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Syracuse football All-21st-Century Team: Offensive Line

The best of the 21st century from the trenches.

Syracuse v Maryland football
Because large persons carrying the football are always amazing.
Mark Gail/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Continuing on into the trenches, the offensive line, a position of historical strength for this team over the seasons.

Tackle Nominees (listed chronologically):

  • Kevin Sampson (2000-2003)
  • Adam Terry (2001-2004)
  • Quinn Ojinnaka (2002-2005)
  • Justin Pugh (2009-2012)
  • Sean Hickey (2010-2014)
  • Jamar McGloster (2014-2017)
  • Cody Conway (2015-2019)
  • Koda Martin (2018)

In the trenches, the Orange have always shown promise. They’ve sent some quality big men on both sides of the ball to the NFL and have had some talented folks come through both the offensive and defensive trenches over the past decade. From the guard/tackle combo of Terry and Tarullo to future professional wrestler Quinn Ojinnaka, there’s been a penchant for athletes at every position.

Kevin Sampson

The two year starter at tackle (2002, 2003) was part of a line that blocked for four 1,000 yard rushers over his time in Orange. He was part of one of the better lines in Syracuse history, the right tackle opposite Adam Terry, blocking for Walter Reyes. Sampson was taken in the seventh round of the 2004 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Adam Terry

Terry started three years at left tackle for the Syracuse squads of the early aughts. In that time, he blocked for Walter Reyes and Damien Rhodes, two of the more decorated running backs in Syracuse history. He was an All-Big East selection twice, earning a spot on the second team during his junior year and first team honors his senior year. He started 35 consecutive games at tackle. He was a second round draft pick in 2005 by the Baltimore Ravens.

Quinn Ojinnaka

Currently known as “Moose” and signed with Impact Wrestling, Ojinnaka was a standout guard and tackle for the Orange. The two year starter had a solid career, blocking again for the duo of Reyes and Rhodes, which was the glory years of the Syracuse rushing attack during this century.

Justin Pugh

Pugh was a three year starter for the Orange in the renaissance of the offensive line under Doug Marrone. Pugh was a three time All-Big East selection, second team as a sophomore and two first team nods in his final two years at Syracuse. Each of his three years, the Orange were able to block for a 1,000 yard rusher, Delone Carter in 2010, Antwan Bailey in 2011 and Jerome Smith in 2012. Pugh turned his stalwart Syracuse career into a 2013 first round draft pick with the New York Giants and is currently a guard for the Arizona Cardinals.

Sean Hickey

A three year starter with Syracuse, including a year of overlap as the right tackle while Pugh was still in town, Hickey made a name for himself in his own right. He was a third team All-ACC selection his senior year and was honorable mention his junior year. He started 38 straight games for the Orange.

The Depth Chart

  1. Justin Pugh / Adam Terry
  2. Sean Hickey / Quinn Ojinnaka

Over the course of the decade, Pugh stood head and shoulders above the rest with two first place votes and a second place nod. Terry also received multiple votes. I would have assumed that the left tackles from the two best eras of linemen that Syracuse produced were no brainers to win this, and I was right.

All-Century Tackle Voting

Rank Steve John Kevin
Rank Steve John Kevin
1 Adam Terry Justin Pugh Justin Pugh
2 Justin Pugh Sean Hickey Quinn Ojinnaka
3 Sean Hickey Adam Terry
4 Kevin Sampson Sean Hickey

Guard Nominees:

  • Matt Tarullo (2001-2004)
  • Ryan Durand (2005-2008)
  • Ryan Bartholomew (2006-2010)
  • Andrew Tiller (2009-2011)
  • Zach Chibane (2009-2012)
  • Rob Trudo (2012-2015)
  • Omari Palmer (2012-2016)
  • Aaron Roberts (2014-2018)
  • Evan Adams (2015-2019)

Guard has been a decent position of strength over the years at Syracuse. The pedigree varies from NFL to WWE, as Omari Palmer signed with the wrestling brand earlier in the year.

Matt Tarullo

The Albany native started three years for the Orange, two at guard and his senior year at center, where he was an All-Big East first team selection. He was an imperative member in the line noted above that blocked for the likes of Walter Reyes and Damien Rhodes.

