The Syracuse football season is right around the corner. In the lead-up to kickoff, we’ll be previewing every position group on the Orange squad, making sure you’ll fully prepared for September 4. Today, we take a look at the…
Syracuse Orange Offensive Line
Last year, despite experienced players, things just failed to go well on the offensive line. Injuries derailed the group a ton, as did the ineffective offense as a whole (you don't need to be reminded of that, I'm sure). Two starters may be gone for this season, and you can't discount the absence of Sean Hickey and to a lesser extent, John Miller. But what's left has seen the field a ton and if they can all stay healthy (big IF), this could be an improved unit for the Orange overall.
Ivan Foy, (Redshirt) Senior
You're well-acquainted with Foy, who's a holdover from the Doug Marrone days and the excellent 2012 offensive line (where he played some guard). The big, (but oft-injured) tackle is now in his final season on the Hill and there's never been more pressure on him to both stay on the field and produce. He'll line up at the all-important left tackle spot, and will be vital in keeping Terrel Hunt upright in Lester's redesigned passing game. Of note, the Orange only gave up five sacks in the six games Foy started last year, a factor that cannot be overstated.
Omari Palmer, (Redshirt) Junior
Palmer's started all over the line (three different spots last year), but now seems to have settled in as the permanent right tackle for this offense. One of the larger players on the line (weighs inn 323 pounds), he'll be tasked with a lot but at least he now has the experience to meet those challenges. Going into last year, he'd started just one game, and suddenly had to block for an ill-fated attack and shift around due to injuries. Consistency in this year's offense (hopefully) will be his saving grace and allow him to carve out a niche at the tackle spot.
Michael Lasker, Senior
Lasker didn't start much in 2014 (just the opener vs. Villanova), but he does possess a good deal of in-game experience just the same, appearing in 18 contests over the last two seasons. He's not slated to start this year either, but where he provides a ton of value -- or at least should provide a ton of value -- is in terms of depth. If the big Californian can come off the bench to give Foy a rest at left tackle here and there, the fresh legs could pay some huge dividends in pass protection. He's been hot-and-cold during his career so far, so hopefully he puts it all together in his final season.
Jamar McGloster, (Redshirt) Sophomore
McGloster appeared in a few games last year, but the then-redshirt freshman just wasn't ready to be thrust into the limelight like that. Now, with some experience under his belt, the expectations rise as he needs to fill a similar role to what Lasker does over on the left side of the line. Jamar's here due to the potential a 6-foot-7, 310-pound player possesses at tackle, and you have to at least be interested in what he turns into. Game reps will be key -- just have to hope they're not happening due to injury.
Denzel Ward, (Redshirt) Freshman
Ward is Syracuse's most talented lineman based on recruiting metrics, so there's a lot to like with him down the road. But will he/should he see the field at all this year? A lot of that depends on the guys in front of him. As always, injuries can be a factor, but you have to think the enormous (6-foot-8, 331 pounds) Chicago product is primed to contribute right away if the line struggles when it get to the meat of the schedule. Hopefully he gets reps this year (for good reasons), setting up a big redshirt sophomore season.
Jon Burton, (Redshirt) Sophomore
By all accounts, Burton's athletic, which is a huge plus for someone as large (another 6-foot-8 guy) as he is. Like Ward, he's at least a year away from being a larger contributor since he's third on the depth chart at his position. But next year could be interesting with him, McGloster and Palmer all duking it out for playing time at right tackle. For now, expect more play on special teams, where he spent 10 games in 2014.
Cody Conway, Freshman
Conway's one of the best linemen to come out of Illinois last year, and his athleticism (played basketball for four years) will prove to be an asset when he works himself into the rotation. He's currently fourth on the left tackle depth chart, and still weighs in under 300 pounds (281 right now). Expect him to spend 2015 redshirting while bulking up a little and learning the offense.
Colin Byrne, Freshman
Byrne comes to Syracuse with the physical traits to be a college offensive tackle. Now he just needs some time to work up the depth chart. The true freshman is highly likely to redshirt this year as he preps to be part of a strong future line with the rest of the class of 2015. Expect a lot from the Florida product down the road.
Keaton Dearny, (Redshirt) Freshman
The walk-on could see the field on special teams this season, but that's largely it given the young, rising talent Syracuse already has on board. Though he's pretty low on the depth chart, Dearney would probably see the field before several freshman before this team goes and burns a redshirt on one of them.
Nick Robinson, (Redshirt) Senior
Let's hope this is a bounce-back year for Robinson, who is now entrenched at the left guard spot on the line. Following a highly productive 2013 that saw him start 13 games and become a leader for a team experiencing a lot of turnover on the offensive side of the ball, last year was injury-plagued and frustrating. If the Orange are going to reestablish the inside run (with whom, I'm not sure...) Robinson should play a huge role in doing so. his rapport with his immediate linemates (Foy, Trudo) should also pay huge dividends as long as he and the others can stay on the field.
