Chris Elmore, Aaron Hackett’s blocking key to Syracuse’s running game

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Chris Elmore loves hitting guys. That is, lining up at fullback or tight end, springing forward when the ball is snapped and blocking oncoming defenders. That’s part of the reason why he earned the nickname “Rhino” last season — because of his willingness to run through anyone and anything. This summer, Elmore made an effort to shed some of the weight that partially earned him the moniker as one of the biggest mammals in the world. He’s now down to 279 pounds, 16 fewer than his listed weight on the Syracuse roster. “I definitely tried to cut down, be more of a technician-type dude, not just use my size all the time,” Elmore said. “So I’m feeling good, looking good.”Meanwhile, Aaron Hackett did the opposite. The junior tight end put on “eight or nine” pounds this summer in an effort to strengthen the blocking side of his game, in addition to the pass-catching abilities he already possesses. The two headline No. 21 Syracuse’s (1-0) fullback-tight end group that head coach Dino Babers uses frequently. The two can line up in the backfield, at the end of the line or split out wide to create mismatches. In SU’s up-tempo offense, Hackett and Elmore can give Syracuse unique advantages in both the running and passing game. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe departures of Ravian Pierce to graduation, Gabe Horan to medical disqualification and Jesse Conners to injury have left the position group thin. But with the improvements to their bodies and skills, Elmore and Hackett have ensured that the group is as effective as any on the team. “We rotate around a lot,” Elmore said. “We gotta bring (freshman tight end Luke Benson) up to speed, with me and Hackett being the two older guys in the room. But he’s coming along good. It’s nothing we can’t handle.”Aside from slimming down, Elmore also changed his blocking technique this summer, one that won’t be as reliant on pure size anymore. He aims to play in the NFL one day, he said, and realized during this offseason that if he wants to reach that goal, he’ll have to know the basics of blocking first.One of his primary responsibilities as SU’s versatile fullback is to lead the way for the running backs. Elmore is always a factor in goal-line situations, either lining up directly behind one of his offensive linemen or in front of the running back in the I-formation. He even rushed for three touchdowns in his first two seasons at Syracuse. When he’s not taking goal-line carries, he’s usually making key blocks on edge rushers to open up holes for his running backs, like he did against Liberty.Hackett, unlike Elmore, is more involved in the passing game for the Orange. While he caught just four passes last season, one of them was a touchdown and the other three went for 42 yards in Syracuse’s Camping World Bowl win over West Virginia. On Saturday, Hackett caught Tommy DeVito’s first pass of the game before assuming blocking duties for the remainder of the contest. That’s similar to how he first began his SU career, strictly blocking in goal-line sets and seeing few targets, just like Benson, a freshman, did against the Flames. “It’s big. Hackett knows what he’s doing, Elmo, he knows what he’s doing,” Babers said. “Those guys are critical to what we do. And they help the run game go.”After contributing to the passing game in the first quarter, Hackett helped spring SU’s longest play of the contest, a 42-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter by Moe Neal. Hackett began the play lined up as a tight end before turning inside at the snap and engaging Liberty linebacker Brandon Tillmon in a block that allowed Neal to break loose.Hackett learned a hard-nosed style of blocking in high school, something he added to his game before he perfected his route-running and receiving ability. Now, he said he wants to be a “jack-of-all-trades” tight end, someone who can make an impact as a blocker and receiver. For both Elmore and Hackett, the key to producing in the run game and otherwise is their toughness and versatility. “If I’m going into a street fight with anyone, I’m taking Chris Elmore,” Hackett said. “Anytime we line up in 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends), that’s the mentality that I think both of us have, is we have to out-physical and out-tough whoever’s across from us.” Comments Published on September 4, 2019 at 11:20 pm Contact Eric: [email protected] | @esblack34last_img

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