This is the third part of my position by position breakdown of the 2008 roster.
Last season the offensive line was a source of frustration. While they protected Matt fairly well in passing situations, their effectiveness in run blocking was inconsistent and only got worse after Poles’ season-ending injury. Now in the second season of the zone blocking scheme, the unit should be more effective in opening gaps and stretching the opponent’s front seven.
Although we are filling two starting spot and departed depth, the actual starting line that takes the field against Kent State will be almost as experienced as the unit we started for Wake Forest in 2007. Take a look.
Combined starts of Cherilus, Poles, Tennant, Ramsey and Castonzo prior to Wake Forest 2007: 50
Combined starts of Castonzo, Tennant, Ramsey (and anyone else) prior to the Kent State 2008 = 41
In addition to that real time in the trenches, this unit has spent most (or all in some cases) of their time at BC in this zone scheme. Last year much of the oline practice time was spent unlearning old habits. We still have questions about two positions, but given how well Castonzo and Tennant played last year, I am not worried about a new starter emerging.
C - Matt Tennant, JR, 6’4, 284lbs
G – Clif Ramsey, SR, 6’6, 302lbs
T — Anthony Castonzo, SO, 6’7, 272lbs
G – Thomas Claiborne, SO, 6’3, 330lbs
T – Rich Lapham, SO, 6’8, 324lbs
G/T – John Elliott, FR, 6’4, 280lbs
G/T – Pat Sheil, JR, 6’6, 283lbs
C – Bryan Murphy, SR, 6’3, 280lbs
G – Nick Rossi, JR, 6’6, 294lbs
G/T – Nathan Richman, FR, 6’6, 274lbs
G/T – Mark Spinney, FR, 6’4, 273lbs
G/T – Nick Schepis, FR, 6’4, 280lbs
Castonzo is getting most of the preseason pub and with good reason. He started as a true freshmen and played well. Although he struggled with speed rushers (most notably against Virginia Tec), he was very good in the run game. Can Castonzo transition to the left side? With Cherilus’ struggles fresh in our minds, it is a fair question. I think he’ll do well. In part because of the versatility he’s shown so far and in part because of coaching. Ramsey was used in a variety of positions in the spring. The consensus seems to be that he’ll play Left Guard. After a rough start early in the year, Ramsey finished the season strong. Not only was he making his blocks, he also began covering other’s mistakes. He should be good on the left side. Tennant was very consistent and probably the best run blocker. I expect him to have an all ACC type year. The other spots are TBD. Claiborne is the favorite for the RG spot. He’s slimmed down and supposedly has been very good on the offensive side of the ball. Rich Lapham is expected to play RT. Like Claiborne, he’s slimmed down and made huge strides to adapt to the new style of play. The other players are somewhat interchangeable and will all be used depending on injuries. Sheil was once highly touted yet can’t seem to get on the field. I’ve heard good things about the play of Richman and Elliott. Rossi moved over from the defensive side (where he was a pleasant surprise). Schepis has battled injuries and is questionable going into summer camps.
Due to other changes on the offensive side of the ball, it might be difficult to measure the success of the oline this year. Even if we are not explosive in the running game and even if Crane struggles, the line could improve from last season. What I hope to see is consistent push from the zone blocking and decent pass protection. Last year the offensive line was a question mark heading into the season and a liability at various times during the season. This year it should not be either.