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Syracuse football 2020 position preview: Offensive line

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A group from last year with it’s ups and downs, looks to make it mostly ups this season.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

While I’m still not optimistic we’ll see a season, and we know we won’t see a 2020 Syracuse Orange games with fans, we’re still plugging our way through our position previews.

We’ve done all the Get To Know Your Orange Man series for these players, but we’re looking to give more of a look into how they fit into the actual depth chart and scheme now. Last week we finished out the offensive skill positions looking at the wide receivers and tight ends. This week we’re heading to the trenches to see a position group that should show a good deal of improvement.

Offensive line

After what was a relatively disastrous 2019 campaign on the offensive side of the trenches, the Orange found a glimmer of hope in the tail end of the disappointing season. Early in the year, the team was forced to field a very young starting line, replacing two standout tackles in Cody Conway and Koda Martin, as well as Aaron Roberts, a very solid guard. That combined with injury, left the unit a mess until mid way through the season.

Sam Heckel, starting center was injured and out for the year. Ryan Alexander, the grad transfer all-league tackle quit the team mid way through the campaign, and didn’t rate enough that a redshirt freshman started initially at right, then at left tackle over him. A true freshman in Matthew Bergeron being thrust into a starting spot. There was a good bit of turnover and confusion on the line.

Hopefully with the return of what turned into a functional line by the end of the season, this year can lead to a much more productive front five for the Orange.

Syracuse v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Centers

Carlos Vettorello, (Redshirt) Sophomore

Vettorello had quite the busy freshman season. He began spring practice, then camp as the starting right tackle. When Heckel got injured he switched to the left side, as Servais was moved to center, and likely started as a center as well with the first team. Later in the year, he swapped with Servais and moved inside for the remainder of the season and looked good doing it. As the returning starter, he will have the nod. Look for him to display a good bit of confidence after an offseason of work with the first unit and hopefully the Orange have a long term anchor in the middle here.

Josh Kosciol, (Redshirt) Freshman

Kosciol is a reserve lineman who joined the squad as a PWO in 2019 from Honeoye Falls. He has worked at both center and guard, and will also be in that third or fourth center spot. He’s listed on the spring chart as the backup center, but functional that would likely fall to Servais.

Ryan Kisselstein, (Redshirt) Sophomore

A PWO addition, and current redshirt sophomore, Kisselstein looks to be the third or fourth option at center, with Servais the likely backup, as mentioned. He has worked at all three line positions over his two years with the squad.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 18 Pitt at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Guards

Dakota Davis, (Redshirt) Junior

Davis returns as a starter at guard for the second straight season. Last season he developed a relationship with both Vetterello and Matthew Bergeron that should lead to some consistency moving forward. Without the learning curve that was needed last season, Davis and his mates should mesh from the outset. Early in the year last year, I criticized Davis’ work with Alexander, especially on pass protections. The chemistry he has with Bergeron is like night and day, and this shouldn’t be a concern nearly as much anymore. Look for the right side to be solid in the run block as well, as Davis and Bergeron continue to improve.

Chris Bleich, (Redshirt) Sophomore

The January enrollee should be ready to take to the field... if the NCAA approves a waiver. Bleich comes to the Orange from the Florida Gators, where he was the starter at right guard, but transferred north in the offseason. If Bleich is eligible, it would provide immediate impact at the guard position, likely on the left for the departing Evan Adams. The other solution would be Davis, the incumbent right guard switching to the left side and Bleich on the right.

Austin Chandler, (Redshirt) Junior

Chandler notched a few snaps last season as Evan Adams’ backup. He’ll enter this season in a similar position, behind Bleich, if he receives a waiver. Otherwise, he’ll be vying for that guard spot with Patrick Davis. He has worked at either guard position.

Darius Tisdale, (Redshirt) Junior

Tisdale joined the Orange as a JuCo transfer during the 2018-2019 offseason. He made a few appearances at the guard spot last year and looks to be one of the “next men up” at the guard spots, along with Patrick Davis. Tisdale can also play tackle, and did so at the JuCo level. The versatility may help him see the field in spots.

