The struggles of Syracuse's offensive line over the last two seasons have been well documented. The offensive line failed to consistently generate holes in the running game, gave up almost instant pressure on passing plays and that severely hampered the effectiveness of the offense as well as play calling from the staff.
With the commitment of Texas transfer Willie Tyler, Airon Servais announcing his return, a junior college prospect coming in and five incoming true freshmen as well, there is a forgotten man that should play a critical role in the offensive line next season. Chris Bleich.
Bleich was a highly coveted recruit out of high school with offers from Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Nebraska, North Carolina, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Central Florida, Virginia Tech and UCLA among others. He signed with Florida, redshirted for one season and then started eight of nine games as a redshirt freshman. A player who had offers from the SEC, Big-10, Pac-12 and ACC, who started for a really good SEC program as a freshman. Those types do not grow on trees.
Yet Syracuse has that guy on its roster. While he should have been eligible last season (but that failure by the NCAA will not be discussed here), he is now ready to contribute. He is expected to earn one of the starting guard spots and help solidify the interior of the offensive line. The interior was so hit by the injury bug that fullback/h-back Chris Elmore had to move to guard. While he was better than most expected there, his move underscored the need.
Bleich, along with the recent addition of transfer Willie Tyler and health of returning players, should give Syracuse fans hope about a dramatically improved offensive line next season. The depth is there to give Syracuse a variety of options. Whether Tyler lands the right tackle spot and Servais moves to center, or Tyler earns the other guard spot or Servais moves to guard or Carlos Vettorello moves over to guard or an unexpected player emerges.
It is easy to understand why Bleich's eligibility this season could be forgotten. Adding a Texas transfer will create buzz. Syracuse also has a quarterback transfer which will also start conversations. The defense had a good season last year and there are several young players to be excited about. Syracuse got two running backs, who opted out of the 2020 season, back and have some hyped recruits coming in as well.
Combine all of that with the fact that guard is not a sexy position in football. It is often forgotten when the job is performed well. It is only when there are glaring mistakes that it gets noticed, as has been the case the last two seasons. Syracuse fans are hoping they can go back to forgetting about that spot and back to focusing on the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.
But make no mistake about it. If the Syracuse offensive line, under the tutelage of new offensive line coach Mike Schmidt, takes a big step forward, Chris Bleich will be a big reason.