Everyone always wants a reason as to why some teams are successful and others are not. Usually, we look to the most obvious answers. Experience at quarterback. Ability of teams to limit mistakes. Senior leadership. Amazing skill position players. Probably the last place you look is offensive line. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, that's the first place we should be looking:
Last season, eight of the top 10 teams in the final Associated Press poll began the season with at least 65 combined career starts by their offensive linemen, including title-game participants Florida and Oklahoma. Two of 2008's biggest surprises, Utah and Ole Miss, had more than 80 starts of experience, enabling them to improve dramatically on offense. Conversely, Georgia, Missouri and Clemson -- three preseason top-10 teams that disappointed -- were green up front, with fewer than 40 starts each.
Being a former o-lineman, I'm sure Dougles would agree. The article goes on to mention a couple teams that meet the criteria this season (Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Michigan to name a few) as well as some teams who are in big trouble with o-line experience (SU opponents West Virginia and Penn State among them). While it might not be the reason any of those teams go 2-10, or lose to Syracuse, it's probably a good indicator that they won't be national title contenders.
So how does Syracuse line up in this department? Tough to say exactly but if I'm going off of who I think are the starters right now, here's what we've got:
- Tucker Baumbach (Jr.) - 13 career starts
- Ryan Bartholomew (Jr.) - 10 career starts
- Jim McKenzie (Jr.) - 22 career starts.
- Ian Allport (Fr.) - 0 career starts.
- Jonathan Meldrum (Jr.) - 0 career starts.
That's 45 career starts among them. Not great but not the depths that Oregon and West Virginia are facing. Looking ahead, the great news is that this unit is going to have a lot of starts under it's belt by the time next season starts (roughly 105), which has to be a huge boost.
That's based on the rough starting line-up I can gather. If we also look at the other available O-lineman, here's what they bring to the table:
- Nick Lepak (So.) - 2 career starts.
- Nick Speller (Fr.) - 0 career starts.
- Adam Rosner (Jr.) - 0 career starts.
- Dalton Phillips (Sr.) - 0 career starts.
- Josh White (So.) - 0 career starts.
- Ollie Haney (So.) - 0 career starts.
Man, when you put it like that...it's a young, inexperienced unit. Forget I said anything...