Boston College went from O-Line U to O-Line-Who over the course of one offseason.
Rebuilding the Eagles’ offensive front is the priority of BC head football coach Jeff Hafley and his two recent hires, offensive coordinator John McNulty and offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.
The Eagles wrapped up Day 5 of training camp on Tuesday morning and the status of the offensive line was the topic du jour for the assembled inquisitors from the fourth estate.
“I think that is going to be the topic for the rest of the year,” said Hafley. “How they are coming along and who is going to play guard and who is going to play tackle and how we are going to mix and match people and how coach “Guge” is handling them?”
BC lost four of its five starters from last season, all of whom are currently in NFL training camps. Guard Zion Johnson was selected in the first round (17th overall) by the Los Angeles Chargers in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Johnson became the 10th BC offensive lineman to be taken in the first round and the first since guard Chris Lindstrom went to the Atlanta Falcons with the 14th pick in 2019.
The Eagles’ 10 first rounders is tops in the ACC, followed by Virginia Tech (7), Pittsburgh (6), Virginia (6) and Miami (5). Center Alec Lindstrom (Dallas), left tackle Tyler Vrabel (Atlanta) and guard Ben Petrula (Cleveland) signed as undrafted free agents.
The lone returning starter is redshirt junior guard Christian Mahogany, who was slated to be a first team All-ACC preseason pick and potentially the second guard taken in the 2023 NFL Draft. But the Eagles front end lost its anchor when Mahogany suffered a torn ACL in May.
“Christian goes down and you are potentially losing the best offensive guard in college football,” said Hafley. “Then you look inside and we have certain guys we can move inside and there are some freshmen that can play guard and tackle.”
One of the versatile players looking to claim a starting job is Jack Conley, a 6-7, 316-pound, redshirt junior from New Canaan, Conn. Conley played in 11 games with two starts at tackle against Clemson and NC State.
“I feel like we are ready to go out and play and the learning never really stops with such a young line and a new combination of guys all over the place,” said Conley.
“We have a lot to prove but we try and block some of that out by just being us. We know what we can do and we don’t need everyone else to think we can’t do anything. That doesn’t matter to us.”
Ozzy Trapilo, a 6-8, 304-pounder from Norwell, played in 10 games, with two starts against Colgate and Virginia Tech. The other returning lettermen are left tackle Kevin Cline, right guard Finn Dirstine and center Drew Kendall, a 6-4, 285-pound, redshirt freshman from Norwell.
Kendall was Lindstrom’s understudy and was adequately prepared to handle the zone blocking and shotgun snaps for quarterback Phil Jurkovec. Kendall’s father Pete attended BC from 1992-95 and went on to play 13 seasons in the NFL.
“He’s working there (center) right now, he’s put on a lot of weight and he looks great,” said Hafley. “He’s really smart, strong, very athletic and we thought getting Drew out of high school he was going to be a very good player.
“I think that even more now just being around him. He has a huge future and I think he will be a huge part of our O-Line this year. I’m very excited for him.”
The IGM factor
Isaiah Graham-Mobley was a graduate transfer from Temple who fit in with BC’s succession of outstanding middle linebackers over the past 13 seasons dating back to Luke Kuechly.
Graham-Mobley started nine games and registered 52 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss, but has moved on to the Carolina Panthers leaving a huge hole in the middle of the BC defense.
Hafley employs a traditional 4-3 scheme but uses two linebackers in his prevent defenses. Hafley needs linebackers that are interchangeable and not confined to the Mike, Will and Sam positions.
Returning starters Kam Arnold and Vinny DePalma are the top candidates to replace Graham-Mobley with Bryce Steele and Jaylen Blackwell in the mix.
Arnold is a 6-0, 230-pounder from West Bloomfield, Mich., who played in 12 games and led BC in tackles (61), with 3.5 tackles for a loss and one sack. DePalma played in 12 games and finished third with 54 tackles and three tackles for a loss.
“We have guys in there competing in our defense and sometimes we have two linebackers out there and sometimes three so they are all going to play,” said Hafley. “We finally have more depth in there and Kam Arnold looks great.
“Vinny is Mr. Reliable who knows what is going on. He sees stuff and he can line guys up. Bryce and JP can fly and they have some length to them.”
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