The offensive tackle position is one of the most critical in all of football. Tackles protect the quarterback from edge rushers and the signal caller’s blindside. Syracuse has put a premium on offensive tackle recruiting over the last two cycles, snagging three in the 2015 class and having on verbally committed in 2016.
Syracuse is not done in 2016, however, looking to add even more depth to the position.
What exactly does the Orange look for in an offensive tackle? How do they evaluate each prospect in order to determine which is the right fit for their system?
CuseNation.com has spoken to several sources to find out, and here is what we were able to determine.
Syracuse likes size at the offensive tackle position. Who doesn’t right? But it has to be the right kind of size. Size without the ability to move and without athleticism is not what Syracuse wants.
More important than a massive tackle is one with fast feet, quickness, and the ability to get downfield to help run block on the second level and on screens.
The ideal Syracuse tackle is somewhere between 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-8, around 300-325 pounds that possesses those athletic abilities. Those are the most important traits for what Syracuse wants to do.
Keep in mind, many high school tackles do not have that kind of weight quite yet, and come to college with the ability to add size to their frame. But the height, frame and athletic skills are necessities.
Look at who Syracuse has recruited and received commitments from in recent years. Cam DeGeorge in 2016 is 6-foot-5, 275 lbs with a long, athletic frame. He has great feet and moves very well.
Class of 2014 signee Denzel Ward is 6-foot-8, but listed at over 350 pounds during his redshirt freshman season. That weight has limited his ability to move and do what Syracuse needs, which could hinder his ability to see the field if he does not get that under control. Ward may have to lose 20-30 pounds in order to get some of that athleticism and quickness back.
If you take raw height, length, footwork, athleticism and quickness, you have the foundation for a solid offensive tackle. Syracuse looks for each of these in potential prospects they will pursue.
While hand technique and placement are important, they can be taught. Subpar technique in high school will not shy Syracuse away from looking at someone if he possesses the other desired traits.
The same is true for strength. Clearly a prospect who already possesses elite strength is desired. But if everything else is there, Syracuse feels their strength and conditioning program can develop that aspect of a recruit’s game.
The footwork attribute is perhaps the most critical once the appropriate height, length and overall size has been reached. It consists of multiple components. First is the quickness of out his stance.
The quicker an offensive tackle is at the snap, the sooner he can engage an opposing defensive linemen or linebacker.
The next part of footwork is an explosive first step. After getting out of his stance at the snap, can the lineman take the first step to help minimize the speed advantage of his opponent? That is critical to what Syracuse looks for in a prospect.
The list of offensive tackles Syracuse has pursued in the last two or three cycles fits the mold of what Syracuse wants at the position. They feel they have done a nice job filling the position with quality depth that possesses athleticism and upside.