With Zion Johnson as an anchor, and Alec Lindstrom, Tyler Vrabel, Ben Petrula, and Christian Mahogany as catalysts, Boston College fielded one of the most balanced, experienced, and complete offensive lines in college football last season.
This year, with his four trusty teammates gone, Mahogany was eager to mentor a largely inexperienced yet promising new group. The redshirt junior, a physical and mobile guard with the potential to be a first-round NFL draft pick like Johnson, was poised to make the jump from talented up-and-comer to seasoned veteran.
Then Mahogany tore the ACL in his right knee in May, and a situation already filled with uncertainty became bleak. Mahogany likely would have been one of the best guards in the country, if not the best. Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had him pegged as his No. 2 guard prospect for the 2023 draft.
Now the Eagles will have to rely on several unfamiliar faces to protect quarterback Phil Jurkovec, open holes for running back Pat Garwo, and buy time for wide receiver Zay Flowers.
“We have a lot to prove, but we try to block a lot of that out,” said Jack Conley, a redshirt junior tackle. “We’re just doing us. We know what we can do.”
The Eagles are using preseason camp as an opportunity to mix and match and see who thrives where. It’s an open tryout of sorts, with spots very much up for grabs.
While it’s fair to call the offensive line a question mark at the moment, it’s not as though the Eagles don’t have the talent. They have plenty of young players delighted for the chance to prove themselves.
BC is experienced essentially everywhere else, so if the offensive line can hit its stride, the Eagles have a chance to boast one of the more dangerous offenses in the ACC.
Conley is the most experienced player of the bunch. He saw action in 11 games on special teams each of the past two seasons and started on the offensive line against Clemson and North Carolina State in 2021.
Perhaps the most intriguing player is redshirt freshman Drew Kendall, a 6-foot-4-inch, 263-pounder from Norwell and Noble and Greenough School who has emerged as the likely candidate to start at center. Kendall, the No. 1 overall recruit in Massachusetts and Rivals’ No. 5 overall offensive guard in the nation, has all the tools. He is the son of former BC standout offensive lineman Pete Kendall.
“We thought getting Drew out of high school that he had a chance to be a good player,” coach Jeff Hafley said. “I think that even more now after being around him. I think he’s got a huge future, and I think he’ll be a huge part of our O-line this year. I’m really excited about him.”
Ozzy Trapilo, a 6-8, 304-pound menace also from Norwell, who played at BC High, appeared in 10 games and earned two starts as a redshirt freshman last fall. He was 247 Sports’ No. 2 player from Massachusetts in his class. He is the son of the late Steve Trapilo, who played guard on the BC offensive line that protected Doug Flutie.
Other players vying for spots include Finn Dirstine, Kevin Cline, Jude Bowry, Kevin Pyne, Nick Thomas, Otto Hess, Jackson Ness, Jack Funke, and Dwayne Allick, to name a few. The goal is to find the five that fit together the best, but it will likely be a fluid situation — at least at the beginning.
Hafley said the Eagles ran the ball at Tuesday’s practice about as well as they have so far this spring or summer. He called it “really encouraging” and credited offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo for helping them progress. Going up against an experienced and deep defensive line every day should help prepare them.
“Those are young guys that haven’t played a lot of football against more of a veteran defense, compared to who they are,” Hafley said. “I was encouraged. I think it really mixes well.”
Conley said plugging in different players in different spots is beneficial, because it allows them to see defenses from various angles. He believes that the unit is ready to play right now but that the learning never stops and there’s always room to grow.
Of course the Eagles will miss Mahogany, but there’s a sense of pride building inside Fish Field House. The offensive line wants to turn what’s viewed as a potential weakness into an undeniable strength — as it typically is at BC.
Teammates at other positions have already taken notice of how far they’ve come in such a short time.
“They’re young guys,” said defensive tackle Cam Horsley, “but they have a bright future ahead of them.”
Trevor Hass can be reached at email@example.com.