These are just some of the players we've been focused on in Syracuse's attempt to rise up another level in 2010 and bring the program back to glory. Let's not forget, however, that our head coach is a former offensive lineman. And if the most important guy on the sidelines is an OL guy, you better believe that some of the most important players on the field this year will be in the trenches making (or breaking) the game for SU.
Enter Ryan Bartholomew. Somewhat quietly, Bart put together a solid season in '09. He started every game for the Orange, mostly at guard but also three at center, and was named to the Big East 2nd-Team. Doug Marrone even singled Ryan out as Football Player of the Year at this year's Cuse Awards.
With McKenzie gone, Bartholomew will move over to starting center and arguably become the most important player on the field for SU. Marrone has personally invested a lot of time in re-developing Bartholomew after the GRE failed to do so. For his part, Bart isn't waiting around for Doug to hold his hand the entire time. He's taken to the gym and transformed himself into what Syracuse head strength coach Will Hicks calls "a little bit of a freak."
Syracuse's 6-foot-2, 298-pound senior center topped the team during testing with a 402-pound hand clean and a 525-pound bench press. He also did 30 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press, one of the best on the team, while jumping 31 inches and running a 4.93 40-yard dash on pro day. His body fat is under 17 percent, which Hicks said is far more typical of a defensive lineman than the big guys on the O-line.
As for how Bart feels about his new role as the field general for SU this season? Bring it on.
"It's a little bit of an adjustment," he said. "I have to be more vocal than I was at guard. But I've always liked to focus on learning everything on the offensive line and what everybody's goal is on each play. So it's very fun. I have all the power."
Bartholomew knows all-too-well what it's like to bear the burden of a bad snap (or three). That he wants to take on that responsibility speaks volumes.
When asked once what he sees himself doing in five years, Bartholomew said "either hopefully in the NFL or graduated from dental school." For his sake, I hope it's the NFL. Then again, I kinda like the mental image of a guy who easily benches 525-pounds being in charge of my tooth removal. Quick and painless.