At this point we’re two games into the 2023 Syracuse Orange football season. Heading into the year we (ok it may have been “I”) had one request... a healthy offensive line. Unfortunately the Orange didn’t even make it out of camp with that being the case. The unit currently stands with multiple injuries in various state of repair and Syracuse heads on the road for the their first test against a Power 5 opponent in the Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday.
Unfortunately due to life being life, I haven’t been able to do my full breakdowns and line analysis like I have in years past. But that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned thoughts of how the trenches are handling things in 2023. I’ve just had to do it more on the podcast and in the back office slack channels lately.
Disclaimer out of the way, the Orange are sitting in a pickle right now. Steve Farmer is in his first year as line coach and is being dealt a real fun hand. They just had their starting offensive tackle, former Kentucky transfer and Syracuse “legacy” David Wohlabaugh go down with what didn’t look to be a good lower body “owie,” and were without starting guard Kalan Ellis and presumed starting guard or tackle, Richmond transfer Joe More, coming out of camp.
At present the depth chart shows as follows, heading into Purdue:
- LT - Enrique Cruz, Joe Cruz
- LG - Chris Bleich, Kalan Ellis
- C - J’Onre Reed, Josh Ilaoa
- RG - Jakob Bradford, Joe More
- RT - David Wohlabaugh Jr. OR Mark Petry
That’s three major contributing bodies that we know are either just coming back and not at game speed, or are down and out, all three of which are listed on the two deep. I still have never understood listing known injuries on the two deep, especially when they come out of the tunnel booted, but that’s neither here nor there.
During the press tour this week, it seemed as though Garrett Shrader alluded to the fact that Ellis and More may be ready to go against Purdue, which adds more questions to this situation.
In a perfect world, the starting line, I can only assume at this point, looks something like the following:
- Enrique Cruz - Kalan Ellis - J’Onre Reed - Chris Bleich - David Wohlabaugh Jr.
With Ellis returning, this could put things back closer to that situation. With Wohlabaugh down, the returning Joe More has worked there in the spring, as had Joe Cruz, and Mark Petry deputized in that role over the last two weeks, including the remainder of the Western Michigan game after the injury occurred.
At this point the question is which of Petry or More will fill in the gap at tackle at this point. If it’s Petry and he’s showing well, that’s fine. He graded out decently in his performance last week and showed out above Wohlabaugh per PFF.com and their grading systems. That said, game states were slightly different for the two performances. If More is healthy, the question is, is he a valid outside lineman at this level, having played there for four years at Richmond, or was he moved inside for a reason. I would err towards More, but I also haven’t seen enough of Petry to make that hard and fast determination.
No matter what, having Ellis and More back would be an asset for a line that looks to already be decimated by injury. Since this is Syracuse (and I can’t blame them), I’m sure we won’t know one way or another until kickoff on Saturday, but until then, we can always continue to prognosticate.