CHESTNUT HILL — Wednesday's pro day at Boston College was not just an affirmation of the talent of the individual players who have gone through the program the last few years.
No, it was more than that. With 16 players participating, seven of whom also worked at the NFL Combine, and a potential of maybe eight draftees in this year's class, all 32 teams from the sport's highest level were on hand to view what has to be seen as a major resurgence in the talent level at The Heights.
The 2015 recruiting class was ranked 14th — dead last — in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and 60th in the nation by 247sports. Fast forward a few years later, and those diamonds in the rough made up 10 of the pro day participants and five of those combine players.
It's a testament to the ability for BC coach Steve Addazio and his staff to identify and develop the type of talent to compete at a high level. Of course, the Eagles still need to break through that ceiling of seven wins per season that seems to hang over the program at the moment, but you can't discount how far this program has come in recent years.
"Well, this reminds me of days back in Florida when we'd have a large number of guys here: general managers type; all position coaches; stuff like that," Addazio said of the pro day turnout. "Obviously it's much different. We're talking about seven guys at the combine. We're talking about anywhere from six-to-eight draftable guys. Guys are going to sign free-agent contracts on top of that."
According to Addazio, it's a result of the strict strategy his staff sticks to when targeting players. He said they're looking for kids who fit in the culture of the university and love the game. Everything else falls in place from there.
And it helps that Addazio knows the path that these players are likely to take once they get to Chestnut Hill. If you're not going to attract the four- or five-star players, you'll need to know how to get the most out of the lower-rated recruits.
"This is a place where you take guys and you develop them," Addazio said. "They might not have come out of high school as a four- or five-star, but by the time they leave here, they're playing at the level of what the projected four- or five-star would have played."
"I think it shows we've got to give a lot of credit to our coaches," defensive end Wyatt Ray said. "They did a great job of recruiting us and developing us. A lot of us were overlooked prospects, and now you see here and there's about 16 guys who will have an opportunity to play in the NFL. I don't know if they would have said that coming out of high school."
Probably not, and it's something safety Will Harris said the team is aware of.
"Right. We have a lot of pride in that. At the same time, things like that, little things like that, a true competitor, instead of moping around about it, finds motivation in those things," Harris said. "Finding motivation in that these guys think we're the lowest recruiting ranked players, we don't really harp on that. We just know that we can control what we can control, and that's what we did here for four years is, like coach Addazio says, 'Control the controllable.' We did that, take it day by day, every day get better at something. Especially with the development, being here four years, going through what we've been through, playing the strength of schedule that we play here set us up perfectly for moments like this. So definitely humbled by it."
Two of those players from that 2015 class, guard Chris Lindstrom and defensive end Zach Allen, were rated as three-star recruits by the 247 composite evaluations. Now, they are both in the conversation to be off the board on the draft's first night.
"I hope we have two first-rounders. We'll see," Addazio said. "We'll see."
Under Scar's watch
Lindstrom was a popular guy on Wednesday. He had several long conversations with scouts in attendance.
However, his most significant interactions were with Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who met with Lindstrom for an interview after the workouts.
"Coach Scarnecchia ran our position drills and then we just went up and did our interview and stuff," Lindstrom said. "It was good. It was really cool to meet him and the great coach he is. So it was a great day."
Lindstrom, who did not run the 40-yard dash at the pro day but clocked a 4.91 at the combine at 6-foot-4, 308 pounds, said the message from Scarnecchia was to "just to keep working."
And, as mentioned, Scarnecchia is far from the only one who seems to really like the former Shepherd Hill star.
"Well, I think across the board here, all the guys specific to Chris, they all love Chris," Addazio said. "I think in the business, I don't think anybody's going to show their hand to anybody exactly. That's proprietary information. But I think they all just love who he is, and how he presents himself, and how he represents the university, and the way he plays. That's the kind of the common talk among the line guys, and stuff like that. But I think everybody's exact feelings, I don't know the NFL that well, but I'm sure there's a lot of stuff they want to keep among their own organization."
Lindstrom credited the program's strength and conditioning program for reshaping his body from a high school senior to this point.
