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ACC Positional Group Rankings: Offensive Line (Atlantic)

Going into last season, BC was expected to have one of the best offensive lines in the ACC. But they struggled to adjust to the new offensive system. How does BC’s O-line stack up against the rest of the conference after some reshuffling and with a year of experience in the new scheme?

As part of our summer ACC rankings series, in addition to the more fun categories (stadiums, uniforms, etc.), we’ll also be ranking each position group for every ACC team. This exercise provides an excellent opportunity to take stock of not only BC’s talent and depth at each position but also compare to the rest of the conference. At the end of this series, we should see how each team stacks up against each other and predict how each team will finish. One note before we begin: this process will take all players into account, not just the starters. At certain positions, depth is arguably just as important as talent.

A few weeks ago, we looked at the tight end position, and BC remained in the top-tier in the conference. BC has had one of the better offensive lines in the conference for the last few years. But there were some less than stellar outings last year for the big boys upfront; many played different positions, and they struggled to consistently succeed in the new offensive scheme. Let’s see how BC’s group ranks against the rest of the conference.

A few housekeeping notes: I broke this article up into two because this one is very long; the offensive lines are the biggest (in terms of numbers in addition to physical size) position group. Additionally, the offensive lines across the ACC are quite good; based on my research, I would say that more than half of the offensive lines in the conference are above average, relative to the rest of the country. Even the teams at the bottom of the conference are not atrocious in the trenches. In this iteration of this series, I will list the presumed starting offensive line from left to right with their positions in parentheses. I’ll also list the backup players’ general positions (OT, OG, etc.).

Starter or presumed starter in italics

7. Syracuse: Matthew Bergeron (LT), Dakota Davis (LG), Carlos Vetorello (C), Darius Tisdale (RG), Airon Servais (RT); Chris Bleich (OG), Patrick Davis (OT/OG), Josh Ilaoa (OG), Mark Petry (OT/OG), Ryan Kisselstein (OT/OG), Josh Kosciol (C), Garth Barclay (OT), Wil Froumy (OT/OG), Anthony Red (OT/OG), Ahmad Masood (OL)

The Orange close out the offensive rankings at the bottom again. Despite Syracuse’s fast-paced wide-open offense, their offensive line greatly struggled last year in both the run and the pass. Airon Servais is an interesting player, as he kicked outside to tackle after starting at center for multiple seasons. Despite his experience (entering his sixth season), he has struggled at tackle. Matthew Bergeron is back to start at left tackle, where he was up-and-down throughout the season. Dakota Davis missed most of the season due to injury, while Darius Tisdale looks to return to start at right guard, where he was mediocre last year. Carlos Vettorello moved inside from tackle to center last season after starting eight games at left tackle in 2019, but he turned in another below-average season.

Unfortunately, the depth behind the starters for Syracuse is lacking, both in numbers and talent. Chris Bleich transfers in from Florida and could supplant one of the returning starters at guard. Patrick Davis missed all but one game in 2020 has been a backup/special teams player for the previous three seasons. Josh Iloa got some reps in garbage time and played decently well in a small sample size. Mark Petry played primarily on special teams and is probably too small to consistently play on offense. Conversely, Ryan Kisselstein is a massive redshirt sophomore (6’6”, 320 lbs) with only 14 offensive snaps to his name. Josh Kosciol and Garth Barclay are the only other linemen on the roster with any playing experience; Kosciol is a short, squat interior lineman, while Barclay is a tall, lanky offensive tackle. 

Will Froumy and Anthony Red are redshirt sophomores who have yet to see the field. Ahmad Masood is a walk-on who is only 6’2” 241 pounds and might need to switch positions. This group has a decent amount of experience, but it’s not quality experience. I’d anticipate some different combinations along the line this year, but I don’t think it will be enough to save Dino Babers’ jobs.

