Friday, September 1, 2017

Boston College Football Will Lean on Local Talent in 2017

BC's offensive line will be led by local products Aaron Monteiro (67), Chris Lindstrom (75) and Jon Baker (77) this season.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Football season is here for Boston College, as the Eagles open up their 2017 campaign tonight at 9:30 pm at Northern Illinois.

Opinions and predictions for this season are… varying, and an antsy fan base has plenty of questions for coach Steve Addazio and his guys.

But, whatever your thoughts on the 2017 Eagles, it's clear that they will need big contributions from Massachusetts natives if they hope to succeed.

BC has had an interesting recruiting relationship with its home state. Some cycles the Eagles will bring in a flood of Bay State talent, and other years just a few players from within the Commonwealth's borders. The current coaching staff hit the Mass recruiting trail hard in 2014 and 2015, pulling in 14 local recruits over that two-year span, and now 12 former MA players will be starters or regular contributors for BC.

Let's take a look at the local talent BC hopes will carry it to a successful season.

A Bay State-Bred Offensive Line

Out of all the positional groups, the offensive line features the most local talent, and hinges the most on a few former MIAA stars. Brockton's Aaron Monteiro returns for his junior season at left tackle, while fellow junior, and Shepherd Hill alum, Chris Lindstrom could start at either right guard or right tackle.

In the middle of the line is former Millis star Jon Baker, who is already receiving hype as a potential winner of the Rimington Award, given annually to the nation's top center. This line has seen its ups and downs the last three years: All three of these guys were thrown into the major conference fire as freshman. Baker just after recovering from knee surgery, Monteiro when he didn't yet have the quick feet for it, and Lindstrom when he was about 30 pounds underweight for an ACC interior lineman.

But that fire has forged a strong group, and if there's reason to be optimistic about BC's offense, it starts up front. Look for each of these three to be among the best at their position in the ACC, and help what should be an improved Eagle ground game thrive.

"We've learned a lot, and we've really come together like a family," Baker said. "We're just trying to do our job so that the rest of the offense can do theirs."

BC's Worcester County Connection

Lindstrom would also fall into this group, alongside his brother Alec, after both of them dominated linemen across Central Mass during their Shepherd Hill days. But the Heart of the Commonwealth has also delivered two stars from the city of Worcester.

Doherty legend Isaac Yiadom has been a contributor in the BC secondary and on special teams from the moment he stepped on campus, and is now generating preseason All-Conference buzz from inside and outside the program. Firmly established as a starting corner, Yiadom is now a seasoned vet, and much more physical player than he was a few years ago. The sky is the limit for him in 2017.

In the backfield, BC has a number of options, including local freshman phenom A.J. Dillon, but St. John's (Shrewsbury) alum Davon Jones has carved out a nice niche for himself as a battering ram, and occasional trick play artist. The Eagles have their deepest running back corps in quite some time, but don't sleep on Jones, who made his case to be the starter last season when then-junior Jon Hilliman was slowed by injury.

"It's pretty cool, because I played against all these guys in high school," Chris Lindstrom said. "We used to scrimmage Davon, so we knew how great he was, and I played some big games against Isaac for the CMass championship. Now we're all friends, and even just standing here I'm talking to Davon about this year and what we're gonna do."

"I would say Isaac is like a big brother to me," Jones added. "And I've got Chris blocking for me, so that's all I need."

Prep Powers

One thing working in Boston College's favor, at least locally, is the increase in football talent across New England Prep schools. While it's not quite on the level of basketball, the prep football scene is beginning to feature some of the very best players in the country, some coming from Massachusetts, and others trekking from all corners of the country to play prep ball in the Northeast.

BC has taken advantage of this, building a pipeline to talent-rich Lawrence Academy. That pipeline helped the Eagles land four-star running back A.J. Dillon, who was initially committed to Michigan, and rope in a few more highly regarded players in the class of 2018, including star lineman Finn Dirstine.

The Eagles also snatched up tight end Chris Garrison out of LA, but it isn't just Lawrence Academy. BC plucked star linebacker Connor Strachan, a Wellesley native, out of St. Sebastian's, and Kevin Cohee, a local defensive lineman, from Roxbury Latin.

Strachan will be the leader of BC's rebuilt linebacking corps, while Cohee is the team's backup nose tackle. Garrison could see extensive action in two-tight end sets, and just as a relief for starter Tommy Sweeney. Dillon, meanwhile, is looking for his own role in that crowded backfield, but he's listed alongside Jones as No. 2 on the depth chart, and he been brutally difficult to tackle during training camp.

MIAA Mainstays

Finally, we get to the meat and potatoes of Massachusetts football: The top MIAA programs that regularly contend for district and state titles. No doubt that Monteiro belongs in the group as well after a solid career at Brockton, and new starting safety Lukas Denis joins him after doing a little bit of everything during his Everett days.

Baker is one of many talented linemen to roam the hallways at Millis High School, and former Catholic Memorial star Kevin Bletzer enters the two-deeps this year behind Strachan at outside linebacker.

Another player to watch will be Amherst-Pelham alum Taj-Amir Torres. The speedy defensive back will likely be BC's first corner off the bench, and get a good amount of work in the Eagles' Nickel package. Oh, and he's also been returning kicks during training camp.

To recap, here are all the Massachusetts natives to keep your eye on this season.

Starters (6)

Aaron Monteiro, Jr. Brockton (LT)
Jon Baker, Sr. Millis (C)
Chris Lindstrom, Jr. Shepherd Hill (RG/RT)
Connor Strachan, Sr. St. Sebastian's (SLB)
Isaac Yiadom, Sr. Doherty Memorial (CB)
Lukas Denis, Jr. Everett (FS)

Regular Contributors (6)

Davon Jones, R-So. St. John's of Shrewsbury (RB)
A.J. Dillon, Fr. Lawrence Academy (RB)
Chris Garrison, R-So. Lawrence Academy (TE)
Kevin Cohee, Sr. Roxbury Latin (NT)
Kevin Bletzer, Jr. Catholic Memorial (SLB)
Taj-Amir Torres, Jr. Amherst-Pelham (CB/KR)

Could See Action (5)

Alec Lindstrom, Fr. Shepherd Hill (C)
Isaiah Miranda, R-Fr. BC High (OLB)
Ryan Conte, Jr. Somerville native, played at Phillips Exeter (OG)
Jake Burt, Sr. St. John's Prep (TE)
Colton Cardinal, Jr. Franklin (FB)

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