Boston College's offensive line is a big reason for Andre Williams' success this season.
CHESTNUT HILL – Boston College running back Andre Williams is starting to generate a large contingent of supporters that thinks he deserves consideration for the Heisman Trophy, and with plenty of good reason.
Williams has shattered both the Boston College and ACC single-season rushing records, the Boston College and ACC single-game rushing records and is making a serious run at Montel Harris’ career rushing leader mark at BC. And “Andre2000” is the first running back to go for over 2,000 yards in a season since 2008.
While Williams certainly deserves all of the accolades he is getting, there is a group of unsung heroes involved in his success, and that group is the BC offensive line.
The unit has come a long way from where it was just a season ago. It wasn’t long ago that the BC offensive line was one of the most maligned units in the country. The Eagles had the 115th-ranked rushing offense in the country and were dead last in the ACC last season. BC fans went on message boards saying that the 2012 version of the BC line had all but killed the term “O-Line U,” the phrase that people used to give tribute to the success that BC has had in churning out offensive lineman to the NFL.
In less than nine months, the BC offensive line has helped earn back the “O-Line U” name by putting together weekly dominant performances on the field. Recently, BC coach Steve Addazio was more than happy to discuss the different members of the line and what they bring to the table.
It all starts with the senior tackles.
“You have Matt Patchan, who is our left tackle, who is a phenomenal football player,” Addazio said. “Not only is he big and athletic, but he’s a tough guy, plays real physical edge, as does Ian White, right tackle. You have two bookend tackles that are really strong. Ian is a really physical guy. They enjoy the physicalness of our game.”
The interior of the BC line is led by some underclassmen that really struggled when they received playing time last year. Heck, right guard Harris Williams barely even got any playing time at all because he was so ineffective when he did play. Now the trio forms what will be considered one of the best interior offensive lines in the country next year.
“Our center, Andy Gallik, is just outstanding,” Addazio said. “I’ve been around some really good centers, Mike and Maurkice Pouncey. Those guys were finishers, they were tough, physical. That’s how these guys play. Bobby Vardaro and Harris Williams at the guards, we do a lot of pulling, trapping and kicking. Those guys do a great job with that. They’re very physical.”
Williams’ running style is that of a power back. The senior running back isn’t good at making defenders miss with a shake-and-bake move, but he is extremely strong and can knock over defenders by running over them or throwing a stiff arm in their direction.
Williams has had many highlight reel runs this year where he runs over a linebacker or two and then takes off for a long touchdown. If you notice, though, it’s always a linebacker or cornerback that Williams is breaking a tackle against. It is extremely rare – if not non-existent – to see Williams make a move on a defensive end and then go for a long run. The common component to all of Williams’ big runs is that the offensive line is opening the initial hole so that he doesn’t have to beat a tackle by a defensive lineman.
Williams has earned every bit of praise and accolade that has come his way. However, don’t fill out an All-ACC ballot without putting at least one BC offensive lineman on it.
“O-Line U” is back.
Hoops Starts Slow
Steve Donahue is still looking for answers as to why his veteran BC squad is off to a sluggish 2-4 start to the season. The Eagles were expected to be a NCAA Tournament team this year and were even considered a dark horse candidate to finish in the top four or five in the ACC.
Instead, the team is looking to put together wins, never mind a NCAA Tournament résumé.
A big reason for the slow start is of course is the difficult schedule, which has featured three potential NCAA Tournament teams (Providence, UMass, UConn) and another team (Toledo) that’s a favorite to win its league. Early-season mistakes get exposed much more when your opponent is a quality team as opposed to the “normal” out-of-conference cupcake, and that is just what BC is fighting through right now.
The most surprising aspect of the start is how fragile the team looked in the first couple of games of the season. The players have let mistakes mount late in games and have been slow to dig out of runs that opponents have gone on late.
Donahue thinks that the team might be letting preseason expectations weigh them down a little.
“I don’t think they know how to channel it,” Donahue said. “There’s tightness about us. I try to say the right words. But once again it’s me. I’ve got to do a better job.”
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Eagles as road games against Purdue, USC and Harvard (along with a neutral site game against VCU) all loom before the ACC season jumps into full swing. Donahue doesn’t have many “practice” games to get the team on the right path.
As if the bad start isn’t enough for Donahue to worry about, he received bad news when 2014 commit Matt Farrell decommitted during the losing streak. Farrell was expected to be a preferred walk-on and not a scholarship player, so it isn’t a huge loss. However, it was more ammunition for the anti-Donahue camp that the coach is losing direction of the program.