6. Louisville: Trevor Reid (LT), Caleb Chandler (LG), Cole Bentley (C), Adonis Boone (RG), Renato Brown (RT); Bryan Hudson (OG), Joshua Black (OG), Austin Collins (C), Emmanuel Sowders (OG/OT), Kobe Baynes (OG/OT), Luke Kandra (OG/OT), Desmond Daniels (OT), Aaron Gunn (OG/OT), Michael Gonzalez (OG/OT), Tim Lawson (OT), Travis Taylor (OG/OT)

Despite a relatively hot start at Louisville, Scott Satterfield’s seat is starting to get a little warm. The lack of consistency along the offensive line surely will not help lower the temperature. There are a few players that are among the best in the conference at their position, but there are many more questions than answers on this line. 

Cole Bentley and Caleb Chandler have been playing next to each other for the better part of three seasons now, and they’re a very solid duo on the interior. Adonis Boone was very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis at left tackle last season but is reportedly kicking inside to right guard. Renato Brown played decently well, especially for a true freshman, but he’s still far from a finished product. That leaves the left tackle position open. Trevor Reid is expected to start there; he’s a former JUCO player that only played 18 snaps last year but apparently won the “most improved player” award this spring. Bryan Hudson transferred from Virginia Tech this offseason to be closer to home; he’s a redshirt sophomore that played ten games with two starts last year. If Boone stays at left tackle, he could slide into right guard. Joshua Black and Austin Collins both started the season finale against Wake Forest but struggled immensely. 

None of the other players on the roster have any playing experience at the college level; furthermore, most of the Cardinals’ offensive linemen are undersized. Emmanuel Sowders is a junior but hasn’t seen the field and is only 272 pounds. Kobe Baynes and Luke Kandra are both second-year players who have not taken a snap. Desmond Daniel also redshirted last year and is transitioning from tight end to offensive lineman this offseason. Aaron Gunn and Michael Gonzalez are true freshmen who were top-40 guards in the country, while Tim Lawson and Travis Taylor as walk-ons. As previously mentioned, there are a few standouts on this line (Bentley and Chandler). But the left tackle and right guard positions are in flux, and the lack of depth is very concerning. If only one player goes down for an extensive amount of time, the line could completely collapse.

5. Florida State: DeVontay Love-Taylor (LT), Dontae Lucas (LG), Maurice Smith (C), Baveon Johnson (RG), Robert Scott (RT); Darius Washington (OT), Brady Scott (OG), Andrew Boselli (OG), Dillan Gibbons (OG), Thomas Shrader (OG), Ira Henry III (OG), Lloyd Willis (OT), Jalen Goss (OT), Robert Elder IV (OG), Zane Herring (OT/OG), Dylan Black (OG), Ben Ostaszewski (OG), David Stickle (OG), Bryson Estes (C), Rod Orr (OT), Christopher Williams (OG/OT), Alto Tarver (OG), Zach Hannaford (C)

The Seminoles’ struggles on the offensive line have been the principal story in Tallahassee since Jimbo Fisher’s last season and the crucial factor in their downfall from one of the top programs in college football. Mike Norvell has slowly but surely been rebuilding this team since he arrived, but the offensive line is still a bit questionable. The line dealt with multiple injuries (along with COVID issues) throughout 2020, so hopefully, FSU can find some continuity.

Devontay Love-Taylor transferred last year from FIU and started multiple games at different positions before suffering an injury. Still, he put in some quality performances that should earn him the starting left tackle job. Dontae Lucas should be back at left guard but struggled in 2020 and could be replaced. Maurice Smith is very small even for a center (6’3”, 277 lbs) and struggled last year, but he’s only a redshirt sophomore and could improve. Baveon Johnson enters his sixth year in Tallahassee and has started at center as well and could take over for Smith, but he’s penciled in at right guard. Robert Scott started all but two games at right tackle as a redshirt freshman last year and was actually decent.

The silver lining of the injuries and COVID issues that plagued the Seminoles last year is that many depth players got some playing time. Darius Washington began the year as the starting left tackle and took over the job late in the year after Love-Taylor went down; he’s another young player whose best football is ahead of him. Brady Scott is a massive redshirt junior with starting experience at guard and tackle, but he lost the starting jobs for a reason. Andrew Boselli is a similar player, but with even less playing experience. 

