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Syracuse football: Kalan Ellis discusses sudden elevation to leadership role

What a change a year can make.

NC State v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

At this point last year, Kalan Ellis was looking to the rest of his linemates for guidance. Coming off a rookie season where he played in nine games and started five for the Syracuse Orange, Ellis had the opportunity to step into the starting lineup full-time. That’s exactly what he did, starting nine games at Left Guard.

Now, after a mass exodus of last season's starting offensive line, Ellis is on the other side of the same conversation.

“I was the youngest on the line last year,” Ellis said. “Going into being one of the veterans is definitely going to be different.”

Matthew Bergeron, Dakota Davis, Carlos Vettorello, and fullback Chris Elmore are all gone. In their place are a combination of underclassmen and transfers - a much rawer bunch, I might add. It will take time to mold this unit into the same quality as the one that helped Sean Tucker rush for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

Being only one of two returning starters from last year’s line - and the only healthy one right now - it’s up to Ellis to help build them up, both skill- and confidence-wise.

“It’s good, to be honest,” Ellis said about the overall feeling of the group. “Definitely some new stuff that we got to work on. But I feel like the o-line overall will do fairly well, in this upcoming season.”

Purdue v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

“Joe Moore, the new transfer, I feel like he’s been doing great so far. Jakob Bradford, he didn’t really play last year, but it looks like he will be in the rotation, maybe potentially starting.”

Bradford was filling in at Right Guard for the inactive Chris Bleich during Thursday morning’s practice. With the 6th-year’s injury history, the team is at least preparing for the possibility of someone else spending time on the right side.

Whether Bleich is out there or not come September, the one piece that this group has to live without is Elmore. Players like Rhino are very rare, and the Orange sorely missed having an extra set of blocking hands last fall.

“There’s some guys that have been like doing well at that fullback position,” Ellis said. “Elijah Wright, he’s been doing good. And yeah, it definitely will be different without Rhino, but I feel like we still can do it. We just have to work on our running game for offense a little bit more.”

So as Syracuse continues to get up to speed under new Offensive Line Coach Steve Farmer, there’s at least one other set of eyes and ears they can turn to for guidance.