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April 17, 2012

Tackle U.: Boston College best on the edge

Anthony Castonzo arrived at Boston College as a two-star recruit and departed as a first-round draft pick.

Castonzo's remarkable progress illustrates Boston College's effectiveness at developing NFL offensive linemen. There may be no better BCS program in that regard.

"It's 100 percent a fraternity," Castonzo said. "We call it a brotherhood."

When we last put together the Position U. project in 2006, Boston College was our pick as the nation's best producer of guards and centers. Since that time, the Eagles' strength has moved over to the edges of the line.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE U. 2012
Our choice: Boston College.
Who they've sent:Anthony Castonzo (Indianapolis Colts), Gosder Cherilus (Detroit Lions), Marc Colombo (Miami Dolphins), Jeremy Trueblood (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Who's next: Emmett Cleary, who will be a senior this fall, is rated by nfldraftscout.com as the No. 25 offensive tackle in the 2013 draft class. If he maintains that ranking, it likely would make him a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent next year.
Why we picked them: Castonzo, Cherilus, Colombo and Trueblood give Boston College four tackles who currently hold down starting jobs. The Boston College group doesn't include any superstars, but all these guys are capable performers. Castonzo, Cherilus, Colombo and Trueblood have a combined 245 career starts, and all four of them were drafted in the first two rounds.
Other finalists: Miami (Houston's Rashad Butler, Detroit's Jason Fox, Denver's Orlando Franklin, Baltimore's Bryant McKinnie, Kansas City's Eric Winston), Michigan (Detroit's Jeff Backus, Miami's Jake Long), Oklahoma (Washington's Jammal Brown, Minnesota's Phil Loadholt, Washington's Trent Williams), USC (Atlanta's Sam Baker, New Orleans' Charles Brown, Indianapolis' Winston Justice, Dallas' Tyron Smith), Virginia (Kansas City's Branden Albert, Miami's Will Barker, New York Jets' D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Jacksonville's Eugene Monroe)
Candidate you might not have considered: East Carolina had a pair of tackles who made multiple starts for NFL teams in 2011. Willie Smith made three starts for Washington and Guy Whimper started 15 games for Jacksonville.
Former Boston College interior linemen Pete Kendall, Tom Nalen and Damien Woody have ended their NFL careers since 2006.

In the meantime, offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus went to the Detroit Lions in the first round of the 2008 draft and Castonzo followed his former teammate as a first-round pick three years later. Cherilus and Castonzo have joined Marc Colombo of the Miami Dolphins and Jeremy Trueblood of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as current starting tackles in the NFL.

"Oftentimes you see Boston College get good players who aren't necessarily rated the highest, they aren't getting four stars or anything, but they just turn out quality football players," said Rob Rang, a senior draft analyst for nfldraftscout.com. "Personally, I think there's a little bit more emphasis on work ethic and toughness because that's certainly been a trademark of Boston College linemen, whether they be tackles or interior linemen, over the years."

Other schools have produced tackles with more star power.

Michigan has sent four-time Pro Bowl pick Jake Long and 12-year veteran Jeff Backus to the NFL. Virginia has produced three-time Pro Bowl pick D'Brickashaw Ferguson as well as current NFL starters Branden Albert and Eugene Monroe. All three of those Virginia products were first-round draft picks.

But we gave the nod to Boston College as Offensive Tackles U. because the Eagles have four current NFL starters. While Castonzo just finished his rookie season, the other three starters have been around for quite some time.

In fact, those four Boston College tackles have combined for 245 career starts. All were first-round picks except for Trueblood, a second-round selection in 2007.

Colombo, chosen by the Chicago Bears with the 29th overall pick in the 2002 draft, has been a starter since 2006. He joined the Dolphins last season after previously playing in Chicago and Dallas.

Trueblood has spent his entire pro career with the Buccaneers and has been a starter since his rookie season.

Cherilus went to Detroit with the 17th overall pick in the 2008 draft and moved into the Lions' starting lineup early in his rookie year. Castonzo, the 22nd overall pick in last year's draft, made 12 starts as a rookie.

Castonzo believes the history of quality NFL linemen from Boston College boosted his own draft stock.

"When they see guys come from Boston College and be NFL-ready, that says good things about me coming out," Castonzo said. "When they see other guys come from the same school and perform at the next level, they kind of expected the same out of me, which helped me throughout the process."

WHAT'S POSITION U.?


The Position U. series is our attempt to determine which schools provide the most NFL talent at each position. We will analyze a different position just about every day up until the April 26 start of the NFL Draft. For the purpose of this series, we only took into consideration players who were still active as of last season.
April 13: Quarterbacks
April 14: Running backs
April 17: Offensive tackles
April 18: Guards/Centers
April 19: Defensive tackles and DE/OLB
April 21: Linebackers
April 23: Cornerbacks
April 24: Safeties
April 25: Kickers and punters
Boston College has continued generating quality tackles even after going through multiple coaching changes.

Colombo and Trueblood played at Boston College for Tom O'Brien, now the coach at N.C. State. Cherilus played for both O'Brien and Jeff Jagodzinski, who succeeded O'Brien. Castonzo started his career with Jagodzinzki and finished it with current Boston College coach Frank Spaziani.

Castonzo said the players themselves helped continue the tradition even as coaches came and went.

"When I was there, Gosder Cherilus kind of took me under his wing," Castonzo said. "Before him, guys like Trueblood and Colombo took guys under their wings. That's kind of what goes on at BC. Even now that I'm in the NFL, if I find a technique that I think really works, I'll call Emmett Cleary or John Wetzel, who are still at BC, and share it with them.

"We take a lot of pride in being Boston College offensive linemen. Even when Gosder came to the NFL, if I had a rough game or something, he'd call me and say, 'What's up? I saw the game.' The fact the tradition has started and we don't want it to stop, that just keeps it going."

Castonzo wants to do his part to make sure the tradition continues.

He realizes that he benefited from the way Cherilus, Colombo and Trueblood performed in the NFL. Now he wants to make sure he also measures up to make things easier for the next pro prospect who plays tackle at Boston College.

"There are schools that will have great prospect who get drafted high and maybe kind of bust in the NFL," Castonzo said. "That has very rarely if ever happened with linemen from Boston College. ... They can see we have a solid pick here who won't bust out because the track record of the school shows they put out good offensive linemen."


Steve Megargee is the national college columnist for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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