CAPS: Returning starter from 2005
Bold: 2006 Pre-Spring projected starter
#: Suspended from spring practice
^: Eligibility issues
$: Heisman Trophy Candidate
|2006 Syracuse Offensive Tackles|
|Returning Players||C. Chavers||So.|
|Incoming Players||A. Rosner||Fr.|
|2006 Syracuse Centers|
|Returning Players||J. OUTTEN||Sr.|
|2006 Syracuse Offensive Guards|
|Returning Players||C. MADISON||Jr.|
|2006 Syracuse Offensive Line|
|Incoming Players||R. Bartholomew||Fr.|
To say that Syracuse's offensive line was poor in 2005 may be the understatement of the century. Generating only 2.96 yards per rushing attempt and yielding an incredible 37 sacks on the season, the Orange offensive line was downright terrible in its 11-game campaign a year ago.
Unfortunately, the execution is not likely to improve significantly in 2006.
Through approximately ten pre-season practices, the Orange have yet to solidify its starting rotation up front. As it stands currently, Syracuse Post-Standard staff writer Donnie Webb believes the offensive line will eventually look as follows:
Based on what's taking place in the short period of practice open to the media, it seems SU is sticking with a working order of Corey Chavers and Eugene Newsome at tackle, Ryan Durand and Carroll Madison at guard; and either Outten or McCall at center.
There are two frightening aspects of this report. First, Syracuse is likely to start a combination of two sophomores and two juniors at the guard and tackle position. Given the youth of this group and Bob Wylie's new strategic approach, a premonition that appeared in this notebook in March of 2006 may just come to fruition:
Speaking of the offensive line, the more things change, the more I fear they will stay the same. On Syracuse's 2006 pre-spring depth chart, Greg Robinson has listed four new starters on a group that was amongst the Big East's worst in 2005. Things were so bad in 2005 for the Syracuse offensive line that coach Bob Wylie stated the following when asked about implementing a new, simplified approach to blocking:"The learning curve wasn't as fast as I thought it would be," he said. "I thought they would grab it faster. I thought they knew what I was talking about.""You can't assume that they know [the new blocking system], that they're going to be better because they've been in the system for a year. We're not taking that for granted. We're starting right from the beginning and we're putting it all back in again. Now, are they going to understand it better? They have a better chance to."
Great. Not only does the Orange lack any talent up front, they apparently have comprehension levels of a Pop Warner football team.
While this is a cause for concern, the real issue with the offensive line is the center position. Last year's starter Justin Outten had a horrific 2005 campaign, often playing hurt and frequently drawing the ire of more than a few Orange fans. As any knowledgeable football fan knows, the success or failure of an offensive line turns on the talent at the center position. Having the responsibility of identifying the defense and audibling offensive protection packages, the man crouched over the football is the linchpin in an offense's ability to move the football.
And Syracuse still has no idea who is going to snap the bean to Perry Patterson in 2006.
Recent reports indicate that Justin Outten and Marvin McCall are locked in a tight battle, but unfortunately, neither has particularly distinguished himself:
Senior Justin Outten and junior Marvin McCall continue to rotate in their battle for the starting center job. Coaches say they won’t make a decision on a starter any time soon.There is still significant strides to be made, however, as recent comments made by Outten and McCall indicate that they are still learning as opposed to instinctively executing:
"We don’t want to,” Robinson said after practice on Monday. “We want to find out how good they can get. The moment you shut it down, one of them is going to shut it down a little.”
Robinson said he has seen growth in his troubled offensive line.
“Periodically, they do real well,” Robinson said. “Then there will be somewhere where they won’t. I’m just saying, they’re better than when we ended spring ball. I see it. I like the way they’re playing together as a unit. I like the camaraderie of the group. In the offensive line, that’s important. I see their run blocking is getting better and their protection world is getting better. I like the progress. They’re not there. We’ve still got plenty of work to do.”
"We sat down in the meeting rooms the whole summer and went over each play and the calls," Outten said. "We definitely have a better grasp. I'm recognizing the defenses better and the blitzes and putting guys where they have to be now instead of just second-guessing myself."In terms of analysis, there is not a lot to say about this unit. The Orange's 2006 season should be a repeat of its 2005 campaign, although expectations of mild improvement are not particularly radical. So long as this unit stays relatively injury free, Greg Robinson will be able to exercise the option of redshirting his long list of newcomers, allowing the group a full year of exposure to the West Coast Offense and its intricate blocking schemes.
"When theyfirst installed, it I didn't really understand the calls and stuff like that," McCall said, perhaps explaining why he stood on the sideline while Outten played injured last season. "Now there is much more confidence."
If that can occur, Syracuse will have positioned itself spectacularly for 2007.