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April 10, 2006

Boston College rules the trenches

Here's a question that probably would stump even the most dedicated college football fans.

Which college has produced interior offensive linemen who had starting jobs in the NFL last season?

It's not Nebraska, Michigan or any other Midwestern program with a reputation for grind-it-out offenses.

All those schools must take a back seat to Boston College when it comes to producing NFL-ready guards and centers.

Pete Kendall, Dan Koppen, Tom Nalen, Chris Snee, Ron Stone and Damien Woody have a combined 43 years of starting experience in the NFL. Nalen, Stone and Woody all have appeared in Pro Bowls. Because of their excellence and longevity, Boston College is Rivals.com's Interior Linemen U.

"A lot of people around the country don't realize Boston College is known for putting up good linemen," said Woody, a Detroit Lions guard who began his career as a center for the New England Patriots.

Fans might not realize it, but the NFL is certainly aware of Boston College's prowess on the line.

Former Boston College offensive line coach Jeff Jagodzinski now works as the Green Bay Packers' offensive coordinator. Jagodzinski was replaced by Dave Magazu, who has since taken over as the Carolina Panthers' tight ends coach.

They brought an NFL mentality to Chestnut Hill long before joining the pro ranks.

"It starts with them," said Koppen, a New England Patriots center.

Jagodzinski spent the 2005 season as the offensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons, who boasted the NFL's top rushing offense last year. Magazu's offensive line allowed just six sacks in 2000 and featured four all-Big East selections the following year.

Their linemen at Boston College protected star passers such as Glenn Foley and created running room for future early-round draft picks William Green and Mike Cloud.

Green, Cloud and Foley haven't enjoyed long NFL careers, but plenty of their blockers have made a name for themselves.

Position: Interior offensive line
School that rules: Boston College (Doug Brzezinski, Dan Collins, Augie Hoffmann, Pete Kendall, Dan Koppen, Tom Nalen, Chris Snee, Ron Stone, Damien Woody, Paul Zukauskas).
Coming attractions: Pat Ross, Josh Beekman, James Marten.
Runners-up: LSU (Alan Faneca, Al Jackson, Kevin Mawae, Todd McClure, Stephen Peterman, Marcus Price, Ben Wilkerson), Michigan (David Baas, Jonathan Goodwin, Steve Hutchinson, Dave Petruziello), Ole Miss (Ben Claxton, Shane Grice, Marcus Johnson, Terrence Metcalf, Tutan Reyes, Keydrick Vincent), Nebraska (Toniu Fonoti, Aaron Graham, Russ Hochstein, Richie Incognito, Dominic Raiola, Will Shields, Brenden Stai, Adam Treu, Zach Wiegert), Texas A&M (Calvin Collins, Geoff Hangartner, Seth McKinney, Steve McKinney, Cameron Spikes, Rex Tucker, Taylor Whitley, Billy Yates), Virginia Tech (Bill Conaty, Travis Conway, Jake Grove, Todd Washington, Anthony Lambo, Matt Lehr, Jim Pyne, Gennaro DiNapoli), Wisconsin (Dan Buenning, Al Johnson, Casey Rabach, Cory Raymer).
Sleeper school: Hawaii may not seem like a pipeline to the NFL, but the Warriors have sent interior linemen Kynan Forney, Adrian Klemm and Vince Manuwai to the pro ranks. Manuwai was a starting guard for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.
Why Boston College is Interior Offensive Lineman U: The Eagles had six centers and guards Kendall, Koppen, Nalen, Snee, Stone and Woody starting for various NFL teams last year. Those six players have 43 combined seasons of starting experience along with six Super Bowl rings. Nalen, a five-time Pro Bowl center, is a major reason why the Denver Broncos have such a successful ground attack no matter who's running the ball. Stone and Woody also are former Pro Bowl selections. Pat Ross, a three-year starter at center, is considered a potential late-round draft pick this year. Beekman a second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference guard as a junior last year and the 6-foot-8 Marten soon could join all of those former Eagles in the NFL. If this survey were taking place a few years ago, Nebraska probably would get the nod. Eleven-time Pro Bowl selection Will Shields, Fonoti, Graham, Raiola, Stai, Treu and Wiegert have 42 combined seasons of starting experience. But two of those players Graham and Stai have ended their careers in the last few years. Most of Boston College's top interior linemen remain active.
Nalen has won two Super Bowl rings and received five Pro Bowl selections while playing more games for the Denver Broncos than any offensive lineman in franchise history.

Stone, recently released by the Oakland Raiders, has played in three Pro Bowls. Woody and Koppen have won two Super Bowl rings each with the Patriots.

Boston College coaches now cite their reputation for producing NFL linemen as a way of attracting the nation's top centers and guards.

"From Day One when they started recruiting me, they talked to me about their history of sending linemen to the NFL,'' said Snee, a guard for the New York Giants. "Obviously, that caught my eye. That's every kid's goal coming out of high school."

The tradition that started with Jagodzinski and Magazu continues with current offensive line coach Don Horton, whose mentoring of Snee helped the former second-round draft pick win an immediate starting job in the NFL.

Pat Ross, a three-year starting center at Boston College, is a potential late-round draft pick this year. Horton's current prize pupils include senior guards James Marten and Josh Beekman, both of whom started every game last year.

"I had Coach Magz when I was first recruited for my first year, then Horton moved to the offensive line," said Beekman, a second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection last fall. "Both men showed me they were committed to their job 100 percent, even on a personal level. They'd ask about your day.

"The coaches of Boston College especially on the o-line know this is a 100-percent commitment job. Boston College is known for their offensive linemen. They take pride in producing offensive linemen.''

The coaches' philosophy may mean as much as their message. Woody believes Boston College's typical approach on offense helps breed NFL linemen.

Boston College runs the ball more than it passes virtually every season, but the Eagles have remained remarkably balanced. Boston College ran the ball on 52 percent of its plays in 2005 and 51 percent of the time two years ago.

"We played a pro-style offense, so when guys made the transition to the pro game, it really wasn't a big deal,'' Woody said. "With some schools, the offense isn't the same as in the NFL. I think that's why offensive linemen from B.C. tend to make a pretty smooth transition to the pro game.

"The NFL is about running the football and playing good defense. That's how you win championships. And that's what we do well at B.C., no matter who's in the backfield."

If Boston College continues that tradition, its reputation for producing NFL guards and centers may not remain a secret much longer.

"I kind of think it's out there now," Snee said. "There are enough linemen coming from B.C. that people know about it."

Position U.
Interior O-Line
Boston College
Def. End
Tight End
Ohio State
Def. Tackle
Wide Receiver
Ohio State
Southern Cal
Off. Tackle
Running Back
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