Last year's success was due to a variety of players, but perhaps no group was more responsible for it than Syracuse's experienced, durable offensive line, which started all 13 games together. While Macky MacPherson is now off to the NFL, the rest of the team's strong line remains -- meaning this group could very well be a strength once again, even without its standout center.
Sean got us up-to-date on the state of the starting O-line yesterday, but let's consider this a bit of a deeper dive. From our clear starters, to our walk-ons, we're taking stock of every single offensive lineman on the Syacuse roster. Because in case you needed yet another reminder: We're only 45 (!!!) days away from football season...
doesn't appear that he's letting go any time soon. The JUCO transfer is a smart, cerebral guy who completely understands every aspect of the position (much like Macky, if you want to project out a bit). He's also upped his game in the weight room since arriving on campus, with Will Hicks claiming he's now in the upper echelon of our O-linemen in terms of lifting and conditioning. Tough to find better things said about your starting-center-to-be, no?, Senior: Miller's a force at 6'2" and 305 pounds, and after grabbing the starting center spot in spring ball, it
Jason Emerich, (Redshirt) Sophomore: While Miller may have grabbed hold of the starting spot for now, Emerich could be the future at the position. Though he's yet to start while at Syracuse (thanks, health and depth!), he's had ample opportunities to see the field for the Orange -- something that will only serve to help both him and Syracuse going forward. He's a bit smaller than Miller, so you can see why if all other things are equal, the the more senior player gets the nod. But Emerich will still be an important part of this line, now and going forward.
Donnie Foster, Freshman: Don't be surprised if Foster finds himself red-shirted should this team be spared any serious offensive line injuries (please?!). But the Georgia product will be well-prepared to jump right in once the coaching staff is ready for him to see the field. At 320 pounds, he's a very physical presence -- the type Syracuse hasn't had much of in the last decade or so. Have to say, I'm pretty excited to see Foster in action in 2015 (and you should be too).
Rob Trudo, (Redshirt) Junior: Trudo's started more games than most on the roster -- and he still theoretically has two full seasons to go. Like Syracuse's other stalwarts on the offensive line, he's a big kid with all-conference academics to help make up for any other size he might lack (and he doesn't lack much). And best of all, he's versatile. While Miller's assumed the center role and ran with it, Trudo could very well start there too (and has taken plenty of reps there while at SU). Can he be a pro prospect in his own right? By his senior year, there's no reason to think it's out of the question.
Nick Robinson, (Redshirt) Junior: At 6'5", Robinson is not only one of the tallest players on this offensive line, but on the entire roster -- which can be helpful and detrimental in equal measure for some players. More importantly for him, though, he needs to recover from the ankle injury that kept him out of spring ball. If he's aggressively looking to put weight back on, there's some concern he'll even be at his listed 281 to start the season. Yes, we're facing Villanova, but it would certainly be advantageous to have him at game weight just the same.
Omari Palmer, (Redshirt) Sophomore: After red-shirting his first year on the Hill, Palmer played in nine games last season, and there's a good shot he figures into even more in 2014. As mentioned, this unit's just as deep -- if not more so -- than last year, so playing time will be at a premium for non-starters. Still, he's shown great improvement since joining the team and has a real sense of purpose when blocking. He'll get his chances, even if he's still a year or two out from starting.
Alex Hayes, (Redshirt) Freshman: Another one of SU's Georgia kids, Hayes was an impressive high school prospect who received State All-Star honors in 2012. At 6'2" and 312 pounds, he's yet another player whose physical gifts are more than enough to get them playing time here and there. He still has plenty to learn about the college game, obviously, but what better way to learn than under this experienced group?
Jesse Wolf-Gould, (Redshirt) Junior: Sure he was a walk-on, but how are you going to deny a 6'4", 340-pound kid with some obvious abilities a chance to get involved? He's yet to see the field -- and if we're fortunate, he won't have to much at all -- but if nothing else, he could potentially be plugged in on some special packages or short-yardage situations.
Seamus Shanley, (Redshirt) Sophomore: Seamus is under-sized, but that hasn't harmed the walk-on so far. He's obviously got plenty of heart -- so much so that it got him playing time against Wagner last season. Seamus is another kid that you're obviously hoping gets some garbage-time minutes, but will petrify you if he needs to play some real snaps.
Aaron Roberts, Freshman: That Chicago offensive lineman pipeline isn't just relegated to the 2015 class, as Roberts helped kick things off in 2014. He'll certainly redshirt given what's in front of him on the depth chart, but like Foster at the center position, that's not a bad thing. He'll learn plenty given the experience ahead of him and Roberts should be fully prepared to take on a much larger role as his SU career progresses.
Sean Hickey, (Redshirt) Senior: Good luck shaking the redshirt senior from his starting spot. The most NFL-ready player on the roster, Hickey's already been celebrated by various pre-season watch lists and will be playing at the the highest level all season. He's the leader of this line, a top offensive talent and all-around good kid -- plus there's no way last year's success happens without his presence. Someone has to play left tackle (and play it well), and for SU, there's no better option than Hickey.
Ivan Foy, (Redshirt) Junior: Ivan Foy is clear to play, but based on what we heard yesterday, that doesn't necessarily mean he's being slotted back into his starting right tackle spot. Obviously missing spring camp is never good, and it's especially unfortunate when you have a brand new position coach whom you have to get to know and learn a great deal from. He's played so well in that past that it's hard to envision him losing the job. But I guess you never know...
Michael Lasker, Junior: And meet the challenger. Lasker has had plenty of time to get acclimated under Joe Adam's tutelage, and the spring reps have done wonders for him. The former JUCO transfer looked a bit rough around the edges in nine appearances last year, but if all that's ironed out, perhaps he puts his impressive size to good use on the line. Whether it's splitting time with Foy or starting, having two starting tackle options can't hurt.
Jamar McGloster, (Redshirt) Freshman: Another huge kid (6'5", 311 pounds), McGloster should have some opportunities for playing time on principle alone. Plus, Sean Hickey will need a break now and then. McGloster is an interesting case for SU -- another one of those "diamond in the rough" recruits that Scott Shafer loves to find (and this staff has excelled in uncovering). He has some great potential, but it may take a couple years for us to see if he meets it.
Jon Burton, (Redshirt) Freshman: Burton's among the tallest Orange players at 6'6", but where he towers over teammates in size, it appears he may have some work to do in terms of technique. That's not a bad thing for him considering there's a good bit of talent ahead of him on the depth chart, though. If Burton can refine his game (and there's no reason to think he can't right now), we could be looking at a pretty nice career for him in orange and blue (and platinum).
Denzel Ward, Freshman: He may very well red-shirt, but Ward will still draw plenty of attention for Syracuse at 6'8" and over 360 pounds. This is the type of size the Orange need to continue to bring in if they're going to elevate themselves to the next level in the ACC. It's not impossible by any means. But there are only so many recruits that are this large AND have high ratings from the recruiting services. Ward will have time to refine his game with SU, and the payoff (like the player) could be huge.
Depth and talent are all there for Syracuse's offensive line once again. And if there's any group that should put you at ease even a little bit, I'd contend it's these guys. Have your own thoughts? Share them in the comments.