Going into the Quick Lane Bowl last December, Boston College coach Steve Addazio knew graduate transfer Jimmy Lowery would be playing his last game at right tackle for the Eagles, so he started the process of grooming sophomore right guard Chris Lindstrom as his successor.
Lowery, a transfer from Eastern Illinois, started all 13 games at tackle. Lindstrom was right next to him, making 13 starts at guard.
But the extra practices going into the bowl game gave Lindstrom a head start on making the move to the outside.
Even though he played the bowl game at guard, Lindstrom started working on fundamentals and technique at tackle with offensive line coach Justin Frye. He took starter’s reps at tackle, going head-on with defensive ends Harold Landry and Zach Allen.
The work has carried over into spring practice, and Lindstrom has settled into a new role.
“Chris is functioning at an extremely high level of tackle,” Addazio said. “Our right tackle play right now is very much elevated. He’s very athletic, and we put our best players in the best position to help us.”
Last year, the young offensive line was challenged in an ACC peppered with talented defensive linemen. Lindstrom was one of three underclassmen on the line, along with left tackle Aaron Monteiro, who was a sophomore a year ago, and left guard Elijah Johnson, who was a freshman.
With the Eagles having to fill holes on the line the past two years, all of them were thrown into the fire early as true freshmen.
Lindstrom, for instance, played 12 games as a freshman and weighed just 265 pounds, putting him at a disadvantage against stronger, faster, defensive linemen around the conference.
“We suffered the growing pains immensely with those guys early on,” Addazio said. “But we’ll get a benefit from that. We’ll come back.
“When you put young guys like that in the line of fire when they’re babies against the top defenses in America, you’ll get what you get. But we’ll also reap some benefits from that as we get older if you can survive those growing pains.”
The past two years have been a process of Lindstrom reshaping his body. He was sitting at 290 pounds last spring, and by the end of last season, he hit 300.
“It was a neat day,” Lindstrom said. “I showed the other O-linemen, like, ‘Look, I finally cracked 300.’ ”
The milestone was critical.
“The physical change from my first spring and then the first year of hitting, if I didn’t use perfect technique, I was going to get beat,” Lindstrom said. “Now when I get speed-to-powered or bull-rushed, I have the weight behind myself, so it’s much easier to play.
“The weight helps moving down [linemen] and snapping the linebackers. I’m not taking blows, I’m delivering them. So I really like the heavier weight.”
Looking at Johnson, Monteiro, and redshirt freshman Shane Leonard, Addazio sees other linemen going through the same process.
“I see tremendous development on the offensive line,” Addazio said.
But several key pieces have been missing throughout spring practice. Senior center Jon Baker has been out since the start of the spring sessions, along with junior lineman Sam Schmal, while redshirt sophomore John Phillips, who made 11 appearances a year ago and is slated to be a starter this year, has been out since the third practice.
But that has allowed younger players like Leonard to get more reps. Leonard has been taking the bulk of the first-team snaps at center.
“He’s starting to look like a real guy,” Addazio said. “He’s a young guy. He has to be able to learn how to sustain his intensity. That’s a part of that whole process, and again, it’s not one of those things you can fix in weeks. You fix in years, honestly.
“Just use Chris as a barometer for that. He was a 265-pound guy, learning how to play. Three years later, he’s a 304-pound guy, and he’s really coming together the way he should.
“Offensive line is incremental. It’s an incremental growing process. In those infant stages, you’re taking baby steps. Now you’re starting to gain some ground now. So we’ll be a little bit better after spring and a little bit better after preseason camp.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.