Position Breakdown: Offensive line — 2019 Syracuse Football preview

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Syracuse running back Dontae Strickland (4) rushes for a touchdown against Wagner. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

As we countdown to kickoff in August, we’re going to be doing a unit-by-unit preview each week over the summer. This week, we’re taking a look at the offensive line, who will have several new fresh faces starting.

WHO’S OUT

Aside from Syracuse’s linebacker unit, the offensive line is the group that will undergo the most change from 2018 to 2019.

The Orange lost guard Aaron Roberts and tackles Cody Conway (Titans) and Koda Martin (Chargers). Conway and Martin signed with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Charges, respectively.

Martin, SU’s right tackle, was an All-ACC Third Team selection leading all offensive linemen in snaps (1,111) and was second on the team in knockdown blocks (31.5). Conway, an All-ACC Honorable Mention and left tackle, played in 1,109 snaps and recorded 30.5 knockdowns blocks.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Syracuse returns only two starting lineman from last season, center Airon Servais and right guard Evan Adams. Servais has shifted from center and has been practicing at right tackle in the spring.

Sam Heckel, who was SU’s sixth lineman last year, rotated between guard and center in 2018, and appeared in all 13 games, logging 444 snaps and 19.5 knockdown blocks. He’s currently slotted at center, though he missed all of spring after undergoing surgery for an undisclosed injury.

» Related: ‘All signs point’ to Syracuse football improving in 2019

Syracuse’s projected left guard is projected is Dakota Davis, who appeared in 12 games last year, mostly in the PAT/field goal unit. He didn’t appear in the spring game, staying on the sidelines with a brace on his leg.

At left tackle, expect graduate transfer Ryan Alexander to fill the role. The South Alabama transfer started 28 of his last 29 games, and was an All-Sun Belt Conference honorable mention in 2018. He chose Syracuse over offers from Rutgers, Tulane and Liberty.

WHO’S BACKING THEM UP

Alexander won’t arrive until the summer, and with Davis and Heckel injured, the Orange was only able to play two of its projected starting offensive line during the spring game.

With the Orange unable to play their starters, head coach Dino Babers played a combination of true freshman Anthony Red and redshirt freshman Carlos Vettorello at tackles and redshirt sophomore walk-on Austin Chandler playing left guard.

Other candidates to look out for include center Andrejas Duerig, guard Patrick Davis (also injured during the spring with his arm in a sling) and tackle Mike Clark.

ANALYSIS

Syracuse’s front five on paper appears to be as talented as last year’s group, but the main issue will be getting them in sync. The group won’t start to come together until summer practices start, with Alexander not having arrived on campus, and Heckel and Davis recovering from injuries.

The other issue is the lack of depth behind them. Vettorello started in place of Alexander for the spring game, but he saw just 25 snaps in his redshirt season. Chandler and Red have not played a single college snap. Davis played 68 offensive snaps in 15 games, while Clark and Duerig were primarily special teams/PAT players.

Syracuse was lucky there were no major injuries to its offensive line in 2018, and will need to hope for the same in 2019.

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Wes Cheng
About Wes Cheng 2479 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.