We’re just 17 days away from Syracuse football’s opener against Ohio. In the meantime, the Fizz is putting together a top 10 list of SU’s most important contributors for the 2021 season. You can read #10 on the list here.
No. 9 on our list is a returning face on one of SU’s most critical position groups – offensive tackle Matthew Bergeron. The Victoriaville, Quebec native is currently penciled in to start at left tackle on opening day, but he brings experience to both tackle spots.
Bergeron earned a starting spot on the offensive line in the latter half of 2019 and began 2020 as the team’s right tackle. However, he was switched to left tackle prior to Syracuse’s Week 4 matchup with Duke. Over his remaining games at LT, the team scored 20 or more points five times and showed some rare consistency behind a line that had been beset by injuries.
Why Syracuse Needs Him
There are two answers to this question. The first is that SU’s offensive line has likely been the sneaky culprit behind the team’s decline over the past two years. In baseball, the saying is that if your bullpen stinks, so does your team. Makes sense, right? It’s hard to win games if your pitchers can’t hold leads. I’d argue that in football, your team’s offensive line dictates a team’s success to a similar degree. If you can’t block, you can’t run or pass consistently. That means more punts and time on the field for a defense that will eventually get tired. The whole team suffers, and losses start occurring – they have 17 times over the past two seasons for Syracuse. Good blocking is what prevents that entire chain reaction.
Secondly, Bergeron’s move to left tackle helped solidify an offensive line that was in desperate need of help. Recall that due to injuries early in the season, Syracuse was forced to ask former fullback/tight end Chris Elmore to bulk up and play left guard for the injured Dakota Davis. By the time Bergeron moved to left tackle in Week 4, SU was averaging 2.6 yards per carry through its first three games and had allowed 15 sacks. Over Bergeron’s eight games as LT, the team cut its sacks allowed per game in half and ran the ball much more effectively, including three 90+ yard games from running back Sean Tucker.
Best Case Scenario
The best case for Bergeron is that he stays healthy, solidifies the team’s left tackle spot, and continues to improve his play in his sophomore season. Though SU’s quarterback competition makes for great soap opera headlines, it’s irrelevant who starts unless the offensive line can block. Bergeron’s play will go a long way in deciding how well things go.
It’s certainly not far-fetched to expect this outcome. In 2019, Bergeron became just the 4th true freshman OL since 1986 to start for the Orange, so his talent is undeniable. All he has to do is continue to work at his craft to take another step in 2021.
The obvious worst-case scenario here is that either Bergeron or right tackle Airon Servais gets injured for a prolonged period of time, forcing one of them to slide to the other’s vacated spot. It would wreck a position group with razor-thin depth and throw an already fragile offense into turmoil.
SU has guys with experience at LT, primarily left guard Carlos Vettorello and the aforementioned Servais, but as Bergeron showed in 2020 during his time at right tackle, switching positions isn’t as easy as just moving over a spot in the formation. SU absolutely needs their starters to stay healthy and in place.
Be sure to check back in here at the Fizz on Friday for No. 8 on our top 10 most important players list.
Monday, August 16 – #10 Garrett Shrader
Wednesday, August 18 – #9 Matthew Bergeron
Friday, August 20 – #8 ?
Sunday, August 22 – #7 ?
Tuesday, August 24 – #6 ?
Thursday, August 26 – #5 ?
Saturday, August 28 – #4 ?
Monday, August 30 – #3 ?
Wednesday, September 1 – #2 ?
Friday, September 3 – #1 ?