Dillan Gibbons transfers in from Notre Dame with some experience and could contend for one of the guard jobs. Thomas Shrader played a bit as a true freshman last year but got benched in his one start and ended up redshirting. Ira Henry III only played three offensive snaps last year but contributed on special teams in every game. Lloyd Willis is a massive redshirt freshman who only played one game last year. Jalen Goss has been a key contributor on special teams but hasn’t played on offense since 2019.

Zane Herring redshirted last year due to injury, while Robert Elder IV and Dylan Black are undersized scout team players. Ben Ostazewski and David Stickle are tight-end converts who have yet to see the field for the Seminoles. Bryson Estes and Rod Orr are the true freshmen on scholarship; while many players ahead of them on the depth chart have experience, the coaching staff has never been reticent to play true freshmen. 

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The Seminoles have a very deep group on the offensive line, but there has been lots of shuffling of positions and players, so the chemistry might be lacking. However, there are some really solid players that could help Florida State get back to playing consistently good football. Christopher Williams, Alto Tarver, and Zach Hannaford are three more true freshmen who will most likely contribute on the scout team; Williams has a decent chance of seeing the field given his size (6’5”, 346 lbs).

4. Wake Forest: Zach Tom (LT), Sean Maginn (LG), Michael Jurgens (C), Loic Ngassam Nya (RG), Je’Vionte Nash (RT); Terrance Davis (OG), CJ Elmonus (OT), Spencer Clapp (OT), Devonte Gordon (OT/OG), Luke Petitbon (C), George Sell (OT/OG), Trey Turner (C), Zach Vaughan (OT), Christian Forbes (OG), Thomas Grippo (C/OG), Jaydon Collins (OT), Erik Russell (OT), Matt Gulbin (OG), Nick Sharpe (OG/C)

Similar to North Carolina, Wake Forest’s offense masks some of the deficiencies of their offensive line. However, Wake Forest’s group is among the better in the conference, and they’ve all been playing together for multiple seasons. Every starter is back from 2020, and they even added some talent and depth. Zach Tom started at center all of 2019 but kicked out to left tackle this past year and played very well. Sean Maginn is back for his third season as the starting left guard. Michael Jurgens returns at center but is probably the weak link on the line. Loic Ngassam Nya put together a solid season at right guard after an inconsistent 2019. Finally, Je’Vionte Nash is undersized, especially for a right tackle (6’3”, 298 lbs), but played very well in 2020 in his first year as a starter. Nash is a sixth-year senior with 38 games under his belt.

The Demon Deacons dipped into the transfer portal and added Terrance Davis from Maryland. Davis hasn’t played since 2019 due to injury but started 31 games for the Terrapins and could fill in at guard. CJ Elmonus played in four games in 2020 as a redshirt freshman and will backup the tackles. Spencer Clapp is another backup tackle, but he has missed multiple seasons due to injuries. DeVonte Gordon is a redshirt sophomore who played sparingly in garbage time last year. Luke Petitbon played in six games last year as a true freshman and could fill in on the interior. George Sell maintained his redshirt last year, only appearing in two games.

Trey Turner is a redshirt sophomore who hasn’t seen any playing time. Zach Vaughan took a redshirt last year to add some weight; Christian Forbes and Thomas Grippo did the same. Jaydon Collins and Erik Russell are two true freshmen that project as tackles but will need to redshirt to add some weight. Matt Gulbin and Nick Sharpe are two guard-types who will also most likely redshirt due to the depth at the position. The Demon Deacons’ offensive line has lots of experience, and they’ve played well within their system. But they have some weak links, and their ceiling isn’t very high. They’re a very solid line, but they won’t dominate their opponents individually and independently of the scheme.

