My 2022 SU Football preview - Part 5: The Offensive Line | Syracusefan.com

My 2022 SU Football preview - Part 5: The Offensive Line

SWC75

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OFFENSIVE LINE
Seniors: #57 Dakota Davis 6-5 335 (was 327); #56 Darius Tisdale 6-5 301 (was 342 two years ago, 300 last year)
Juniors: #60 Matthew Bergeron 6-5 322, (was 315), #56 Chris Bleich 6-6 326 (was 320), #52 Carlos Vettorello 6-4 292
Sophomores: #74 Jakob Bradford 6-5 302 (was 295), #76 Kalan Ellis 6-6 375 (was 365), #55 Josh Ilaoa 6-3 315 (was 300), #72 Mark Petry 6-4 281, #51 Anthony Red 6-5 277 (was 285 and 297 the year before that – he seems to be going in the opposite direction of most OL’s)
Freshmen: #70 Enrique Cruz 6-6 302 (was 295), #78 Joe Cruz 6-5 277, #73 Wes Hoeh 6-4 275, #75 Aystyn Kauhi 6-5 270 (was 280), #77 Tyler Magnuson 6-6 280, #79 Chad Shuster 6-5 255
Gone:
Airon Servais (pronounced like Aaron Service), was, as I recall, Dino Babers’ first commit when he became coach at Syracuse and Airon gave this university all he had to give for six years. He started a college football record 60 games for SU. He’s played all over the line but mostly a left tackle and center. His weight has fluctuated from 292 to 273 to 309 as he experimented to find his ideal playing weight. He had all kinds of injuries and played “on one leg” in the 1-10 year because so many of his teammates were hurt. He wasn’t always dominant, but he was always competitive and was considered the ‘heart and soul’ of the offensive line and he will be missed. He’s well named.
Wil Froumy left the team in July after four injury-plagued years in which he only played only one game.
Ryan Kisselstein was not on the fall roster. He played in four games in three years. He’s an electrical engineering major and when I googled him and got a Linkedin post saying that he was accepting “a summer offer with Reversing Labs in Cambridge, Ma… I have been a member of the Syracuse University Football team for 3 seasons now. I am able to work well in a team setting and can help lead my team in the right direction. I have worked as a front facing employee throughout high school which allows me to be comfortable talking to new people. Willing to do tasks outside my comfort zone allowing me to add tools to my tool belt.” He didn’t waste his time at SU.
Garth Barclay and Ahmed Masood moved to the defensive line.

A lot of schools can recruit interesting guys with the ball in their hands, guys with exciting highlight tapes where they zig and zag and are off to the races. The top teams recruit the best of the guys who don’t have the ball in their hands, what Dino Babers calls the ‘elephants’ on the offensive line and the ‘hippos’ on the defensive line. (The linebackers must be the lions, the defensive backs the hyenas, the receivers the cheetahs, the running backs the leopards and the quarterbacks...the tour guides?) There’s a similar situation in basketball- there’s plenty of big guys but the ones who are big and good tend to go to the powerhouses and that’s what makes them powerhouses. Once upon a time two guys would go at it both ways for 60 minutes. Then they separated into offensive and defensive units and teams needed two guys for each spot. These days, teams try to alternate players to keep them fresh and to avoid injuries so you are really dealing with a two deep on each side. That’s a lot of big guys. And if you don’t avoid injuries, you have to look at who’s on the third team. A school like Syracuse will have a few really good linemen in their starting line-up. A school like Clemson will have the same – on their second team. Their first team will have those guys, shoulder to shoulder. And they will have guys who will become that good on their third team. Dino likes to cross-train his linemen for multiple positions to increase the depth, (he’s said he’s looking for 7 guys he can rely on). The problem is, when we get an injury it can impact multiple positions because guys have to shift around. Clemson can replace a full-time left tackle with a full-time left tackle. Our good years will be the years when we have good luck with injuries up front. But one side-effect of having bad luck with injuries is that you play a lot of people and you wind up with a lot of players who have played a lot of games. We may be able to take advantage of that this year.

When Dakota Davis came here he had a cocky attitude: He said he “enjoys breaking opponents' wills and making them want to quit.” I liked that about him. I don’t know that anybody has quit but he’s performed well in 39 games, 24 of which he’s started, despite some injuries. 247 had him #1,162/106 as a tackle. Nunes: “Davis goes into 2022 with a lot of experience and the hope that he can remain healthy. Could we see Davis push out to right tackle more often so the Orange have their best five offensive linemen on the field this fall? Davis was in that spot against Boston College when Sean Tucker ran for 201 yards.”

