Trench Warfare: How line play will make or break BC football in 2013

It’s no secret that Boston College Head Football Coach Steve Addazio is an ardent supporter of a well-established running game. In an interview with the Roanoke Times a week ago, an ever-enthusiastic Addazio set forth his priorities in game strategy:

“I think you need a power component in the offense,” said Addazio, who inherits a bruising tailback in Andre Williams but not much depth at the position. “Whether you line up with three wide receivers, four wide receivers, flexed, closed, I believe you need that component. You get down to the goal line, you’ve got to be able to run the football.”

Last year, Addazio steered Temple University to a 4-7 record (0-2 versus top 25 opponents) on 468 rushing attempts that brought significant return. Temple had 21 rushing touchdowns in last year’s campaign, soaring past a BC rushing attack that managed only seven rushing touchdowns in 2012.

Some of Temple’s rushing success could have been attributed to the arrival of BC expatriate Montel Harris, who proved his worth as an above-average back in Addazio’s last year at Temple.

But, most of Temple’s success in the running game stemmed from a hearty, well-trained, offensive line. For a unit that replaced four of its five starters in 2012, the end-results in total rushing reflect an exemplary coaching job on Addazio and offensive line coach Justin Frye's behalf.

If there is any reason to believe in Addazio, it is for his ability to turn inexperienced lines into a competent force—far from anything seen in the past two years at BC.

Here were Temple’s starters on the offensive line in 2012:

Left Tackle

Zach Hooks (6-6, 280, R-Fr.)

Left Guard

Jeff Whittingham (6-2, 305, Jr.)

Center

Sean Boyle (6-5, 300, Sr.)

Right Guard

Jaimen Newman (6-4, 290, So.)

Right Tackle

Martin Wallace (6-6, 300, Sr.)

Martin Wallace was the sole returning starter for an offensive line unit that powered the 31st rushing offense in the FBS. The Eagles had  a similar array of talent (and muscle) last year, but could not assemble anything as potent as Addazio's unit in 2012.

The inevitable challenge for Addazio is whether or not he can convert the group of linemen he has in his first year at BC into a cohesive unit—one that pops off the line and drives opposing defenses to their collective heels.

He did it at Temple with an offensive line unit that hadn’t really accumulated much experience, and experience is one thing BC does have.

Clockwise from bottom left: Chris Snee, Dan Koppen, Gosder Cherilus, and Jeremy Trueblood. BC is the alma mater to a multitude of active and retired offensive linemen in the NFL, giving way to the school's nickname "O-Line U."

BC is the alma mater to a multitude of active and retired offensive linemen in the NFL, giving way to the school's nickname "O-Line U." Graphic by Teddy Kolva / Gavel Media.

Obviously, Andre Williams’ performance is a crucial variable to BC’s rushing offense; it would be flawed to say that a reformed, powerful offensive line is the antidote to BC’s rushing woes because it all starts with the ball carrier.

But, a reliable, seasoned offensive line can go a long way.

The BC Football media guide revealed the starters on the offensive line for 2013. Pending a few changes, the squad has seen a lot of action on the field. Aside from sophomore tackle Dan Lembke, who is likely holding the top spot until Florida transfer Matt Patchan is ready to play, the rest of the group got plenty of snaps during the Spaziani era.

Bobby Vardaro and Andy Gallik started in every contest in 2012, while Ian White started the first nine games of the season until he was sidelined by a lower leg injury during the Wake Forest game. White, a senior from Conway, NH, has played in more games than any other offensive lineman on the roster, registering a total of 34 appearances in three years.

Harris Williams played in seven games during his freshman year, and would have likely started in more games his sophomore year had he not injured his foot during preseason camp.

Note the bulk and muscle on these “dudes,” as Addazio would duly note:

Left Tackle

Dan Lembke (6-6, 304, So.)*

Left Guard

Bobby Vardaro (6-5, 310, Jr.)

Center

Andy Gallik (6-3, 302, Jr.)

Right Guard

Harris Williams (6-3, 298, Jr.)

Right Tackle

Ian White (6-5, 302, Sr.)

*Lembke is likely holding the spot that Florida transfer Matt Patchan, who is 6-6, 304 lbs., will assume when he is ready to play

Addazio has dealt with a group of players with less experience and less bulk at Temple. If running backs Andre Williams and Tahj Kimble hit the seams with explosion and brute force, there is reason to believe that BC can put together a consistent, forceful rushing attack. He did it at Temple with less favorable conditions and succeeded.

Once a rushing game solidifies, the opportunities expand for senior quarterback Chase Rettig, and a BC offense ranked 99th in the FBS last year in total offense suddenly becomes equipped with the arsenal of a top-tier team. It all starts with the big men up front.

Feature Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons / Ben Ostrander.

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