Aaron Roberts, (Redshirt) Freshman
Roberts is a young newcomer on this veteran-filled line, but coach Joe Adam has already expressed how impressed he is with the redshirt freshman in spring and summer ball. Over on Syracuse.com recently, Adam referred to Roberts as "the junkyard dog" and sees him as an aggressive, vicious type in the middle of the line. Of course, the Chicago native hasn't taken a college snap yet either, so we'll see how well his starting spot on the depth chart holds up as we get closer to September. Should Roberts keep getting excellent marks from the coaching staff, though, the right guard position will be his.
Alex Hayes, (Redshirt) Sophomore
Hayes played last season and even got himself a start against Duke due to a whole host of injuries for Syracuse. But that hasn't guaranteed him a starting job just yet as he continues to battle it out with Roberts at right guard. The depth chart lists him as a left guard backup right now, spelling Robinson as needed. But you can likely expect him to assist on both sides if he ends up playing a reserve role. Having a formidable three-guard rotation could be an asset this year and even more of one next year when no one stands in either players' way to handle a starting role.
Seamus Shanley, Senior
Shanley, a walk-on, has paid his dues at SU, and will likely enter the 2015 season as the second-string right guard. How much he actually plays from that spot, however -- given the three-guard rotation in place -- is debatable. Seamus has played sparingly while with the Orange but that on-field experience could provide some value in a pinch and also help to avoid burning redshirts for several freshmen coming aboard this season. Syracuse could get him involved on special teams as well.
Samuel Clausman, Freshman
Another Florida product, Clausman is one of the 2015 true freshman that you'll see little of this year but a whole lot more of in the future for SU. Highly touted and incredibly strong, he'll likely take a redshirt season now to get a grasp on the offense and college life in general. Then, expect him to be well in the mix for 2016, when he'll press for time in the positional rotation.
Evan Adams, Freshman
Adams, from Connecticut, has the physical skills and presence right away to succeed for Syracuse. At 6-foot-6 and 314 pounds, he's very much in the mold of a power conference guard already, so the work will begin to try and see how he can actually hang with power conference players from a skills perspective. This season will allow him to redshirt and get a handle on that part of it, while he continues to maintain an imposing frame. He's yet another freshman that should excite Orange fans in the future.
Taylor Hindy, (Redshirt) Junior
Hindy, once a prized recruit for Washington, is still a virtual unknown for the Orange. He's yet to take a snap for SU (had to sit 2014 due to transfer rules), but did see some time back at UW in 2013. He's currently listed at the bottom of the guard depth chart, but that could very well change if the team is serious about preserving redshirts for Adams and Clausman. Hindy obviously has the skills to do well at his position. We just need to see them in action at some point.
Rob Trudo, (Redshirt) Senior
The offensive line's elder statesman, Trudo has been around awhile and has worked himself into being the most draft-ready prospect on the Orange roster. The big, versatile player has appeared in 38 games during his career though none of them have been at center thus far. He'll enter the season with plenty of hype as a rock for this O-line, an NFL player in the making and a member of the Rimington Trophy Watch List (again, despite never snapping the ball at center). Trudo's only caveat is injury, which nagged him throughout 2014 and most of this offseason. If he's healthy, though, SU is in very good hands.
Jason Emerich, (Redshirt) Junior
Emerich is an experienced center and one who if not for the Trudo position switch, would certainly be starting this fall. Still, having him available to plug in as a relief for Trudo -- or even as a quick plug at guard -- is invaluable for an Orange offense that struggled to find experienced depth when they needed it. The junior will definitely see the field a bunch as he sets himself up well for a more featured role come 2016.
Kendall Moore, Junior
Moore's journey around Syracuse's positions should end here at center, after spending a bunch of time switching back and forth between there and tight end. He still needs to add more weight to truly make an impact at the position, but the height and ability to play the position are already there, for sure. We'll see if he can get to the proper weight by the time the fall rolls around. If not, his time on the field (in this role, anyway) could be minimal and/or relegated to special teams.
Donnie Foster, Sophomore
Foster's a smart kid who will be biding his time on special teams for 2015 while learning what he can from talented uppeclassmen like Trudo and Emerich -- and that's not a bad thing. He's already at the weight he needs to be to play the position, has the sharpness to learn the playbook quickly and really just needs confidence and playing time. He'll get it down the line for sure.
Andrejas "AJ" Duerig, Freshman
The Illinois product has a ton of potential and will get plenty of time to realize it during his Orange career. For 2015, though, expect a redshirt, so the Orange can get a full four years out of his talents at center. Like Foster, Duerig can learn a lot from studying under Trudo and more so than any of the other four members of the 2015 O-line class, he has a clear line to starting role very soon (mostly due to there being just one center).
Obviously losing a talent like Hickey hurts, just like last year's injuries did for Syracuse too. But those injuries gave way to unexpected experience and a bunch of it, suddenly, in 2015. The story for this season will be the veterans and how they perform and stay on the field. But the underlying narrative -- as mentioned multiple times -- will be the 2015 class getting a year under their belts before the talented group is thrown in to live up to their weighty, collective potential.
Offensive line health is crucial to this season, and if SU's starters stay on the field, we're looking at a much more effective scheme overall -- regardless of how much Lester's attack is truly "better" than the one before it. Even if the passing game still struggles a bit, this team should be in much better shape to run-block, opening up them up to once again use the ground game as a weapon.