2021 Syracuse Football Positional Preview: Offensive Line
It would be an understatement to say that the Syracuse offensive line underperformed last year. According to Pro Football Focus, the Orange were the second-worst offensive line in 2020, giving up an average of 3.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss per game. Not only that, head coach Dino Babers had to go to his third-string true freshman quarterback, JaCobian Morgan, for the final few games of the season because of injuries to starter Tommy Devito and backup Rex Culpepper. Chris Elmore (not an offensive lineman) had to fill in at times last year because of Syracuse’s injury woes. At ACC Media Day last month, Babers did not attribute most of those injuries to practice or game action, “We had major injuries, domino effect of injuries in the offensive line. Most of them not on the football field. Most of them happening walking around campus. Just fluke things.”
After the season, Babers hired Mike Schmidt away from San Diego State to be his new offensive line coach, replacing Mike Cavanaugh, who left for Arizona State. Schmidt will be working with multiple returning starters and a couple of newcomers upfront. Better play along the offensive line is paramount to Syracuse winning more than one game this fall. With that, let’s meet the men looking to keep Tommy DeVito (or Garrett Shrader) upright this season.
Airon Servais, Redshirt Senior
Servais is the elder statesman on the Orange offensive line, having played both tackle spots and center throughout his career. SU is counting on Servais to be a leader along the line while likely manning one tackle position, especially after the departure of Texas transfer Willie Tyler. Tommy DeVito and Servais have been together since the quarterback first saw game action in 2018, and are looking to have more success after rough endings in 2019 and 2020.
Matthew Bergeron, Sophomore
Bergeron started every game for the Orange in 2020 at both tackle spots, including eight games at left tackle. Bergeron is the other likely tackle starter along with Servais, and the coaching staff is looking for him to become more consistent as both a pass and run blocker. Left tackle is the likely position for Bergeron, considering the overwhelming number of starts he made in 2020 as a sophomore. He will be counted on as an upperclassman in 2021.
Enrique Cruz, Freshman
Cruz was one of the prizes of Dino Babers 2021 recruiting class as a four-star offensive tackle out of Illinois. Cruz was rated as the fourth overall prospect in the entire state and a top-25 offensive tackle in the class by 247 Sports. Cruz will likely not see action in 2021 but will be groomed to be a starter in 2022 under new offensive line coach Mike Schmidt.
Anthony Red, Redshirt Freshman
Anthony Red is entering his third year with the Orange program, but his second playing as he redshirted in 2019, with his only appearance coming in Syracuse’s beatdown of Duke. Red is likely to provide depth to Servais and Bergeron, as he did in 2020.
Mark Petry, Sophomore
Mark Petry has a very unique story. The reserve lineman was part of the Orange PAT/FG unit in 2020 and was very productive in his role. Petry arrived at SU after attending Ellsworth Community College in 2019 and was an All-Region Honorable Mention. Petry was also born in Germany, one of only two German Orange football players since 1946.
Jakob Bradford, Sophomore
Bradford will provide intriguing depth for Syracuse in 2021 as one of the Orange’s top junior college transfers in the past recruiting cycle. Bradford was rated as the ninth best offensive tackle by 247 Sports and should be a depth tackle for the Orange in 2021 with sights on 2022 and beyond.
Wil Froumy, Redshirt Sophomore
Froumy has had a tough first three years of his Syracuse career. He redshirted in 2018, did not make any appearances in 2019, and missed all of 2020 due to injury. He is considered a reserve offensive lineman and will be asked to provide depth during 2021.
Garth Barclay, Freshman
Barclay has tremendous size at 6’7” 290 pounds, but only appeared in two games in 2020 and is going to be a reserve again in 2021. Coming out of high school, Barclay was one of the top prospects in the state of Pennsylvania and will look to improve under new coach Mike Schmidt before potentially taking on a bigger role in 2022.
