Tuesday, August 4, 2009

season preview: Boston College

Note: Today, we kick off the season previews throughout the ACC, in alphabetical order. As promised earlier, there will be one for each ACC team, plus one for each team on our non-conference schedule. Busy month. Kick back and enjoy.


9/5: Northeastern
9/12: Kent State
9/19: @ Clemson
9/26: Wake Forest
10/3: Florida State
10/10: @ Virginia Tech
10/17: NC State
10/24: @ Notre Dame
10/31: Central Michigan
11/7: BYE
11/14: @ Virginia
11/21: North Carolina
11/28: @ Maryland

Skip: Duke, Miami, Georgia Tech

Projected starters:

QB: Justin Tuggle (rFr.)
RB: Montel Harris (So.)
FB: James McCluskey (rJr.)
WR: Rich Gunnell (5Sr.)
WR: Justin Jarvis (Sr.)
TE: Lars Anderson (rSo.)
LT: Anthony Castonzo (Jr.)
LG: Emmett Cleary (rFr.)
C: Matt Tennant (5Sr.)
RG: Thomas Claiborne(rJr.)
RT: Rich Lapham (rJr.)

LDE: Alex Albright (Sr.)
LDT: Kaleb Ramsey (So.)
RDT: Damik Scaife (rJr.)
RDE: Jim Ramella (5Sr.)
SLB: Dominick LeGrande (So.)
MLB: Mike McLaughlin (5Sr.)
WLB: Nick Clancy (rFr.)
CB: DeLeon Gause (Jr.)
CB: Roderick Rollins (Sr.)
SS: Marcellus Bowman (5Sr.)
FS: Wes Davis (rJr.)

K: Steve Aponavicius (Sr.)
P: Ryan Quigley (So.)

Coach: Frank Spaziani (1st year)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Media prediction: 6th, Atlantic Division


2008 1st team: OG Cliff Ramsey, DT B.J. Raji, LB Mark Herzlich
2008 2nd team: TE Ryan Purvis, OT Anthony Castonzo, DT Ron Brace
2008 HM: OG Thomas Claiborne, C Matt Tennant, S Paul Anderson
2009 preseason: OT Anthony Castonzo, C Matt Tennant

(Italics indicate departed player.)

The good Jesuit priests at Boston College must have been saying the rosary all wrong in 2008, because the offseason could not have been more eventful in all the wrong ways. A fired coach, a disciplined-then-transferred quarterback, and then the team’s marquee player is diagnosed with, of all things, bone cancer. BC lost a ton of talent when the eligibility clock ran out and then spent much of the offseason losing much of the talent it could least afford to lose, leaving them trying to patch up holes everywhere.


Eagles fans were looking forward to the Dominique Davis reign under center, but academic responsibilities, or the failure to complete such, put an end to it before it really started. That left a quarterback competition between a bunch of guys whose collective college experience under center wouldn’t fill a thimble. Codi Boek is the oldest, but he spent last season playing fullback. Justin Tuggle and ex-minor league baseball player David Shinskie are also vying for the job. You and I have seen this story before; it reminds me of 2006 when a competition between Christian Olsen and Kevin McCabe resulted in Jameel Sewell being named the starter. It’s probably not going to come up roses for BC.

It’s not all bad for BC on this side of the ball though. Actually, quarterback is the only really rough spot. They return two excellent sophomores at running back, where Montel Harris made the bigger name for himself last year and was accompanied by Josh Haden. The two make a dynamic pair at running back. However, it’s the trenches where BC really gets it done. The offensive line may be the best in the conference. Anthony Castonzo and Matt Tennant are preseason all-conference selections, and they’re joined by Tom Claiborne, who, like the other two, earned all-ACC votes at the end of the season. Boston College has only to replace one starter, and that’s at left guard where redshirt freshman Emmett Cleary looks to take over from another departed all-conference player.


The strength of this unit is going to be the secondary, where three out of four starters return, and the fourth spot should be filled by fifth-year senior Marcellus Bowman, who leads returning players back there with three 2008 picks. None of these guys have eye-popping talent, but the whole unit is very experienced.

That’s the good news. The bad news is the front seven. LB Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in the offseason, ripping the heart and soul out of Boston College’s defense, not to mention their best player. Herzlich’s absence isn’t the only hurdle to overcome: LB Mike McLaughlin is projected as the starter, but that’s if a torn Achilles doesn’t keep him off the field all year. Will Thompson will take his place until he’s ready, which means BC will have new starters at all three linebacker spots. They also lost a stellar pair of run-stuffing, quarterback-terrorizing tackles to the NFL in the offseason and will have to replace first- and second-round talent in the middle. It’s not all bad news on the line: Alex Albright and Jim Ramella are manning the ends, and both are seniors who will provide the only badly-needed experience in the front seven. BC’s pass defense should be acceptable but the tattered state of the rest of the defense could make it hard for them to control games by stopping the run.


The Eagles bring back both their kicker and punter. K Steve Aponavicius hit on just 2/3 of his field goal attempts last year, though he was perfect on PATs. P Ryan Quigley is solid with an average just shy of 40 yards.


You wouldn’t really want your offseasons much more tumultuous than this. About the best BC fans can say for it was that nobody went on a raging alcohol bender and earned massive amounts of Fulmer Cup points. There were plenty of headlines without that stuff, though. It probably was not the time for the BC administration to play hardball with their coach as he peeked around at other job openings; new head coach Frank Spaziani is generally well-respected but inherits a mess at quarterback and a team in sore need of some talent to step to the plate. Some continuity would have been nice here. As it is, BC has several decent pieces in place, and it’s very hard for me to totally count out a team with a near-dominant offensive line such as theirs, but the quarterback issue probably won’t go away all season. They should handily win their first two games, but beyond that it’s hard to see where the wins are going to come from to earn a bowl bid. It would not surprise at all if the Eagles found themselves coming out of their bye week in early November needing to win all three of the remaining games – two of which are on the road – in order to achieve bowl eligibility. I don’t think they’ll reach that mark, and a basement finish in the entire ACC is not out of the question here.


Please note the following about the projected starters: These are put together using last season's depth charts where available, last season's statistics where applicable, preview articles where findable (in this case, from USA Today and from Heather), and finally, cross-checked against theACC.com's highly useful "12 Days of ACC Football" series. Sometimes they just come down to an unscientific guess on my part. I'm not always right.

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