3. Boston College: Tyler Vrabel (LT), Zion Johnson (LG), Alec Lindstrom (C), Christian Mahogany (RG), Ben Petrula (RT); Finn Dirstine (OG/OT), Jack Conley (OT), Blerim Rustemi (OG), Dwayne Alick (C/OG), Ozzy Trapilo (OT), Kevin Pyne (OT), Kevin Cline (OT), Erik Larson (OG/OT), Matthew Taylor (OG), Drew Kendall (OG/C), Otto Hess (OT), Illja Krajnovic (OT), Nick Thomas (OG)

Going into the 2020 season, despite much of the uncertainty, many felt that the BC offensive line would be a consistent, reliable part of the team. Four starters returned from the 2019 team, but most of them switched positions. There were some serious growing pains early in the season, especially in pass protection. As the season went on, that improved, but the run game suffered greatly, drawing a stark contrast to the teams of the last five years. 

This year, all five starters return, and most are switching back to their natural positions. Zion Johnson and Ben Petrula returned for an extra season, despite Johnson being projected as a premier draft pick. Johnson returns to his natural position at left guard, where he was dominant in 2019. Petrula has played every position on this offensive line, and while he will most likely play guard if he makes it to the NFL, he still might be more comfortable at right tackle for now. Alec Lindstrom is among the best centers in the country, let alone the conference. Christian Mahogany flashed some high-level talent but needs to be more consistent, especially as a pass blocker. Tyler Vrabel moves back to left tackle; he has some fans as a draft prospect this year, but he also needs to be more consistent. 

A positive side effect of the Adazzio era is the depth along the offensive line. Finn Dirstine was one of Daz’s recruiting gems and can play either guard or tackle, but has rarely seen the field so far in his career. Jack Conley is a massive redshirt sophomore that played on special teams last year. Blerim Rustemi and Dwayne Alick provide depth on the interior as well but haven’t played a single snap. Ozzy Trapilo and Kevin Pyne should be the tackles of the future, as two of the Eagles’ highest-rated recruits last year. Kevin Cline is another is tackle that redshirted last year. Erik Larson is an undersized former walk-on, along with Matthew Taylor.

Drew Kendall and Otto Hess are also key pieces of the future, and thanks to the depth along the line, both of these highly-touted true freshmen should ideally redshirt this year. Illja Krajnovic is a very interesting story, but given his lack of experience, he should also redshirt to get some seasoning and learn the game. Finally, Nick Thomas is an undersized true freshman walk-on. This offensive line is very experienced and has chemistry, but they’ll need to take a step forward this year after struggling to adjust to the new offensive scheme last year. Therefore, even though their potential is high, I can’t in good conscience put them in the top two.

2. Clemson: Jordan McFadden (LT), Matt Bockhorst (LG), Hunter Rayburn (C), Will Putnam (RG), Walker Parks (RT); Mason Trotter (OG/C), Tayquon Johnson (OG), Paul Tchio (OT/OG), Mitchell Mayes (OG/C), Trent Howard (OG/C), Bryn Tucker (OG), John Williams (OG/C), Jacob Edwards (C/OG), Tristan Leigh (OT), Marcus Tate (OT/OG), Dietrick Pennington (OT/OG), Ryan Linthicum (OG), Will Boggs (OG/C), Zac McIntosh (C/OG), Mac Cranford (C/OG), Connor Graham (C/OG)

Evaluating Clemson’s offensive line is difficult. Obviously, the offense as a whole is deadly, and many Tigers’ offensive linemen have earned countless awards over the last few years. But players like Mitch Hyatt and Jackson Carman typically struggle against better competition in high-profile games (vs. Ohio State in 2019 and 2020 vs. LSU in 2019). Generally, Clemson has designed their offense such that they can rely on their skill position players to succeed without commensurate offensive line play. This year, Clemson lost several iconic skill position players to the NFL. Thus their offensive line could be required to elevate their play to help some younger, less experienced skill players.

Matt Bockhorst and Will Putnam are back at their respective guard spots; Bockhorst earned All-ACC 2nd-team last year, while Putnam was an honorable mention. Jordan McFadden started every game at right tackle last year and will flip to the left side to replace the departed Jackson Carman. Hunter Rayburn takes over at center after providing depth at multiple positions the last two years. Walker Parks played in 11 games last year and will take over as the starting right tackle. Mason Trotter, Tayquon Johnson, Paul Tchio, and Mitchell Mayes all got some playing time last year in relief and will serve as the backups along the offensive line. Trent Howard should duke it out with Trotter for the backup center job; Trotter can also play either guard spot so that Howard could split the time there with him.