Josh Ilaoa, Freshman

Likely in for a redshirt year, Ilaoa has a frame to build on and when he makes it to campus should hopefully fit into the regiment.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Western Michigan at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tackles

Airon Servais, (Redshirt) Senior

The elder statesman on the line, Servais has played two different positions with four different lines over the course of his career. A center through most of his career, Servais moved to tackle before being shifted back to center last season, then back out to tackle, because, why not? He is a consistent pass blocker, and should be solid protecting Tommy DeVito from the weak side. He’s almost certainly one of the penned in starters on the sheet, depending on position.

Matthew Bergeron, Sophomore

Bergeron, the freshman, was a tackle phenom last season. Bergeron came on mid way through the season, starting the last four games at right tackle and bringing a consistency to the position that hadn’t been seen on the year. He also is a very solid run blocker. While he has been shown to be slightly overzealous pass blocking, an offseason with the staff should have worked that out and Bergeron, much like the rest of the returning starters should fit back into the system quite nicely.

Patrick Davis, Senior

A versatile player, Davis can readily back up both the tackle and the guard positions. He will be listed as the backup for the guard position, but will be just as likely to see time at tackle. He played tackle early in the season, then was the first name called last year when Dakota Davis was injured last season in the Florida State game. Davis is a solid option wherever he ends up working. If Bleich isn’t given his waiver, there’s a good chance that Davis is the starting left guard as well.

Anthony Red, (Redshirt) Freshman

Red joined the squad in January last season and was starting at guard in the spring game due to injury. It looks like he’s moved out to tackle over the last year, with him getting some run in the Duke game backing up Bergeron. He’ll be one of the first names in the second row of the depth chart. The limited looks I’ve seen of Red look quite promising.

Mark Petry, Sophomore

The first German recruit in Syracuse football history (along with Maximillian Mang), Petry played his freshman year at Ellsworth Community College. He may take a redshirt this year and push to improve for the coming seasons. Petry was listed as the backup right tackle on the spring depth chart, opposite Red, so there’s a chance they burn the shirt, however I’d expect them to try and save the year for him unless he’s an absolute standout.

Will Froumy, (Redshirt) Sophomore

Listed in the spring as the backup right guard, Froumy has worked mostly with the tackles over the course of his Orange career. He’s a backup option that is still young, like most of the line and may come into the equation this season if needed.

Qadir White, (Redshirt) Sophomore

In his third year on campus, White looks to break through into the rotation. While improving, he’s always looked a slight bit slower than he needed to be at this level. That said, there’s a good chance he’s worked that during the offseason and we see his huge, 4-star frame finding a way into some playing time this year.

Garth Barclay, Freshman

As a true freshman, Barclay probably won’t see any run. At 6-foot-7, 250lbs, he’s probably going to take advantage of a year of strength and conditioning to redshirt and preserve his eligibility.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 02 Boston College at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Provided everything goes to plan and the full squad is back on campus and healthy, this unit looks to have righted the ship from last season. They return four starters that all saw consistent minutes. The fifth spot will either be taken over by a transfer SEC starting guard, or a backup from within the ranks that knows the system. Compared to what they turned over from 2018 to 2019, this should be quite stable.

While the run game improved towards the end of the year, with the position switching, there’s also the factor that the team was playing generally weaker offensive fronts. One of the first things to look for is how well the unit can run block. Both potential new guards are a bit smaller than Evan Adams was and may be able to move well on a lot of the trap and misdirection that this offense runs. How Vettorello back-blocks from the center position as well as how Servais can reach from outside, depending on the front will be big keys in this.

The fact that this group got a good quarter of a season together to start to figure out any wrinkles and quirks of working as a unit can not be understated. Add that to a Tommy DeVito who has another year under him and can learn from his mistakes and you have a solid recipe for improvement from this group. Nothing noted here means that the unit will be world beaters, but there should be a decent bit of optimism for the group, even coming off the season they had last year.