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O-Line Experience Equals Success? and the Big Finish

Brian: Interesting read in the Wall Street Journal from a few weeks ago about how offensive line experience can predict success (HT: the new and improved Republic of Gobbler). The article notes that Notre Dame and Virginia Tech - two of the Eagles 2009 opponents - go into next season with two of the most experienced offensive lines. Both the Irish and the Hokies lines will have logged 100 starts. Florida State also will return an offensive line with a combined 86 starts.

Last season, Clemson - the preseason favorite to win the ACC - had a very inexperienced offensive line with less than 40 starts. And we all know how that turned out for the Tigers.

According to the spring football two-deep roster, our starting line next year will look like this:

LT Anthony Castonzo 6'7" 287 Jr.
LG Nick Rossi 6'6" 290 Sr.
C Thomas Claiborne 6'3" 323 Jr.
RG Nathan Richman 6'6" 284 So.
RT Rich Lapham 6'8" 322 Jr.

The spring two-deep does not include senior center Matt Tennant, who is out this spring after having Tommy John surgery following an injured left elbow suffered in the second quarter of the Music City Bowl. Spaz is hopeful that Tennant will return for summer drills, and if he does fully recover, our offensive line should look like this opening day:

LT Anthony Castonzo 6'7" 287 Jr.
LG Nick Rossi 6'6" 290 Sr.
C Matt Tennant 6'4" 294 Sr.
RG Thomas Claiborne 6'3" 323 Jr.
RT Rich Lapham 6'8" 322 Jr.

... moving Claiborne back to RG and placing Tennant back into the starting center position.

While statistics on offensive line starts are hard to come by on teh web, counting on Tennant returning to the starting lineup, I count that BC returns 84 starts at offensive line. This includes 28 from Castonzo, 28 from Tennant, 14 from Claiborne, and 14 from Lapham. If Tennant can't go and Claiborne plays C, BC will return 56 offensive line starts. In that case, Rossi and Richman will look to replace 55 combined starts from Matt Tennant (injury) and Clif Ramsey (graduation).

Two questions Jeff. Do you agree that college football success and experience at the offensive line positions are correlated? Are you encouraged by the fact that, hopefully with the return of a healthy Tennant, the Eagles will enter the 2009 season with so many starts at OLine (assuming of course that one of our QBs can get the ball to our receivers)?

Jeff: I am very optimistic about next season because even if we do have a subpar quarterback, I will continue to argue that he is just as good as Chris Crane last year. As long as Davis / Tuggle / Boek develops like Crane did as he got more starts, we will be just fine. The rest of our team, both offense and defense aside from the DT position should be as good or better than last season. Last year we learned early on in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic between Alabama and Clemson that a good offensive line can make you a good team and a bad offensive line can make skill players irrelevant.

Brian: Are you at all worried more about our games against Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Florida State now that you know they return some very experienced offensive lines?

Jeff: I am naturally worried about the game at Virginia Tech and against Florida State since we haven't beaten the Seminoles in Chestnut Hill yet and Blacksburg is always a tough place to play. Notre Dame though I would say I am more worried having read that and given the fact that they almost have to get better eventually.

Brian: Not only will the offensive line be a strength for the Eagles in 2009, but the future looks bright for the line as well. Yesterday came word that St. Joseph's prep OL prospect Seth Betancourt gave BC a "solid verbal" commitment. A Scout four star recruit, Betancourt was being courted by schools like Penn State and Notre Dame, and had offers from West Virginia, Connecticut and Michigan State. Reportedly, even Florida was recruiting him hard and flew up to see him this past week. Maybe my perception isn't reality, but seems like recruiting has really stepped up this past year (with Betancourt, Boisture and Pierre-Louis). Would you agree?

Jeff: Everything is relative and given that there was absolutely no recruiting news to get excited about last year other than BC making some prospects' lists before they chose other schools, recruiting looks rosey this year. There's still a lot of time for things to happen though so I am quietly excited for now.

Big Finish

Jeff: Kevin Akins was invited to participate in the NY Jets minicamp yesterday. Any chance he makes the opening day roster?

Brian: I wish Akins all the best, but I think it will be tough for him to make the Jets opening day roster. Does he play linebacker? Safety? He probably has a better shot at safety, but will it hurt him that he didn't play the position for most of his college career?

Brian: HD thought that she'd see Justin Tuggle take over as BC's starting quarterback over Dominique Davis. Did you?

Jeff: Not really. It would've been tough for any redshirt freshman to take over for the guy who led the game-winning scoring drive against Wake Forest and then started the final 3 games last year. If Tuggle does become the starter, it will not be until right before the first game or a few games into next season.

Jeff: The AJC's Tony Barnhart lists Gary Tranquill as one of the 5 ACC assistants who will make a difference this fall. Are you expecting him to make a difference?

Brian: Tranquill certainly has the experience, but will only go as far as our eventual starting quarterback will take us.

Brian: DAP for the Atlantic Coast Conference for scheduling the second-most number of non-conference games against BCS conference opponents. ACC scheduled 41.6 percent of out of conference games against BCS opponents in 2009, trailing only the Pac 10 (15 of 30). Anything stand out to you on that list?

Jeff: It looks like the perceived weaker conferences are trying to change that perception by playing a tougher schedule.

Brian: ... or the perceived weaker conferences are perceived weaker because they play tougher competition and don't win as many non-conference games. Chicken or egg?

Jeff: Baseball shut out Dartmouth 3-0 Wednesday to guarantee their first winning season since 2006. How many games you have the Eagles taking this weekend against Miami (Fla)?

Brian: My overly optimistic projection is that the Eagles can take 2 of 3 - tonight and Saturday to be specific. The Saturday game is at 6pm in Brockton, MA though (and not Chestnut Hill) ... what's up with that?

Brian: Last one, Herzlich sat down with HD and said that his decision to return to BC for his senior season was an easy one. This surprise you?

Jeff: Nope, I never thought, nor predicted on this blog that he'd be a high draft pick.

Brian: Worth noting that B.J. Raji disagrees with you, and thinks that Herzlich would have been a Top 15 pick this year.