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View from the Trenches: 2022 Offensive Line Preview

And now for the time honored Nunes tradition, previewing the offensive line.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Clemson at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s that time again. We’re in a game week and it looks like the Syracuse Orange have established a pecking order in the trenches for their season opener against the Louisville Cardinals. For anyone who missed the depth chart released the other day, the starting line is as follows:

First String

Left Tackle - Matthew Bergeron (Jr.)

Bergeron has been a starter since his freshman year. He’s as penned in as any personnel on this team can be. A good run blocking tackle with a solid pass protection, his only slight weakness is his tendency to get stood up a bit more than ideally and some issues 1v1 in space, but easily one of the best lineman the Orange have seen in a long time.

Left Guard - Kalan Ellis (So.)

Ellis worked his way into the starting lineup upon a Chris Bleich injury last season. He impressed as a true freshman, coming in with a frame built for P5 offensive line play while still being able to move. His chemistry from a year of working with Bergeron should help out the left side. He’s young and raw, but has a lot of upside in his game and no matter what you can’t teach size.

Center - Carlos Vettorello (R-Jr.)

Vettorello has bounced around the line, between center an either tackle over the past few seasons. He looks to be slotting in to the center spot this season, where I personally believe he looks better. There’s always a chance he is pushed back to tackle with Bleich at center and Davis back at his natural guard position, but the versatility should be a benefit, especially with another offseason with coach Mike Schmidt.

Right Guard - Chris Bleich (R-Jr.)

The transfer from Florida has fought injury since arriving, but looks to be back in action after offseason surgery and reclaiming the right side guard spot he work in at Florida. Another experienced guard, Bleich fits into Schmidt’s road-grader mentality and moves well at the position.

Right Tackle - Dakota Davis (R-Sr.)

Since seeing flashes of Davis playing tackle last year, this lineup has intrigued me as a way to get the best five linemen the Orange have on the field. It seems to have worked out as the right five for the squad and the sixth year Davis will be shifting out wide to see what he can do for the team in a new position after the rest of his career at guard. When healthy, Dakota has been one of the best lineman the Orange have had, so getting him on the field is the preferred course of action.

Second String:

  • Left Tackle - Enrique Cruz (R-Fr.)
  • Left Guard - Wes Hoeh (R-Fr.)
  • Center - Josh Ilaoa (So.)
  • Right Guard - Jakob Bradford (R-So.)
  • Right Tackle - Anthony Red (R-So.)

So far in camp, Enrique Cruz has made a name for himself as the next man in on the line and will be a good addition to the depth of the squad. The diversity in talent of the first stringers also allow for him to come in at tackle and them to shuffle around if needed.

While Hoeh is listed at guard, he was taking snaps in the preseason as well. More depth at center is always welcome. He joins Josh Ilaoa who has deputized there in the past. Bradford looks to slot in as another guard and Anthony Red is sitting on the two deep after fighting through more injury time since he’s been on campus.

It was interesting to note that Darius Tisdale was not shown on the two-deep. The former starter and frequent sub last season isn’t shown at either guard or tackle this season. It’s unknown as to whether this one was due to injury as some other depth chart moves have been, or if the youngsters have developed and won a spot over Tisdale.

Overall the line will be the key to helping out Sean Tucker do his thing, but keeping Shrader from running for his life should only help out the running game, but maybe allow some confidence in the pocket and get the passing game going as well. It’s the most experienced and talented line we’ve had in a while, tip to tail, and it’s healthy going into the season opener which is also huge. We’ll know more after this weekend, but I’m cautiously optimistic about this group entering the year. Between the mentioned experience and a second year of Coach Schmidt, this should be a bunch of trench monsters that surpass expectation.