"They took me as a 235-pound 17-year-old kid and really worked me, and taught me how to eat, too, and pushed me in the weight room and wanted me to be the best," Lindstrom said. "So if you just open yourself up to the coaching with any position, and really with the strength staff for me, I was able to put the weight on quickly, believing in the program and just working towards it."
Leaving an impression
Allen did not take part in every workout, but still felt he did well enough to grab the right attention from those in attendance.
"I just wanted to show that I could do it all," Allen said. "Whether a team needs me to be an edge, inside guy, bend, explosive, my big thing is I'm a pretty versatile guy. I just want to prove that I could keep on doing it. I think I did a pretty good job of that today, and hopefully a team values that and (I) get picked."
We asked Allen what he wants teams to know about him other than the film and numbers.
"I want them to know what kind of guy they're going to get," Allen said. "I want them to know they're going to get the hardest-working guy in the building. That's not just a cliche. I think you can ask anybody here, they're going to attest to that. And, also, they're going to see a really smart football player who has a really high football IQ, whether it be the board work, the film room, whatever it is. I think I've done that in my meetings so far, and hope to continue to portray that image for the rest of them."
Speaking of the Patriots, Allen said he has talked to them briefly, and has meetings lined up with the defending Super Bowl champions in the future.
Tight end Tommy Sweeney said he has gotten good feedback from pro scouts on how BC uses its tight ends.
"A lot in the run game, a lot in the pass game: that's what it is at the NFL level," Sweeney said. "The feedback is we kind of do it the right way, the old-fashioned way, which is the old-fashioned way: it's not broke, so don't fix it, right? As far as setting us up, it couldn't be better for the next level as far as blocking and being part of the pass game and pass protection."
With the recent success of former Eagle defensive backs in the NFL like John Johnson, Justin Simmons, Isaac Yiadom, and Kamrin Moore, the secondary continues to be a strength when supplying players to the next level.
On Wednesday, cornerbacks Taj-Amir Torres, who ran a hand-timed 4.37 40-yard dash, and Hamp Cheevers, who led the nation in interceptions per game in 2018, combined with safeties Harris and Everett's Lukas Denis to try and live up to that reputation.
"Development, recruiting, a combination of all those things. Good leadership. We have a lot of good coaches here," Harris said of the success of BC defensive backs. "All of our coaches here have a wealth of knowledge. Being able to pick those guys' brains all the time, them always being accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week . . . Man, it's huge, and we learn so much from those guys. It's more than just a player-coach relationship. It's a brotherhood here. It's a brotherhood relationship. And we look up to these guys, and they've always been there for us. Our job on game days was to reciprocate that and go out and make plays. They always put us in the best situations to make big plays and play at competitive excellence. So forever grateful to those guys."
Denis said he judges how he does in a combine or pro day setting by more than the numbers.
"Well, it's all about how it felt. If it felt natural, if it felt smooth, then you probably did a good job," Denis said. "If you felt like there was something to improve on, you can always go back and improve. But I felt pretty smooth in my position drills. The 40 has never been my strong suit, but I know that with the anticipation that I play with, I can get to the same spot quicker, so I'm OK with that."
Linebacker Connor Strachan said he's talked to teams about playing at fullback at the next level.
"Great. I mean, played it in high school," Strachan said. "Tried to play it here, coach (Frank) Leonard didn't let me. Definitely you can ask him, we had some serious battles about that. But any way I can make a team, I'm ready and willing."
Tackling the next challenge
Brockton's Aaron Monteiro started to come on toward the end of his senior year, and Addazio feels like he could be a sleeper.
"His best football is yet to played, and in his workouts today, I thought he looked really good," Addazio said.
Monteiro said he did his best to impress Scarnecchia and the other onlookers.
"Just try to tell me to retain as much information as I could," Monteiro said. "Try to know everything that I can. Try to be versatile. Try to be as quick and twitchy as I could."
Maybe the best day came from wide receiver Jeff Smith, who made a living beating teams around the edge on jet sweeps in his career with the Eagles.
Smith ran a 4.34 40, had a 36.5-inch vertical leap, 6.87-second 3-cone drill, and 11.18-second 60-yard shuttle.