In the weeks leading up to fall camp, CuseNation.com will be previewing each position to look at the battles that will be taking place. We start today with the center position.
Few will be paying attention to the battle at center because senior Macky MacPherson is entrenched as the starter. He has improved year after year in his technique to add to his intelligence which has always been a strength. There is little to no chance that he is not the starter when the Orange open the season again Penn State.
The interesting battle is for backup center. Most hope this battle is simply one for training camp entertainment and one that doesn't become an important part of the season. That would mean an injury to MacPherson which no one wants to see.
But the battle could play a role in who takes over that position in 2014 and beyond. Jason Emerich, who was impressive in the 2012 fall camp as a freshman, is the favorite to be MacPherson's backup and be the long-term answer.
Nipping at his heals will be JUCO transfer John Miller. He has the versatility to play guard or center, but played center primarily at the JUCO level. Miller has the advantage in game experience because of his play at Los Angeles Harbor College.
Neither, however, has the advantage in terms of playbook knowledge. Miller arrived on campus in January and has had as much time with the new staff as Emerich.
The key will not be which player is better in pass blocking technique or who can pave the way for the talented Syracuse running backs. But rather who is able to master the scheme in order to make the appropriate checks at the line of scrimmage. Which player can adjust pass protection or shift run blocking responsibilities based on the defensive alignment.
Miller was very impressive on tape, but he is going against a different level of talent at the division one level. Emerich held his own as a true freshman during last year's camp.
Ultimately the backup spot is Emerich's to lose, but Miller will make a push. He's a physical blocker that has the potential to contribute in the ACC. Emerich is a young talent that the staff believes has a high ceiling. Ultimately, Miller's value may be higher in 2013 as a backup guard, which will help Emerich land the backup role.
Starter: Macky MacPherson
Backup: Jason Emerich