In January, when word started circulating around the Boston College football team that coach Frank Spaziani was hiring Jim Bollman as his new offensive line coach, the first thing the linemen did was go to the Internet to check Bollman’s credentials.
“As soon as we all heard,” said captain and senior left tackle Emmett Cleary, “we Googled him.”
His résumé was impossible to question. He has been coaching more than 30 years. After he finished a four-year playing career in the trenches at Ohio University, in 1977, he went straight to Miami University (Ohio) to coach the offensive line.
From there, he spent time on the sidelines at several places, including the Atlantic Coast Conference with North Carolina State and Virginia and the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears.
He spent the past 11 years at Ohio State as offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. While he was there, the Buckeyes won seven Big Ten titles, a national title in 2002, and Bollman watched 10 of his linemen go on to the NFL.
When Bollman introduced himself to his new players, he didn’t show them his ring. He didn’t need to.
“He’s pretty understated,” Cleary said. “He wouldn’t be rocking that around. But we all know. Obviously, his credibility speaks for itself. So he had no problems selling himself to the new guys when he walked in.”
That was what Bollman was counting on after leaving Columbus, where he was a loyal soldier of Jim Tressel’s. When Ohio State hired Urban Meyer as head coach last November, the writing was on the wall for Bollman. And when Spaziani called him about the opportunity at BC, it made sense because of the long list of mutual connections they had, as well as the mutual respect.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Bollman said. “What I was really looking for was the chance to be with some great people, and this is a very quality university. I knew it would be a great environment to come work in. It’s just an old-fashioned deal of being around good people every day. It’s fun to get up and go to work.”
Leaving Ohio State was bittersweet, and the most important factor in coming to BC was the people he’d work around on a daily basis.
“I’m thankful that I had a chance to coach there,” he said. “I was there 11 years and we had a great run. In this racket, you’re fortunate if you’re lucky to be anywhere that long, let alone Ohio State.
“So that was a neat experience. Times change. Things move on. Coaches change for one of a million reasons. Coaches go along with the racket, but I’m grateful to have that chance and I’m very grateful to have this chance.”
He walks into a situation where players such as Cleary, a fifth-year senior, John Wetzel, and Ian White have a wealth of experience.
“It’s great to be able to draw from their leadership,” Bollman said. “They’ve been around the block a few times.”
But there are also younger guys who were thrown into the mix last year either because of injuries or because of the numbers game with the roster, including sophomore guard Bobby Vardaro, sophomore center Andy Gallik, and sophomore tackles Aaron Kramer and Seth Betancourt, all of whom Bollman sees as being contributors.
“It’s good to have some of those guys who’ve been in the mix already,” Bollman said. “There’s a really good mix of experience and youth and a good base to learn from, so it’s a good bunch to coach.”
Because he was hired so early, Bollman had the chance to get to know his players during spring practices. He was able to see the way they had learned to do things, they got a chance to hear the things he planned to do, and they were able to meet in the middle.
Having Cleary makes the transition smoother, Bollman said, especially in terms of players adopting new terminology or Bollman understanding what the players were accustomed to hearing.
“He’s really an intelligent player,” Bollman said. “He’s really an intelligent human being and he carries that over to the field. He can recognize and see and communicate very, very, very well. It makes things much smoother when a guy like himself is there.”
Cleary will make the switch from right tackle to left tackle, the glamour position on the line, if there is such a thing. He has had to learn new footwork, blocking techniques, and the playbook. Bollman’s style, Cleary said, is different, but it pushes him.
“He focuses on a lot of different techniques, so I feel like I’ve been challenged to fill in gaps of my game,” Cleary said. “He’s a great technique coach. He’s been around. He’s got a lot of little tricks that work, and he seems like a good game-planner as we kind of start looking forward to Miami [in the Sept. 1 opener].”
They’re the kinds of things that don’t show up in a Google search.
“So,” Cleary said, “I’m excited about working through the season with him.”