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Part II: Syracuse Football is Successful If… It Wins in the Trenches

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Earlier this week, The Fizz started a new summer series looking at how 2022 can be better than 2021 for Syracuse football. Quarterback is the most critical position on the field, but the quarterback cannot do anything if the guys in front of him don’t do their jobs. So, let’s take a look at the Orange’s offensive and defensive lines, and how vital those units are.

On offense, SU returns a decent amount of continuity on that side of the ball, which should bode well for Shrader, Tucker, and the entire offensive unit. With young guys coming up through the ranks having been in the program for multiple years, and other multi-year starters, it’s a unit that could be poised for success in 2022.

With returning starters like Matthew Bergeron and Dakota Davis and youngsters like Kalan Ellis and Enrique Cruz Jr., it’s a unit that combines youth and athleticism with experience. Everyone has to learn a new offense coached by Robert Anae, but it’s a team process, and with guys who have played together before, that makes things that much easier to learn as a group.

On the defensive side, the d-line might be the most inexperienced group on the entire team and arguably the biggest question mark as well. Caleb Okechukwu is the most recognizable name, and he only played as a rotational piece in 2021. Mainstays Josh Black, Kingsley Jonathan, and McKinley Williams are gone, along with star transfer Cody Roscoe.

Underclassmen like Francois Nolton Jr. and Chase Simmons, big recruiting wins over the last couple of cycles for head coach Dino Babers, could be asked to play big roles this season rushing the passer. In Tony White’s 3-3-5 defense, it puts extra pressure on the three up front to clog up rushing lanes and hold down the opposing team’s fronts.

With the lack of experience in this group, it puts even more questions on the Orange run defense, one that has been questioned in recent years as one of the weaknesses of the team. The pass defense and secondary have been complimented, but the run defense has not as much and has been exposed multiple times.

So, if the Orange can have success up front on both sides of the ball, it eases the pressure on their stars in the offensive and defensive backfields to play aggressive, and make game-changing plays. The strength of Syracuse’s team comes in their offensive skill position players, and the back seven or eight on defense.

If the offensive line stays healthy and can provide Shrader time to throw, or open up running lanes for Tucker allowing him to play downhill, watch out because that will be something special to watch and the Orange might just be able to go bowling if that is the case.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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