The unit, collectively, is fairly imposing. The smallest in stature, junior right guard Harris Williams, checks in at a sturdy 6 feet 3 inches, 298 pounds.
In preseason camp, Boston College first-year coach Steve Addazio wanted to see more from his offensive line, a unit working three new starters into the trenches.
“They took a lot of criticism,” said Addazio Monday afternoon, noting that as a former line coach, “I am hard on that position.”
But his voice raised a decibel or two when analyzing the play of the unit in Saturday’s 24-14 season-opening win over Villanova at Alumni Stadium.
“I was really excited with how physical we played up front — they really played hard,” said Addazio, knowing that a continuation of that effort will be necessary in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener Friday night against visiting Wake Forest (1-0).
The tackles, senior co-captain Ian White (6-5, 302) and Matt Patchan (6-7, 300), a senior transfer from the University of Florida suiting up for game action for the first time in two years, “were going after people — attacking,” said Addazio.
While acknowledging that Bobby Vardaro, a 6-5, 310-pound junior guard out of North Reading (Phillips Andover) committed a couple of penalties, “he was playing hard, I was thrilled,” said Addazio, while also saluting junior center Andy Gallik (6-3, 302).
“Across the board, all of them. We have things to clean up, but that was a bright light coming out of Week 1 on offense.
“One game does not make a season. But you continue on that pace, you will become one of the better fronts in college.”
Their work up front paved the way for a 23-carry, 114-yard, one-touchdown performance from Andre Williams before the 6-foot, 227-pound senior sat out the fourth quarter after straining his hamstring on his final carry of the third.
“They really fought hard and I thought they came out ready to play and pushed back the Villanova line,” lauded Williams, declaring that he will be ready to play Friday night against Wake.
“A little precautionary today. It was just a little twinge when I came out for the third quarter.”
“He’ll be fine, just a little strain,” summed up Addazio.
The impact of Williams, and his presence as a bullish north-south runner, cannot be overstated as Addazio and coordinator Ryan Day stay the course in establishing a balanced attack.
It opens up play-action for senior QB Chase Rettig (23 of 30, 285 yards, 2 TDs, with no sacks against Villanova), which materialized in the second half Saturday, with senior Alex Amidon (13 catches, 146 yards) and Bobby Wolford (6-84) — a redshirt freshman making his first career start at fullback — finding holes in the defense.
Williams has had an eye on this matchup for a while.
His junior season ended on Nov. 3, 2012, in Winston-Salem, N.C., in a 28-14 loss to Wake Forest.
“I got tackled and one of the offensive linemen jumped on top and kind of splayed my legs apart and it strained my abdominal [muscle],” he said. “I have to finish my business with the Deacons; I haven’t finished a game against Wake.”
He was sidelined for the final three weeks, the finish to a forgettable 2-10 campaign.
As encouraging as the opener was for a young club that continues to build a foundation, Addazio and Williams both acknowledge that too many yards were left on the field with the ground game.
“I wanted to see us be physical, and we certainly were, but we need to work on execution.” said Addazio.
After watching film Sunday, Williams noted, “You see how many yards you left on the field. I have a lot more improving to do. Making better reads on certain plays, and in pass protection and following through on assignments A to Z.”
He was not alone.
Villanova was a building block in establishing the ground game, and the right fits, according to Addazio, will be figured out with repetition and time. “That kind of run game here is kind of new to [the players],” he said.
“It’s more reminiscent of years back here [at BC]. The players like it.
“Our enemy is going to be staying healthy — our lack of numbers, and not getting into a situation where it can dip our play too much, which is a concern.
“Teams that chuck it around [passing] won’t be good run teams. We want balance. If we have injuries or personnel issues, we are going to have to adjust to that. You have to adjust if you don’t have a power back.”
Such as Williams, a pivotal playmaker when the Eagles take on a Wake Forest defensive unit that yielded just two first downs, and 151 total yards, while forcing six turnovers in a 31-7 pounding of Presbyterian last Thursday night.
The Demon Deacons’ 3-4 front is headlined by senior nose guard Nikita Whitlock, a 5-11 250-pound plugger who “is very active, and explosive,” said Addazio.
On offense, senior quarterback Tanner Price is at the controls of an attack that features a lot of option, “which really presents itself in a short week,” Addazio added.
The Demon Deacons also introduced 10 true freshmen in the opener, which goes against the grain of a Jim Grobe-guided squad. The 13-year coach told his staff “not to put anybody on the field if that was going to end up wasting a year of eligibility.”
Center Cory Helms, the first Wake freshman to start an opener since 1987, and 5-9, 165-pound speedster John Armstrong were just two of the newcomers to make a favorable impression.
BC is not the only team in a rebuilding mode.Craig Larson can be reached at email@example.com.