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How Matthew Bergeron’s development for American football made him ‘not a normal freshman’


first_img Published on November 25, 2019 at 5:25 pm Contact Josh: jlschafe@syr.edu | @Schafer_44 Facebook Twitter Google+ In August, freshman Matthew Bergeron’s welcoming to United States football came against the equivalent of many NCAA offensive tackles’ nightmare. Alton Robinson, who tied for the 11th most sacks in 2018, lined up against the freshman offensive lineman from Canada. On the snap of the ball, Robinson exploded his arms into Bergeron, who came into the block standing too tall, an unpowerful position for an offensive lineman. The Senior Bowl-bound defensive end barreled the new Syracuse offensive tackle into the ground. “I’ve stayed low since that day,” Bergeron said. Around two months after his learning moment with Robinson, Bergeron was sprung into another uncomfortable situation — his first career start as a true freshman at Florida State. With the departure of former Syracuse tackle Ryan Alexander, the Orange (4-7, 1-6 Atlantic Coast) have leaned on Bergeron at the right tackle position in their last four games. Though only the fourth true freshman offensive lineman to start for Syracuse since 1986, according to Syracuse.com, the 6-foot-4, 311-pound tackle has met head coach Dino Babers’ expectations.“Matthew is not a normal freshman,” Babers said. “He’s stronger and bigger than what you think he is. He’s not full-grown because he can be a lot stronger and he will be a lot stronger.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMax Freund | Staff PhotographerBergeron, who will be 20 this February, is a year older than the usual college freshman due to differences in the education system in his hometown of Victoriaville, Quebec, Canada. In Quebec, students attend 11 years of school before going to a pre-university program for two or three years prior to attending a university, Bergeron said. Though Bergeron didn’t enroll early at SU and arrived on campus in May, redshirt junior Airon Servais said his counterpart has picked up the playbook several months quicker than Servais did as an underclassman.“He’s done a really good job of picking up all our schemes and understanding the way plays are supposed to be blocked,” Servais said. “I think he’s a really intelligent player.”Bergeron said he ran an up-tempo offense similar to Syracuse, though not as fast, in Canada. The biggest difference playing American football has been the speed of the players on defense. In Canada, bigger players aren’t also fast, Bergeron noted. This was the case when Bergeron trained with the Quebec team in the 2017 Canada Cup and met his offensive line mentor, Remi Giguere. Bergeron credits most of his fundamentals to Giguere, who he drove more than an hour to visit each week for additional drills. Giguere’s biggest emphasis with his linemen is simple body mechanics, starting with linemen positioning themselves a bit higher in their stance than usual. Often, linemen are told “the lowest man wins,” and are encouraged to start in a stance similar to a squat. However, this thinking is flawed, Giguere said, because the weakest point of most people’s squats is the bottom. Athletes are often stronger closer to the top of the squat, referencing how it’s easier to pick the weight up out of the squat rack than it is to do the exercise itself. This stance, which has Bergeron sitting several inches higher than Servais, allows Bergeron not to move up or down on the ball’s snap. Giguere taught Bergeron that at the top level of college football, the tenth of a second required to adjust the body out of a squat position is the difference between good pass protection and a potential sack. Bergeron doesn’t waste any time. “If you have a great body, great strength, great power but you can’t apply it right off the bat,” Giguere said, “It’s tough to be the most efficient o-lineman that you can be.” Bergeron’s tinkered with his stance a bit since arriving at Syracuse, namely moving his feet wider to keep a stronger base so players like Robinson don’t run him over again. Through four games, it’s working. Syracuse’s offensive line had its best statistical game of the year against Duke, and Bergeron was leading parts of it, pulling through holes and holding strong in pass protection. Giguere isn’t surprised. After a workout with Bergeron in July where the duo combined Giguere’s workouts with Syracuse’s, he knew his Canadian prodigy was ready for the U.S. Now, Bergeron’s coaches at Syracuse are seeing the same thing.“He’s progressing and he’s getting better which is what we all need to do,” Babers said. “So he’s in an exciting situation right now.” Commentslast_img

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