Over the last couple of years, one of the glaring inconsistencies for NC State has been the play of their offensive line. The Pack would put up a measly 58 yards rushing against Georgia Tech only to follow that up with a solid 178 yard effort against Clemson a week later. Big plays would too often be negated by a holding penalty. Too many drives stalled due to false starts. A lot of factors played into this- from injuries to inexperience. However, one fact should give the Wolfpack faithful reason to be excited about the potential production at this crucial position in the days to come.
Going all the way back to his days as a tackles coach at Navy through his time as the offensive line coach at Virginia to his head coaching stop at Boston College, one constant for NC State head coach Tom O'Brien has always been solid OL play. In all, O'Brien spent 19 years as an offensive line position coach.
Upon being hired as the head coach at Boston College in 1997, O'Brien tabbed Don Horton to oversee his offensive line. The two have worked together ever since and that consistency has helped the Eagles become one of the top producers of NFL offensive linemen in the country.
From 1999 through the draft of 2007, Boston College produced a total of ten offensive linemen that were drafted into the NFL. This included three first rounders and six that were taken on the first day of the draft.
Equally impressive is the fact that O'Brien and Horton were able to mold relative unknowns exiting high school into NFL-caliber players.
Josh Beekman was rated a two-star prospect and the No. 127 OL in the nation by Scout.com when he exited high school in 2002. By his junior year he had emerged as an all-ACC second team selection and as a senior, was named a Walter Camp all-american. He would ultimately be drafted by the Chicago Bears in the fourth round.
Another success story was that of Beekman's draft partner- OT James Marten. Marten graduated from Brebeuf Jesuit High School in Indianapolis as a one-star offensive lineman according to Scout.com. Marten would go on to earn all-conference honors as a junior and senior at Boston College and heard his name called on the first day of the 2007 draft when Dallas selected him in the third round.
O'Brien's success of preparing players for the NFL becomes even more apparent when you compare his success against ten schools considered to be the nation's perennial powerhouse programs. While each school may lead the way in name recognition, Michigan (7), Ohio State (8), Penn State (4), Miami (9), Florida State (7), Tennessee (6), Florida (5), Southern Cal (6), Texas (7) and Oklahoma (5) have all had fewer offensive linemen drafted than O'Brien (10) going back to 1999.
Damien Woody was a standout for Boston College that would go on to become a first round selection for the New England Patriots in 1999. He would earn three Super Bowl rings with the Pats before being traded to Detroit in 2004. Woody said that O'Brien's style of offense was a key factor in preparing him and his offensive line counterparts for the next level.
"We played a pro-style offense, so when guys made the transition to the pro game, it really wasn't a big deal," said Woody. "With some schools, the offense isn't the same as in the NFL. I think that's why offensive linemen under coach O'Brien 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 did well under coach O'Brien, no matter who was in the backfield."
While their record of offensive line development will likely be a major selling point on the recruiting trail, immediate impact on the stat sheet is where O'Brien and Wolfpack fans alike will be paying close attention in the years to come. If history is any indicator, there's much to be excited about in north Raleigh.