A Talented and Experienced Group, the 2020 Spring Preview of the Offensive Line
Over the past six years there has been one consistent position of strength on the Boston College roster, the offensive line. This year should be no difference as the Eagles return four starters and bring in two of the most impressive recruits the program has ever landed. How will this position evolve under new head coach Jeff Hafley? And what will they look like in a new system on offense?
Returning Players: Alec Lindstrom (Jr.), Ben Petrula (Sr.), Zion Johnson (Sr.), Tyler Vrabel (R-So.), Elijah Johnson (Sr.), Finn Dirstine (R-So.), Adam Korutz (Sr.), Blerim Rustemi (R-Fr.), Erik Larson (R-Fr.), Jack Conley (R-Fr.), Nate Emer (R-Jr.), Christian Mahogany (R-Fr.)
Newcomers: Kevin Pyne, Ozzy Trapilo. Both are 4 star true freshmen. Dwayne Allick.
Departures: John Phillips, Hayden Mahoney, Dwayne Scott and Anthony Palazzolo (graduation), Cam Reddy (transfer)
Expectations: Boston College's offensive line has done yeoman's work the past six years. They have been asked to open holes for the running game when the defense is waiting on the run, with stacked boxes of extra defenders. Even with the odds stacked against them, Addazio's offense was able to produce on the ground.
Last year's group was arguably the most talented group that Addazio ever produced as the Eagles had a Top 10 running attack. The Eagles only lost one starter from that group, John Phillips, which is good news for this season. BC's offensive line on paper has all the tools to be as dominant under Jeff Hafley as under Steve Addazio.
Tyler Vrabel may end up becoming one of the most talented offensive linemen in BC's history which is high praise. Zion Johnson came in as a transfer last year from Davidson and grabbed the starting role relatively quickly. He became a big, physical and ferocious linemen and will certainly be a player to watch in 2020. Alec Lindstrom played very well at center, while Ben Petrula still has the potential to be an NFL linemen after his graduation.
The one question mark will be how this group handles any sort of change in scheme whether it's in the offensive philosophy or in blocking (more zone vs. man to man). Every coach has their preferences. It will be a while until we see what Hafley, Cignetti, and new offensive line coach Matt Applebaum install with this group.
With Boston College moving towards a more balanced system, the line should have a new challenge. With the offense using more wide receivers, and passing it more often, the line will most likely not have two tight ends and extra blockers for help. They will most likely have more individual battles with defensive linemen and linebackers, which should show the true talent of this group.
Key Position Battle: Right Guard. With Phillips graduating, there is an opening at the guard position. Senior Adam Korutz was listed as the backup last year so he probably has the upper hand going into spring practice. If not Korutz, Hafley could go younger with someone like Rustemi, Mahogany, or the most intriguing option Finn Dirstine. The sophomore guard came to BC as a highly sought after local recruit, the #1 Massachusetts recruit and #12 guard in the country. Could he finally find the field?
Areas To Improve: Pre-snap penalties. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but just based on an eyeball test it seemed like the Eagles were called for a very high number of these.
Impact Player: Tyler Vrabel. Before the 2019 season all the talk was simply around his All Pro father. But after last year, Tyler has begun to forge his own reputation. As a redshirt freshmen he was arguably the best player on that offensive line, pulling and playing at a high level. As he continues to grow as a player, he could become one of the premier offensive linemen in the nation.
Player To Step Up: Elijah Johnson. It's been a tough couple of years for Johnson who has battled knee injuries and hasn't seen the field since 2016 when he started 10 games and looked to be a staple on the line. Has his opportunity passed him by? Have the injuries become too much? That remains to be seen.