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Syracuse vs. Virginia Tech, a view from the trenches

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A bit of the good, the bad and the ugly here, but mostly “not bad”

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Syracuse at Ohio Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Here we are, back in the trenches to recap the Syracuse Orange victory against the Virginia Tech Hokies. A win is a win, and a win where you rack up 314 yards on the ground usually bodes well for your offensive line performance. In general the line passed the “look test” for a good bit of the game, but there was a good bit of worry in the fourth quarter, as starting right tackle Carlos Vettorello went down with what looked to be a lower leg injury, and was unable to continue, or even put pressure on that foot as he left the field of play. We’ll address this on two fronts, one when Vett was in, the other once he left.

We talk about Sean Tucker, but it seems that Matthew Bergeron is an Absolute Magician. That’s going to be the name of my offensive line focused splinter blog, don’t tell Cassillo. He continues to impress in his work in both the pass and run games, only giving up a single hurry on the day while pass blocking (85.2) and leading the unit in run blocking grades at a 69.9 per PFF.com. He’s a gem and was a great pull from the great northern recruiting cycles. Of note, that pass blocking grade was good enough for a “blue grade” at PFF, which is quite exceptional. That said, he was also responsible for 20 yards of penalties with a holding and two false starts, so while amazing, he’s not perfect.

The rest of the unit however looked worse and was below the Mendoza line pass blocking, which partly may have led to Garrett Shrader’s offensive explosion on the ground. As has been the case much of the last few weeks, I feel PFF’s grades on the pass blocking have been a bit harsher than I would have graded them out, but they do tell the same tale on a different scale. The aforementioned Vettorello was the second best on the team with a grade of 52.5. I think that’s a bit harsh and he only gave up two hurries all day prior to his leaving the game. The interior line however didn’t have a great day pass blocking and that’s primarily due to the game Jordon Williams was having for the Hokies. In his 45 snaps, the Clemson transfer only had one tackle, but he was pushing the pocket and making Shrader and the line work all day. Especially once Ilaoa came in, pressure started coming over the middle.

Kalan Ellis continues to have a solid, servicable week-in, week-out performance. Nothing off the charts, but staying towards the top-middle of the pack for a true freshman is a good thing. I’m still impressed with how well he works doubles, as inexperienced as he is. He also had the second highest run block grade of the unit (63.7), though working on the same side as Bergeron definitely helps.

One thing to consider is, if Vettorello can’t go, does the same shift that happened occur, with a full week to practice? Did Ilaoa get the nod and shift Servais to tackle, since he’s gotten snaps this year and they were in a hostile environment, hoping for the best? Moving forward, with a full week with the ones, Ilaoa may look better than the 10.1 grade he received for pass blocking (and I don’t think it was great, but it wasn’t that bad), and have better chemistry with Ellis and Davis. The other thing we may see is Airon Servais back at center, with either Jakob Bradford or Anthony Red slotting in at tackle, as the depth chart shows. Any long time readers will know I’m not a huge fan of Servais on the outside, but that I don’t mind him in the middle. We’ll see what Mike Schmidt decides to roll with against Boston College this week.