Darius Tisdale whittled himself down from 342 pounds two years ago to 300-301 the last two years. He’s been in 39 games, (the first 12 with the kicking unit) and has 15 starts at guard. We got him out of junior college in 2019 and 247 rated him #145/25 among the JUCO tackles, (Cuse.com says it was 125/20.) he’s been mostly a guard here. Nunes: “Despite his talent, Tisdale may end up being the sixth lineman to be used in a “plug and play” role. He is in a three-way competition with Dakota Davis and Kalan Ellis for the two starting spots on the right side and may need an injury or a sophomore slump from the latter to jump over.”

Matthew Bergeron has arguably been our best offensive lineman since he came here. He was thrust into the starting line-up midway through his true freshman season, when he helped to stabilize what had been a mess of a line. He’s now taking a leadership role, mentoring the young linemen. I remember when Doug Marrone came here, the old All-East tackle made sure we have a good offensive line and we always had 2-3 stalwarts from the previous years line to help coach up the new guys and Bergeron is that type of guy. (That era ended when Scott Shafer’s offensive lines got wiped out by injuries). Matthew was rated #962/80 as a tackle coming out of high school by 247 and has played in 35 games, starting the last 28. Nunes: “He’s the starter. Do I need more projection here? He’s started 28 straight games and should be up for more if he can avoid the injury bug. He will be the anchor on the line and give Garrett Shrader to the time to do what he needs to do behind him.”
He seems to have become the kind of leader Marrone always made sure he had on his lines:

Chris Bleich transferred from Florida two years ago. At that time the NCAA were granting waivers of the old transfer rule hand over fist but, naturally, wouldn’t do it for our guy. Bleich was still recovering from an injury anyway and couldn’t have played immediately. Last year he played in 8 games, starting for 7. He had played in 13 games at Florida and started 8 of them. 247 had rated him #458/34 as a tackle, so we’re glad to have him. Nunes: “Bleich is expected to start at guard once again. Sean Tucker’s breakout season last year was in large part due to his ability to open up holes on the left side, and he should once again play a major role in that regard. His major concern is staying healthy, as to this point Chris has not played a full season. He had two surgeries in the offseason to address injuries, so we’ll see if they can keep him on the field.”

Carlos Vettorello was pressed into starting as a freshman at tackle and has alternated between tackle and center since. He’s the subject of most of the debates about the make up at line. As a freshman he was a disaster at tackle but things improved when he moved to center, (and Servais replaced him at tackle). Last year, he started two games at center and, according to some, was being “blown off the ball”. He switched back to tackle and our offense began to pick up, (this was also when Garrett Shrader took over from DeVito). I don’t know where he’ll play but he’s done a lot of growing up and is now a veteran. He’s played in 31 games and started 28. He was injured in the Virginia Tech game last year and didn’t return. Our offense faltered after that but that also may have had more to due with Shrader and his weak passing than Carlos’ absence. 247 had him #915/37 as a guard. Nunes: “Vettorello should spend the entire 2022 season at center for the Orange. He is by far and away the best center on the Syracuse roster. The hope is that he doesn’t suffer another injury, as the talent drop-off at center is severe.”

Jakob Bradford came out of junior college rated by 247 as the #9 offensive tackle from the JUCO ranks last year. He played two games for us. Nunes: “Syracuse’s starters on the offensive line are pretty secure and known. Bradford isn’t one of them, but he’s consistently on the second line. Expect Bradford to continue to grow as the Orange prep him for a potential starting role next season.”

Kalan Ellis is a recruit from Coach Babers’ home state, Hawaii and the state lost a lot of poundage when he left. His potential is enormous and so is his body, maybe too enormous. He played at 365 pounds last year and was reported to be up to 388 in the spring. Now he’s down to 375. I suspect Babers has another number in mind for him. Watching him last year, most of it seemed to be in his lower body, so he should be hard to move. But it’s his job to move out others. 247 had him at #1,369/#84 as an “interior offensive lineman”. He moved up the depth chart quickly and was, per Cuse.com, “Immediate impact freshman who appeared in nine games with five starts at offensive guard in 2021.” Nunes: “Last year we mentioned he may redshirt. This year, he’s vying for a starting nod or a major contributor at a minimum. He’s bulked up another 23 pounds, which one would hope is from the weight room, not the cafeteria and at 6-foot-6 and 388 pounds, he’s got the size to play at this level which he showed in spades last year.” He’s got the size to play on another planet – if that’s the right size for him.”

Josh Ilaoa’s background is Hawaiian/Samoan but he was born in Seattle and grew up in North Carolina. Now he’s in Syracuse, trying to find a place for himself in the two-deep at line. 247 had him at #1,855/132 - as a defensive tackle. In two years he’s appeared in 20 games but only started one. If Vettorello isn’t the center for this year’s team, it could be Josh. Nunes: “Ilaoa showed flashes last year but needed some work in the off-season. If he put in that shift, he’s closer to working into the equation at center. He’s likely the backup to Vettorello in the middle of the line, where he landed on last year’s two deep and allows some cover at guard as well.”

