Eagles Protect Their Young

Bill RatkusContributor IJune 12, 2009

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - OCTOBER 06:  Andre Callender #32 of the Boston College Eagles is congratulated by teammates Anthony Castonzo #74 and Ty Hall #78 after Callender scored touchdown in the second quarter against the Bowling Green Falcons  on October 6, 2007 at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Previously, I stated that the Eagles have had a very tough offseason.  It has been one of the more trying and tumultuous springs and summers in recent memory for any one program. If it was not for the likes of Lane Kiffin, Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, and the SEC as a whole garnering most of the offseason ink, then the news at BC would be focused on pretty intently.

And yet, with all the bad news, there is some good news and some hope for the season.

Boston College has had a decade-long tradition of producing NFL-quality linemen.  I will not make the dubious claim that BC is "O-Line U," as there are many schools like BC that have produced a long line of solid offensive lines.  That being said, however, if you ask any of the "paid experts" a strength of the Eagles, the offensive line comes to mind.

The projected 2009 starters already have a combined 80 starts between them. In the ACC that is only behind Virginia Tech (100), Wake Forest (95), and Florida State (86).  However, last season the BC offensive line gave up only 18 sacks in ACC play with only Virginia's offensive line giving up fewer (16). 

BC gave up 21 total sacks on the year, or 1.69 sacks a game while starting two first-year starting quarterbacks.  Both of those signal-callers are gone now, but while their performance was questionable last season, it was hardly the offensive line's fault, they provided the protection that allowed the Eagle QBs to hang themselves.

the Eagle offensive line only gave up 4.77 tackles for loss a game, good enough to put them in the top-25 in that category. 

Anchoring the BC offensive line is junior Anthony Castonzo.  At 6'7" 288 pounds, he started at right tackle as a true freshman—the first to do so in almost a decade at Boston College, and he was moved to the left tackle position last season with the departure of Gosder Cherilus to the Detroit Lions. 

Castonzo's length is his greatest asset. While not recognized as someone who will "pave the way" in the running game, his agility and long arms make him a great pass-protecting tackle, and he did an admirable job protecting the blind side of the quarterbacks last season. 

As a two-year starter, one can only surmise that this season he will be even better improving upon his 2nd Team All-ACC Selection last season.

Senior Matt Tennant is on the Rimmington watch list, and this will be his third year starting at center.  A few "draft gurus" have him on top-5 NFL C prospects for the upcoming draft.  As the lone senior starting on the line, he has the most experience and has done a good job leading the line despite the revolving door at quarterback since Matt Ryan was drafted.  Tennant received ACC Honorable Mention honors last season.

Juniors Thomas Claiborne and Richard Lapham both started for the Eagles last season.  Claibone was an ACC Honorable Mention like Tennant last season and steadies the middle of the line. Claiborne is also the "immovable object" of the line, weighing close to 325 pounds, and providing a solid push for the Eagle running backs. 

Lapham is actually taller than Castonzo, and heavier at around 320 pounds, but he is not as agile as the lighter Castonzo.  In the passing game, Lapham would occasionally be beaten by some of the better pass-rushers in the ACC, but with his size at right tackle he did an excellent job in the zone blocking scheme in kicking out the defensive end and getting to linebackers to help the young running game amass quite a few yards.

Gone from last year was All-ACC Selection Cliff Ramsey.  Looking to fill the gap left by the one starter will be either senior Nick Rossi, or sophomore Mark Spinney, both players were listed as backup guards on the Eagles depth-chart last season, but saw limited playing time as the BC offensive line remained healthy.

The Eagles return one of the top offensive lines in the ACC to Chestnut Hill this season.  While the new quarterback, whomever he is, will inexperienced he will feel confident knowing that the line that protects him and the running back tandem of Josh Haden and Montel Harris, shall be one of the top units in the ACC with the potential to once again be one of the best in the country.