SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- There was never any question where Macky MacPherson wanted to play college football.
The last name alone should give it away. He is the grandson of legendary Syracuse coach Dick MacPherson, and he grew up within spitting distance of the Orange campus. As a kid, he served as a ball boy during football games at the Carrier Dome.
"I fell in love with Syracuse," he said. "I always wanted to play here. I dreamed about it."
Now in his second year in the program, MacPherson is about to fulfill that dream to its fullest. He will be the starting center this season for the Orange, replacing Ryan Bartholomew and joining four other returning starters on what should be the strength of the team.
MacPherson knows all about Syracuse history. His task now is to know the offensive playbook in and out. After all, he'll be a sophomore and first-time starter who's responsible for barking out play calls to more veteran teammates.
"I think they trust me with the calls," he said. "I never feel nervous. I feel like I've got a good handle on the playbook."
MacPherson served as the team's long snapper last season and backed up Bartholomew. He said Bartholomew gave him invaluable pointers on the position, and guards Andrew Tiller and Zack Chibane helped him out this spring. Snapping has never been a problem for MacPherson, who rifled out shotgun snaps about 95 percent of the time for his high school spread offense.
"He's a smart kid and he's tough," quarterback Ryan Nassib said. "He can really shotgun snap it. And he's got that last name, which is his horseshoe."
About the only thing MacPherson lacks is size. He is listed at 6-foot-2 and 256 pounds. By contrast, Bartholomew was listed at 298 pounds last year. The first-team All-Big East center last season was USF's Sampson Genus, who weighed 314 pounds.
So, yeah, MacPherson will be giving up a lot of weight. That wasn't too big of an issue in the spring, because Syracuse's defensive tackles are undersized, too. But what about when he goes up against 300-pound nose tackles during the season?
Head coach Doug Marrone, a former offensive lineman himself, waves off any concern about the size issue. He points to former Miami Dolphins center and NFL Hall of Famer Dwight Stephenson, who weighed about 255 pounds during his career.
"For me, it's about technique and speed -- using my mind instead of my size," MacPherson said. "Obviously, I'm not the biggest offensive lineman around. But whatever I lack in size, I make up for in toughness or quickness."
The bloodlines don't hurt, either.