Mark Petry is from Germany, (if the UN had an offensive line, this would be it), by way of a junior college in Iowa. He played in 10 games in 2020 as a reserve OL and on special teams but was injured and missed all of last year. Nunes: “Since the starters plus Ellis are pretty entrenched, I could see him getting some run spelling someone or working his way towards an inevitable injury backup. At this point, next man up is probably him, Anthony Red, Enrique Cruz or Jakob Bradford.”

Anthony Red has played in three games in three years. 247 had him at 1,817/96 – as a guard. Nunes: “Red got some time early season last year. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him work his way into the two-deep again this season. We’ll see where he develops under Coach Schmidt, but there was a lot of promise when he signed with the Syracuse Orange.”

Enrique Cruz was a highly recruited freshman last year who didn’t play in any games but who Matthew Bergeron has taken under his wing. 247 had him at #528/45 as a tackle, so a lot is expected of him. Nunes: “An athlete, Cruz brings a highly touted big body to another year of collegiate level weight training. He’s likely on the two-deep somewhere and could be a big portion of the depth Mike Schmidt is trying to build. A former four sport guy, playing basketball and wrestling in high school as well as track (shotput), he’s got the tools to make an impact.” Bergeron: “(He) has lots of talent,” and added, “I think he’s definitely going to be an NFL type dude down the stretch.”

Joe Cruz is not related to Enrique nor is he as highly rated: 247 has him #1790/177 as a tackle. Nunes: “Cruz has size but is raw. Something that coach Mike Schmidt can hopefully mold into a road grader. His frame looks like he could put on some weight and moves well enough to play inside as well. He was an All-Long Island selection, but likely expect Cruz to redshirt his first year on campus.”

Let’s get the jokes out of the way first: “Syracuse should only use Wes Hoeh when facing the west end zone so he can say “Westward Ho!” Ok, now about Wes. He’s from Illinois. Last year his high school coach said of him: “Everybody wants to have this ready-made kid who’s 280 pounds, but Wes is athletic. He bends as good as any offensive lineman in the state and he’s as athletic as any offensive lineman in the state.” 247 had him #1,852/132 – as an ‘interior offensive lineman”. Nunes, this year: “Wes still seems to be lower on the depth chart than some other players so I would expect limited snaps for him this season. His focus should be on improving technique and strength as Syracuse will need to replace a number of lineman in 2023”.

Aystyn Kauhi is another Hawaiian, “rated the top offensive tackle in the Aloha state” per Nunes. Nonetheless, he played in just one game while Ellis rose through the ranks to start five games. Kauhi was ranked #1,708/139 as a tackle by 247. Nunes this year: “Kauhi will likely end up as a backup tackle. With one of the starting spots locked down by Matthew Bergeron, who has yet to miss a game, he’ll be hard pressed to see the field on offense. He should get meaningful time blocking on special teams and can continue to develop under some veterans.”

Tyler Magnuson is from Minnesota, (Babers has spent a lot of time coaching in the Midwest and still has connections there). He didn’t appear in any games last year. He was ranked literally right behind Kauhi by 247: #1,707/138. Nunes: “After spring practice it appears that Tyler is firmly in the mix to be a backup at tackle. He’ll probably be on the special teams blocking units and could see time in short-yardage situations. Talk from the spring focused around Tyler’s skills so as he gets stronger he could find himself emerging as a starter in 2023.”

Chad Shuster is another Midwesterner, a true freshman 247 seems to like: #1,074/101. Nunes: “Coach Mike Schmidt seems to have seen something in this big fella. He has the size to put on a college S&C program worth of weight and be molded into whatever Schmidt needs him to do. His 2020 season was, as you can imagine, COVID shortened, but this year his film looked improved. If he can learn to use his hands, there’s something to be developed here. I would assume a redshirt this season though.”

Phil Steele rated this the 3rd best offensive line in the ACC due to the number of experienced players. But do we have enough once you get past the starters?
 

SWC75

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On the new depth chart, Dakota Davis is now the right tackle, backed up by Anthony Red, a guy who was thought by some to be slipping down the depth chart. Chris Bleich is next to him, backed by Jakob Bradford. Vetterello and Ilaoa will get things started at center. 375 pound Kalan Ellis is at left guard, backed up by Wes Hoah, who is ONE HUNDRED POUNDS lighter. At left tackle is our star lineman, Mathew Bergeron, backed by his protégé, Enrique Cruz.
 

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