first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Syracuse offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh isn’t as tall his players. His bald head doesn’t reach far above the chests of many of his 6-foot-4 or five-inch blockers. So when Cavanaugh wants to be heard, he touches stomachs.“Ev,’ we got get better,” guard Evan Adams recalled in a raspy rendition of Cavanaugh’s voice back in November. “(If) this is where we want to be, we got keep doing this man.”Adams, now a redshirt senior, admits he doesn’t love his coach in those moments. Cavanaugh, like many offensive line coaches, is a fundamentals guy. The harping on hand placement, footwork and the tedious repetition of drills “can make you crazy,” Adams said.“You come to love and appreciate him,” said Adams in late March, though. “You know it’s a slow start. He’s going to chew you out because everything that you do is not fine-tuned and made right, but as you get better and better you’re going to start liking him more and more.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIn that moment, Cavanaugh was what he describes as “Miserable Mike,” the side of his personality that’s never satisfied. While Syracuse is months away from its first game, the new offensive linemen have a lot to learn. In the brief practice moments open to the media this spring, Cavanaugh’s demanded proper posture on blocks and impeccable footwork, and he’s asked to see it again and again.Josh Shub-Seltzer | Staff PhotographerBut Syracuse’s second-year offensive line coach, who’s spent 33 years tooling linemen, isn’t just a yeller. “Positive Cav,” his other personality, bonds with Adams through their Connecticut roots, sometimes discussing the best pizza joints in their area. Other offensive lineman like redshirt-junior Sam Heckel enjoy their coaches’ Hawaiian spin on Teriyaki Chicken he’s cooked at linemen dinners.It’s a love and hate relationship for Syracuse offensive linemen with Cavanaugh, who spent two years in the NFL and another 14 years in Power 5 conferences. But with Heckel now out for the spring with an undisclosed surgery, and three other 2018 linemen graduated, the Orange will rely on Cavanaugh to patch it together.“He’s got that great combination,” said Mike Riley, who had Cavanaugh on his staff at Oregon State and Nebraska for a combined 13 seasons. “I always used to say Cav could beat them with a stick and they’d come back for more.”Due to Syracuse team policy, Cavanaugh wasn’t made available for this story.In 10 seasons coaching under Riley at Oregon State (2005-14), 23 of his offensive linemen received all conference honors. Cavanaugh guided three offensive linemen to All-American seasons at Oregon State and influenced several NFL careers. One of those players, Mike Remmers, has played eight seasons in the NFL after joining the Beavers as a walk-on.In Cavanaugh’s first season with Syracuse, Koda Martin and Cody Conway earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors. The Orange improved their rushing yards per game average by 37.7 yards and set a school-record for rushing touchdowns (38).Syracuse returned three of its rotational contributors on the offensive line before Heckel’s injury, which forced Airon Servais back to center. Both tackle spots are filled with players who haven’t started a game, with Carlos Vettorello lining up at the left and Mike Clark at the right, while Dakota Davis has slotted into left guard.Max Freund | Staff Photographer“His trademark is development,” Riley said, “and so he’s really, really good with young guys that have some tools but need to learn how to play.”Syracuse players said Cavanaugh helped their hand placement and pass setting technique. In the run game, this means adjusting play side hands to the outside on wide run plays, in order to seal the defense. On the inside zone, hands should be in tighter on the defender in an attempt for a straight push forward.Conway and Heckel learned from Cavanaugh not to bend at the waist. When their helmets dip forward and bodyweight falls onto the opponent, they lose control of the situation. The group often practices how to defend against spin moves. Adams calls it “playing the piano” on a defender’s back, meaning the players must match the defender’s movements with their hands. As long as they keep resetting their hands, they won’t lose position.“He’s a great technician,” Heckel said. “He’ll make us do so many repetitions just to get the smallest thing correct. And I think that’s been the most helpful thing for me at least.”Adams met with Cavanaugh after the Camping World Bowl. In what he described as a “sit down moment,” Cavanaugh told Adams he had an opportunity to be great in football and doing what he wants to do.It was a quintessential Cavanaugh moment. An off-field gesture that brought meaning to the on-field intensity.“Just listen to me,” Adams remembered Cavanaugh said, “and I promise I’ll get you there.” Comments Published on April 10, 2019 at 11:28 pm Contact Josh: jlschafe@syr.edu | @Schafer_44last_img

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