Kalan Ellis, Freshman
Ellis is the first of two new Orange Hawaiian offensive linemen and has great size at 6’6” 365 pounds as a true freshman. Ellis was rated the seventh-best prospect in the state of Hawaii by 247 Sports and both him and fellow freshman Austyn Kauhi were recruited from Hawaii to SU by former offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh. Ellis also collected many accolades throughout his high school career including being named a First-Team All-ILH member.
Austyn Kauhi, Freshman
Kauhi comes into his true freshman season as the second of two freshmen offensive linemen from Hawaii and could potentially be a redshirt candidate or provide depth along the offensive line. Kauhi was rated three stars by 247 Sports and was a Polynesian Bowl selection in high school.
Tyler Magnuson, Freshman
Magnuson is also a redshirt candidate for the Orange offensive line coming in as a true freshman from Minnesota. Mike Schmidt has a lot of young developmental products along his offensive line and will look to develop Magnuson along with others in 2021.
Dakota Davis, Redshirt Junior
Davis is the projected starter at left guard for the Orange this season and keeping him healthy after an injury-plagued 2020 will be key for Syracuse. Davis played well in 2019 but missed the start of 2020, and only played in five games, starting three of them. Coming into 2021 healthy, locking down a starting job, and building chemistry with Matthew Bergeron (the projected starting left tackle) are the goals for Davis in August.
Chris Bleich, Redshirt Sophomore
Chris Bleich is arguably the most interesting member of the Syracuse offensive line. Bleich transferred from Florida before last season but was not granted a waiver by the NCAA and had to sit out the season. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, Bleich started eight games at right guard and appeared in 13 games overall for a Gators team that went 11-2. Bleich is a candidate to start at right guard and will be eager to compete after not playing at all in 2020.
Darius Tisdale, Redshirt Junior
Darius Tisdale is entering his fifth collegiate season and third with the Orange in 2021. Tisdale attended Lackawanna Community College before transferring to SU in 2019, where he appeared in all 12 games as a member of the kicking unit. In 2020, Tisdale made ten starts at guard and appeared in all 11 games. The redshirt junior will be competing for a starting guard position with Davis and Bleich and will be an important depth member for the Orange.
Josh Ilaoa, Freshman
Ilaoa is entering his second season in the Syracuse football program after appearing in nine games as a true freshman in 2020. Ilaoa was a part of the stellar Orange special teams unit that saw SU convert 32/35 kicks on the season. Ilaoa will provide additional depth in 2021 and anchor the kicking unit.
Wes Hoeh, Freshman
Hoeh is entering his first year with the Orange and comes in as a top-50 rated prospect from the state of Illinois and is a redshirt candidate. Hoeh also played rugby in high school, showcasing his versatility and physical attributes that will help him along the Orange offensive line.
Ahmad Masood, Freshman
Masood walked on to the SU program last spring and projects to see limited action if any in 2021. At only 250 pounds, Masood will likely be living in the weight room trying to bulk up and prove his worth to the Orange coaches as he eyes a bigger role in 2022.
Carlos Vettorello, Redshirt Sophomore
Vettorello enters his fourth season in orange and has proved to be a great development success story for the Syracuse coaching staff. After sitting out in 2018, the redshirt sophomore started every game over the next two seasons for Syracuse at three different positions. In 2019, Vettorello started eight games at left tackle, three games at center, and one at right tackle. Then in 2020, he took over the starting center job for all eleven games and is likely to be in the same role in 2021 barring injury. In 2020, Vettorello was on the Rimington Award Watch List, awarded to the best center in college football. He is one of the unquestioned leaders and better players along the Orange offensive line and will look to be even better in 2021.
Ryan Kisselstein, Redshirt Sophomore
Also entering his fourth season in Orange, Kisselstein has been a swiss army knife depth piece for Syracuse. He served as the backup center in 2019 and appeared in SU’s win over Western Michigan. At 6’6” and 325 pounds, the redshirt sophomore has good size and the versatility to move around the line and has done so throughout his Syracuse career.