he lacks their power, although he seems to be a tough kid. But he sure is quick and runs with a graceful glide. I wouldn’t mind seeing a match race between Jordan and Courtney Jackson, (see the receivers).

What Jordan is to speed, Garrison Johnson, at 5-10 237, is to thump. He seems like a goal line/short yardage type who, with Chris Elmore nursing an injury, could take over his role as a lead blocker. His highlights: Garrison Johnson 2019 Manvel RB. Zaccardo, Guida and Clifton are walk-ons who will probably see action on special teams.

I could see redshirting Jordan to build him up a bit for the college wars. That still leaves Neal, Adams, Howard and Pierre. It seems a shame to line them all up in a single row like dominos. That second year at EIU still intrigues me: Two runners carried the ball 217 times each and each gained over 1,000 yards. Did Dino have them in the game at the same time? And if we play just one running back at a time, how do we overcome the loss of the second threat Dungey represented?

Offensive line
Seniors: Evan Adams 6-6 352; Ryan Alexander 6-3 307; Andrejas Duerig 6-3 326;
Juniors: Mike Clark 6-8 318; Patrick Davis 6-5 317; Sam Heckel 6-4 280; Airon Servais 6-6 273; Sophomores: Austin Chandler 6-4 303; Dakota Davis 6-5 327; Darius Tisdale 6-4 295
Freshmen: Matthew Bergeron 6-4 311, Wil Froumy 6-6 314; Ryan Kisselstein 6-6 312; Josh Kosciol 6-1 275; Anthony Red 6-5 281; Carlos Vettorello 6-4 283: Qadir White 6-7 336

This is the one unit of the team that raises the most concern but it’s not because it’s likely to be a weakness. We lost three starters and are having to shuffle players around and have once again brought in a grad transfer to shore up the unit. It doesn’t mean they won be an asset to the team. The players cross-train at multiple positons to give Babers versatility. A unit of Servais back at center surrounded by Adams or Heckel and Dakota Davis and then Vettorello and Alexander could be a strong one.

Adams was 326 last year. Do the coaches really want him at 352? Duerig and Clark also added weight. Once you are above 300 I suspect there’s a law of diminishing returns here. Servias is probably our best lineman and he’s a svelte 6-6 273. I still remember the success the Denver Broncos had with ‘undersized’ offensive linemen of 275-280 in the Mike Shanahan Era when they had a whole series of backs become 1,000 yard rushers. Get there first with the most men! But Baber’s full out practices will sort things out.

Servais “plans to bulk out during camp” per Syracuse.com. “Servais brings versatility and mobility on an NFL frame.” He’s been playing center and is experimenting with a shift to tackle. He’s been a starter since he was a freshman and was named preseason All-ACC second team by Athlon. They had Adams as a third teamer, (they list him as being 341). The only other O-lineman with starting experience is Heckel, who is coming off an injury in the spring and has been held out of practice early in the fall with an “unspecified injury”. (Do they hurt more than the specified ones?) He also has a rare blood disorder that requires plasma injections to make up for lack of an enzyme. Syracuse was one of the rare schools to give him a chance to play football and it’s paid off. He started at guard as a freshman when Aaron Roberts got hurt and was the third guard last year when Roberts came back for his senior year.

Alexander is this year’s grad transfer O-lineman, replacing Koda Martin from last year. Martin came from Texas A&M, Alexander from South Alabama but that doesn’t mean Alexander might not be as good or better. I saw a lot of plays last year where Martin was helping his quarterback up after a sack. Alexander was All-Sun Belt honorable mention and SU beat out Penn State, Texas and Iowa, among others for his services. He has 28 game starts under his belt. Insdietheloudhouse.com: “The first thing that jumps out to me is Alexander’s ability to seal the edge and get linebackers sucked up at the line of scrimmage. This is very useful for plays that are designed to go to the outside, trying to get the edge getting athletes out in space. While Syracuse tends to run the ball up the middle, they do still use the bubble screen to get their shifty receivers out in space…appears to have good feet, getting off the ball well, especially in run-blocking. He fires off the ball on the snap engaging with his blocking assignment. Upon his contact, he is an extremely physical tackle who plays through the whistle. His highlight tape is filled with blocks of him knocking defensive ends, linebackers, and defensive backs on their butt. “
Ryan Alexander SOUTH AL #64 (TACKLE 2019 GRAD TRANSFER)

I’ve been waiting for Dakota Davis to get his shot. From last year’s preview: “He is, as they say a “beast”: Syracuse.com calls him “a road grader who teammates say sometimes run-blocks defensive players 25 yards downfield”. He told his hometown newspaper: “It’s fun to pancake people and break other people’s will play after play.” He played 50 offensive snaps last year and saw a lot of action blocking for our successful kicks. Syracuse.com this year: “The road grader shed 14 pounds from his listed weight on the spring ball roster and looked noticeably trimmer… Davis may be the most ready lineman among returners without starting experience.”

“Vettorello is viewed by the staff as a player with potential. He endured a rough spring, working as a first-team tackle against two of the ACC's best pass rushers in Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson.” Carlos used the 4 game redshirt rule last year, an indication that the staff sees him as a future starter. Practicing against Coleman and Robinson might not be pleasant but we won’t see anybody better lining up for the other teams.

White was supposed to be a package deal with another 4 star tackle prospect, Tyrone Sampson but Tyrone bugged out for Fresno State at the last moment. Both of them redshirted and didn’t play at all last year, which is interesting considering their reputation. Syracuse.com: “One of the most highly touted recruits of the Babers era, White has quietly been developing behind the scenes. He's gradually losing weight and gaining endurance.”

Duerig is “one of the strongest players on the team” and has played in 37 games – all as a reserve, which is still likely to be his status, barring injuries. Like Heckel he’s missed some practice early due to an injury, (unspecified, of course), of his own. Pat Davis “appeared in seven games last fall, primarily as part of the punt unit.” Clark has “seen action in 15 games” but “worked behind two younger players this spring.” Froumy redshirted last year. He was a 3 star recruit. Bergeron was “rated the #2 prospect in Canada” but “even with positions to fill, he'll likely spend his first year on campus conditioning for SU's tempo offense -- a standard Year 1 experience for offensive linemen under Babers.” Tisdale was “rated the #20 JUCO offensive tackle last cycle”. Red “like Vettorello, spent the spring getting ripped apart by premier pass rushers. It was a learning experience, and if he grows into what the staff believes he can, one he'll likely look back on fondly.”

Matthew Bergeron was another late recruit from Canada with excellent credentials: “No. 2 overall prospect from Canada, according to ESPN.com … Rated among the top offensive tackles in his class by ESPN (No. 69), (No. 73) and the 247Sports.com composite index (No. 81)”

Chandler, Kisselstein and Kosciol are all walk-ons, although Chandler has gained a fair amount of experience in his three years here.
 

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