Of the many losses on the offensive side of the ball for a Johns Hopkins football team that last season made its third straight playoff appearance and fourth in the last five years, perhaps no unit suffered more of a blow than the offensive line.
Tackles Vincenzo Bonaddio and Armand Jenifer, left guard Kevin Quinn and center Ben Cranston graduated, leaving junior right guard Colin Egan as the only returning starter from last year’s front five.
Restocking the offensive line is a priority for a Blue Jays program that has prided itself on running the ball.
“Those losses are going to be devastating to some extent,” coach Jim Margraff said before Monday’s practice at Homewood Field. “But those other guys invested their time, and they’ve watched those guys in front of them. They’ve seen how hard they work, and they understand what it takes to be successful.
"I truly believe they’ve done that in the offseason. So right now, it’s just a matter of how quickly can we jell as a group and become a good offensive line. Sometimes expectations alone can drive you to a higher point, and I think these guys have high expectations. I don’t think they’re looking at it the way you and I and the fans are. They’re looking at it as they’re the next great offensive line here. So we’ll see.”
Johns Hopkins won’t open the season until Sept. 6 at home against Randolph Macon, but the starting line on Monday was composed of senior Kyle Flynn at left tackle, senior Zach Lorenz at left guard, senior Martin Scheuring at center, junior Fernando Concepcion at right guard, and junior Rowan Cade at right tackle.
Egan was given the day off after pulling a hamstring, but Margraff said the injury is not considered serious.
“It’s actually a plus right now just to sit him down for a couple days,” Margraff said of Egan. “He’ll help some of the younger guys and we’ll get a chance to work out some of our upperclassmen tackles at guard a little bit and get a chance to bring some of our freshmen guys around.
"So, I’m not worried. He had a great spring and looked fine the first couple days here. We just want to hold him out a few days and be careful.”
The team has barely begun full-contact drills in the preseason, but Margraff is cautiously optimistic about what he has seen from the offensive line.
“We run some very complex pass protections with some new run schemes, and I think they’ve really mastered that,” he said. “So now it’s a matter of, ‘Can you do that and hit people at the same time?’ There’s some good and some bad, so I’m impressed by what I’ve seen, but I’m mostly encouraged.”
** With six out of eight starters returning among defensive linemen and linebackers, it shouldn’t be a surprise that those players had success against the retooled offensive line.
Senior defensive end Michael Longo would have sacked senior Braden Anderson (if the quarterbacks weren’t off-limits to contact), and senior defensive tackle Brannock Furey got to junior Will Nunn. Senior defensive tackle Michael Rocca almost wrapped up Anderson, but he rolled out to his right and zipped a pass to sophomore wide receiver Boone Lewis Jr.
** Another position on offense impacted by graduation was wide receiver. Starters Dan Wodicka (44 catches for 506 yards and five touchdowns) and Bob D’Orazio (23-316-4) are gone. But sophomore Bradley Munday (36-338-1) has the kind of speed and shiftiness coaches covet in a slot receiver, junior Ryan Finkel (37-301-1) started nine games last season, and sophomore Quinn Donaldson (7-89-0) has made a substantial leap.
“There’s some talented guys out there and the nice thing we have is, we have started to separate and we have true outside receivers and some true inside receivers, which will allow us to do a few more things offensively in our screen game and our quick game,” Margraff said. “But we can also go down the field with some of our tall guys that are a little bit faster. So it’s a good group right now, and I think we can be talented there.”
** Senior safety Ryan Rice showed that his second-team preseason All-American status from D3football.com is no fluke. On the second play of full-team drills, Rice dropped back and snared an Anderson seam pass before landing hard on the turf.
Several plays later, sophomore strong safety Dan Johnson (Westminster) dove to just tip a pass from sophomore quarterback Jonathan Germano that Finkel couldn’t catch.