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A fit O-line is an underrated factor in Dino Babers’ new scheme

John Sommers/Icon Sportswire

Syracuse fans have discussed ad nauseam how Dino Babers’ new offensive system will affect the skill positions. The quarterbacks, running backs and receivers, both the upperclassmen and underclassmen — even the new commits — seem extremely excited to be in his fast-paced scheme.

This new offensive system affects the offensive line, too, and Syracuse is counting on a healthier, fitter line in order for the offense to perform better this fall.

Back in the spring, Babers challenged all of his offensive linemen to get in shape. That meant something different for every player. For some, that meant losing weight, and for others, it meant putting on more muscle. Whatever the goal was, Babers was pleased with this unit’s progress.

“I think they’re much better than what we saw in the spring,” Babers said in early August according to Syracuse.com, “And they’re definitely giving us a chance to be good. They’re much improved.”

Getting in better shape is such a focal point for Syracuse’s offensive line because of the speed at which the offense will try to move this season. As always, bulk is still important, but these linemen will have to move quickly in order for the offense to do the same. If they can’t keep up because of cramping, Babers’ offense won’t work as well as it could.

While emphasizing speed, quickness and general conditioning for its line, Syracuse also had to figure out this summer how to replace three starters, including both tackle positions, as redshirt senior Omari Palmer slides inside to right guard.

Redshirt senior Michael Lasker and redshirt junior Jamar McGloster are slated to start at the left and right tackle spots, respectively, after winning the starting jobs in camp. Lasker is a former JUCO player who didn’t play at all last season. He tore his labrum in last year’s spring game, which required surgery. When his strength didn’t return in time before the season, he elected to sit out and redshirt.

Lasker is listed at 6-foot-5 and 312 pounds, but McGloster is even larger at 6-foot-7 and 328 pounds. That size for both players, especially McGloster, will help them overcome a lack of experience, but again, there are also questions of whether they can keep up with the fast-paced system.

The strength of Syracuse’s line will be in the middle. Redshirt senior center Jason Emerich was named to the 2016 Rimington Trophy Watch list. (The Rimington is given to the nation’s best center.) Emerich played in all 12 games last year, starting the final 10 contests.

Palmer at right guard is the only other returning starter, although he played right tackle last season. He has more starts than all other Syracuse linemen put together, so the Orange will certainly count on his experience, and Emerich’s leadership, to help the unit. Look for most of Syracuse’s running offense to initially go right up the gut behind Emerich and Palmer.

Finally, redshirt sophomore Aaron Roberts will start at left guard. He nearly won a starting job last summer and did so this offseason. At 280 pounds, his size is more prototypical for a lineman in Babers’ scheme, so expectations are for him to be SU’s most “athletic” downfield blocker.

Behind those five, there isn’t a ton of experience, but a lot of bodies and depth exist. If the Orange linemen really did improve their conditioning as Babers said, the unit shouldn’t slow down the Syracuse offense, which will be central to the team’s development.

A fit O-line is an underrated factor in Dino Babers’ new scheme

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