Bryn Tucker and John Williams saw a handful of snaps last season as they redshirted and will most likely not see meaningful action again this season. Jacob Edwards is a redshirt senior and a converted defensive lineman with only ten career snaps. Clemson has four true freshmen along the offensive line: Tristan Leigh, Marcus Tate, Dietrick Pennington, and Ryan Linthicum. Tate and Leigh are the two highest-rated recruits among this group and could earn some playing time if the starters go down with injury; Pennington is massive, but he will most likely redshirt along with Linthicum who needs the year to add some weight. Finally, Will Boggs, Zac McIntosh, Mac Cranford, and Connor Graham are former walk-ons who will most likely not see the field except in late-game mop-up duty.

Once again, I have to point out that Clemson’s offensive line is difficult to rank. The skill players tend to make them look better, and the offense does not require much of them. With that being said, this offensive line is definitely among the better ones in the conference. But given that they are breaking in new players at center and both tackle spots (McFadden is still playing tackle but switching to the “harder” position on the left side), they cannot be ranked any higher.

1. NC State: Ikem Ekwonu (LT), Dylan McMahon (LG), Grant Gibson (C), Bryson Speas (RG), Tyrone Riley (RT); Derrick Eason (OG/OT), Timothy McKay (OT), Chandler Zavala (OT/OG), Anthony Belton (OT), Abe Christensen (OT), Bo Ressler (OT), Sean Hill (C/OG), Anthony Carter Jr. (OG/C), Ethan Lane (C), Patrick Matan (OT/OG), Matt McCabe (OT), Jaleel Davis (OT/OG), Thornton Gentry (OT/OG), Lyndon Cooper (OG), Brendan Lawson (C)

The Wolfpack take the top spot, as they will have one of the best running games in the country. NC State has multiple players that will be playing on Sundays next year, and the group as a whole has tons of experience and chemistry with each other. Ikem Ekwonu is arguably the best offensive lineman in the entire conference. While he probably will kick inside to guard at the next level, he’s still a very good college left tackle. Dylan McMahon might kick over to left guard because he has experience there; he was a solid right guard that made seven starts last year. Grant Gibson is among the best centers in college football and returns for his third year at the pivot. Bryson Speas started seven games at right tackle; he lost the starting job late in the year but still played significant snaps and is in contention to win the right guard job. Tyrone Riley began the year as the starting left tackle but switched over to the right for one game before injuring his foot and missing the rest of the year. With Ekwonu entrenched at left tackle, Riley should be the presumed starter on the right.

The Wolfpack has a deep stable of backups that could contend to win some starting jobs but will most likely provide relief in case of injury. Derrick Eason is a defensive tackle convert who played sparingly last year and could contend to start at one of the guard spots. Timothy McKay played a good bit in the first three games but missed the rest of the season due to injuries. Chandler Zavala is a graduate transfer from Fairmont State with multiple years of experience, starting at left guard. Anthon Belton is another transfer, this one from Georgia Military College with three years of eligibility remaining.

Walter Karstens, Abe Christensen, and Bo Ressler are redshirt sophomores who have not sees the field yet; Karstens is 6’7” and 360 lbs, so his size makes him an interesting candidate to earn some snaps. Sean Hill, Ethan Lane, Anthony Carter Jr., Patrick Matan, and Matt McCabe all redshirted as true freshmen last season. NC State has several talented true freshmen in this class, including Jaleel Davis and Thornton Gentry, who were among the best players in their respective states. Lyndon Cooper and Brendan Lawson are two more guard types that will most likely redshirt due to the depth on the line. There may be some position shuffling, but this group has played many years together, and they have some elite talent. Thus, NC State takes the crown for the best offensive line in the division and even the conference.