Ryan Durand

Durand was a guard for the Orange during the “Dark Times” under the GERG regime. Despite that, the three year starter was able to follow blocking for Curtis Brinkley up with a seventh round pick for the Tennessee Titans. He replaced Keith Bulluck as the lone Syracuse player on the roster.

Ryan Bartholomew

Three year starter and two time third team All-Big East selection, Bartholomew was a guard and emergency center that blocked for Brinkley and Carter over his career.

Andrew Tiller

Tiller was a JuCo All-American at Nassau Community College before transferring to Syracuse. The two year starter was an All-Big East first team selection in his senior year. He was a sixth round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints and played in the NFL until 2018. He also had a stint with the Orlando Apollos of the now defunct AAC last season.

Zach Chibane

A three year starter, Chibane was instrumental in three 1,000 yard seasons as well, with DC3, Bailey and Rome Smith all crossing the mark behind him.

Rob Trudo

A four year starter for the Orange, Trudo was a jack of all trades on the interior line. He logged starts at both guard positions as well as center. He started a fitting 44 games over his career in Orange and started two bowl game victories. He is currently the defensive line coach for Thiel College.

Aaron Roberts

Two year starter who was sidelined during his junior year with an ACL tear, Roberts anchored the early Dino Babers lines with talent at the guard position. The left guard started 25 games for the Orange over the course and would have been much more were it not for injury. He and Cody Conway formed a great left side of the line the past two years.

The Depth Chart

  1. Andrew Tiller / Matt Tarullo
  2. Ryan Bartholomew / Ryan Durand

Any of the options were solid at guard. Not as many true standouts as were found at tackle, but a very talented group nonetheless. Overall Tiller and Tarullo edged out a mix of the rest of the pack for the starting spot. While John and Kevin rightfully gave a nod to Ryan Durand, I had to give some love to Rob Trudo. Also, of note, had Aaron Roberts not missed a year due to injury, he may likely have broken into this list.

Guard Voting Breakdown

Rank Steve John Kevin
Rank Steve John Kevin
1 Andrew Tiller Andrew Tiller Matt Tarullo
2 Matt Tarullo Ryan Bartholomew Andrew Tiller
3 Ryan Bartholomew Matt Tarullo Ryan Durand
4 Rob Trudo Ryan Durand Ryan Bartholomew

Center Nominees:

  • Nick Romeo (2000-2003)
  • Jim McKenzie (2006-2009)
  • Macky MacPherson (2010-2013)
  • Airon Servais (2015-2019)

Centers are the cog that makes the line tick. Without them, the offense is pretty directionless. I may be overdramatic on that, but they’re literally calling the blocking assignments. As such, the two of the main candidates were members of the two most successful offensive line eras that the Orange saw.

Nick Romeo

The center on those Reyes/Mungro lines, Romeo was a four year starter at center and an All-Big East selection his senior year. A stalwart at the position, he started more than forty consecutive games for the Orange over his tenure.

Jim McKenzie

Between Romeo and MacPherson was Jim McKenzie, a three year starter for the Orange, who blocked for Delone Carter and Curtis Brinkley in their 1,000 yard campaigns. He was a noted 2007 Freshman All-Big East performer and kept a solid level throughout his time in Orange.

Macky MacPherson

Macky was a three year starter for the Orange, earning All-ACC honors his senior year. He blocked for three 1,000 yard rushers and was an important piece of the line that won three bowl games in his tenure. He currently is the running backs coach for the Kent State Golden Flashes.

The Depth Chart

  1. Nick Romeo
  2. Macky MacPherson

Romeo winning the top spot was likely due to the multi year consistency he showed at the position. Starting four years and anchoring probably the best lines that Syracuse had in the decade would do that for you. Beyond him, MacPherson was a stalwart through some quality years during the resurgence under Marrone.

Center Voting Breakdown

Steve John Kevin
Steve John Kevin
Nick Romeo Macky MacPherson Nick Romeo
Macky MacPherson Nick Romeo Macky MacPherson