Spring practice enters week two for the Syracuse Orange. And with that, we continue digging into some of the most pressing questions surrounding the team as the Dino Babers era begins.
The Orange offensive line officially starts over. Can they succeed?
Who's on campus?
Only two-fifths of last year's starting offensive line. Tackle Omari Palmer and center Jason Emerich are the only returning starters from the group, after Ivan Foy, Nick Robinson and Rob Trudo all departed. Replacing the latter three's production is a daunting challenge, sure. But injuries over the past couple years have actually allowed for several players down the depth chart to play valuable snaps, meaning this team's not as green as advertised.
Michael Lasker, Seamus Shanley, Cody Conway, Jamar McGloster and Aaron Roberts are all still around, and all have varying levels of playing time under their respective belts -- including starts for both Lasker and Shanley. They're joined by the rest of Conway's cohorts from the promising 2015 O-line class, all of whom redshirted last year. Evan Adams, Colin Byrne, Sam Clausman and AJ Duerig all came in as promising, high-upside options on the line, and now get their first opportunities in 2016.
Additionally, and not be discounted, Jon Burton, Keaton Darney, Taylor Hindy and Donnie Foster are also in camp this spring.
Who's arriving this summer?
Even more reinforcements, as Dino Babers and his staff brought in four additional offensive linemen for 2016. Along with Scott Shafer recruiting holdover Sam Heckel, Michael Clark, Liam O'Sullivan and Airon Servais also arrive later this year. There's a deceptive amount of depth on the line right now, which gives Syracuse the potential benefit of redshirting all four new arrivals if they choose to.
Who, specifically, replaces the departed seniors?
As mentioned, Robinson, Foy and Trudo are gone, as is the boatload of starting experience the three of them had while with the Orange. That's tough to replace, but there's a large collection of players that could be up for the challenge. Conway, McGloster and Roberts would seem to be the odds-on favorites to take the positions based on previous experience. That said, Babers has made it clear that whatever happened in the past won't matter much to him. If anyone else on the roster can show a better ability to keep up with the new tempo of this offense, perhaps they get the inside track. There's a lot to keep an eye on here with so many options and several holes to fill.
When does the class of 2015 take over?
No clear answer here. It may be never, to be honest, now that a different coaching staff has taken over. But there's just too much promise to completely ignore the promising class of '15, especially with so much eligibility left for all of them. Only Cody Conway played last year, giving the other four -- the aforementioned Adams, Byrne, Clausman and Duerig (henceforth known as Alphabet Soup) -- a ton of time to establish themselves as stalwarts for SU. So can they?
All four (and Conway) are huge players, which sort of fits the mold of the old regime more than the new one. If they can show some speed and agility along with their respectively large frames, Babers may have struck gold. If not, we've still got a collection of great athletes. We may just see a couple of them surpassed on the depth chart for quicker options in the new offense's mold. TBD for now, however. The summer's likely to reveal a lot more than the spring.
How fast can this group adapt to the new scheme?
That's the biggest concern, really, even more so than replacing the outgoing seniors. With a lot of talented (fast) returning players at every offensive skill position, whether or not the line can keep up is really going to test how quickly Babers's offense can find success. Veterans like Palmer and Emerich have already bought in, which is a great start and a high-quality sign of how the rest of the O-line group feels. The spring begins the real test that the summer will truly find the answer too, though: Can Syracuse's linemen adapt quickly?
It's one thing to understand what you need to do in a new scheme, it's another to commit to a complete heel-turn from what you know and the system(s) you were recruited for. That's not a knock on the current players on the roster. Just a caveat that adjusting to an up-tempo attack could mean growing pains -- especially from the line -- even if it does work out pretty well down the road.
There's more turnover here than anywhere else in the offense, but as mentioned above, that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Syracuse's depth chart is full of young talent on the line, and that could mean they're quicker to adapt to the new scheme than a more veteran-laden group might. Exciting times this spring. Hopefully we can get a slight glimpse of their progress come April 2.