It's August, and so continues the runup to the football season, in earnest. We looked at the questions that UVA must answer in fall camp, and now, as the month goes on, one by one I'll tell the fortunes of each of the other ACC teams. This makes the month go by very quickly for me, because I'll be like halfway through and panicking that I don't have enough time, but more importantly it will make readers of this blog the most well-informed UVA fans in all the internetosphere about this year's competition.
Boston College Eagles
9/10: @ Central Florida
10/1: Wake Forest
10/8: @ Clemson
10/22: @ Virginia Tech
10/29: @ Maryland
11/3: Florida State (Thurs.)
11/12: NC State
11/19: @ Notre Dame
11/25: @ Miami
Skip: Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia
QB: Chase Rettig (So.)
RB: Montel Harris (Sr.)
FB: Danny Traeger (rFr.)
WR: Colin Larmond (rJr.)
WR: Bobby Swigert (So.)
TE: Chris Pantale (rJr.)
LT: John Wetzel (Jr.)
LG: Nathan Richman (5Sr.)
C: Mark Spinney (5Sr.)
RG: Ian White (rSo.)
RT: Emmett Cleary (rJr.)
DE: Max Holloway (rJr.)
DT: Kaleb Ramsey (Sr.)
DT: Dillon Quinn (rSo.)
DE: Kasim Edebali (rSo.)
SLB: Steele Divitto (So.)
MLB: Luke Kuechly (Jr.)
WLB: Kevin Pierre-Louis (So.)
CB: Donnie Fletcher (Sr.)
CB: C.J. Jones (So.)
SS: Dominick LeGrande (Sr.)
FS: Okechukwu Okoroha (rJr.)
K: Nate Freese (rSo.)
P: Ryan Quigley (Sr.)
Coach: Frank Spaziani (3rd year)
(Italics indicate new starter.)
Media prediction: 4th, Atlantic Division
2010 1st team: RB Montel Harris, OT Anthony Castonzo, LB Luke Kuechly
2010 2nd team: none
2010 HM: OG Thomas Claiborne
2011 preseason: RB Montel Harris, LB Luke Kuechly
(Italics indicate departed player.)
The first and damn near only thing that jumps out at me in the whole above breakdown of BC's prospects this year is the schedule. It starts off pretty innocuously and then, midway through the season, slams the Eagles with a big ugly slug of reality. BC fans and media alike will be expecting huge, huge things from their preseason all-conferencers, Montel Harris and Luke Kuechly, but even with two of the conference's elite players, the schedule is a lot to overcome.
Boston College breaks in a new offensive coordinator this year, but that might actually go fairly well if the past feelings of UVA fans means anything. Kevin Rogers was a name that Hoo fans looked at with a great deal of interest when Mike London was filling out his staff last January; this year, he finds employment in Chestnut Hill. He's got some work to do. Chase Rettig won the starting job in the middle of the 2010 season after the Eagles tried out a few other guys, and played with the wild mood swings you'd expect from a freshman: outstanding at times, miserable at others. He has a deep if not spectacular group of receivers to throw to; Colin Larmond missed all of last season but Bobby Swigert, also a freshman last year, had a solid debut, and Alex Amidon can go deep. Swigert and tight end Chris Pantale will probably be Rettig's most dependable targets, depending on how Larmond does in returning from a serious knee injury. This is probably a better group of receivers than their stats indicate; relatively few passing attempts and a poor completion percentage by the quarterbacks kept their numbers down.
Of course, I'd be awfully remiss in not mentioning Montel Harris, who can set the Boston College all-time rushing record with just one good game and has a shot at an ACC record or two. BC will lean on Harris til his knees fall off - he averaged over 20 carries a game last year - and only go to backup Andre Williams when Harris needs a rest or in certain short-yardage situations. (Williams is a big, big back at over 220 pounds.) But the offensive line is undergoing a little flux, and in particular, center Mark Spinney will be in his first year as a starter, as well as a center, and that will put a few question marks into the running game.
Rogers's two biggest challenges are reworking the offensive line and updating the playbook; having a quarterback situation last year didn't help, but BC had the worst offense in the conference in 2010, even with an all-star like Harris toting the rock and a couple of NFL draft picks on the O-line. There's nowhere to go but up.
This is why BC even went to a bowl last year: the defense bailed out the offense. At BC it starts with outstanding linebacker play, and this year (as with the past couple) it's all about tackling machine Luke Kuechly. An astounding one hundred eighty-three tackles in 2010 did not leave very many for his teammates, but fellow linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis managed to find 93 for himself. Both return this year, and BC has a bit of a horse race for the third spot, which is the one that has to replace Mark Herzlich. Currently Steele Divitto is listed as a co-starter with Nick Clancy. Much is expected of BC linebackers, so the "or" situation probably won't last long.
Up front the Eagles return Max Holloway and Kaleb Ramsey, so the left side of the line is very solid. Holloway had 14 TFL in 2010 and Ramsey led BC D-linemen in what few tackles were left after the linebackers had finished gorging them all. The right side of the line is wildly inexperienced, though.
In the secondary it's a similar situation. Donnie Fletcher will hold down one corner spot while the other one is decided by competition. Fletcher picked off five passes in 2010. Second-leading pass interceptor Jim Noel is listed as the backup to C.J. Jones, and top freshman Albert Louis-Jean enrolled early and may also get a look; my guess is this not settled and one of those guys may be a safety by the end of the year. At safety the Eagles are decent but unspectacular. BC intercepted 20 passes last season, second in the ACC, which makes the secondary look a lot better than it is; truth is, the linebackers had seven of 'em. This is kind of the story at safety, where there isn't much to do since the linebackers take care of things up front. Regardless of a little uncertainty in the secondary, BC has a great shot at once again being the best defense in the conference.
Solid here: Ryan Quigley averaged 41.5 yards on his punts, and kicker Nate Freese isn't very rangy (yet - he's only a sophomore) but was near-automatic inside 40 yards. BC probably won't be dangerous in the returns department because they don't have a stable of really dynamic athletes.
Let's take another look at that schedule. It's very easy to picture Boston College sitting at 5-0 after its first five games. Not particularly challenging, with the toughest probably being the season opener against Northwestern. Then comes the hammer. Three games in a row on the road at difficult venues, and after traveling to College Park they have to turn right back around and host Florida State on a Thursday. That's followed by another home game against another surprise team from 2010, NC State, and then two road games, one in South Bend against Notre Dame. The usual BCS-team schedule has seven home games on it; BC has six.
So it's not a total stretch to say BC could lose its last seven. The defense won't let that happen, though. The offense won't be anywhere near good enough to get them through that seven game stretch with the kind of record they'd need to get to the ACCCG, but 3-4 in that stretch is within reach if Kevin Rogers is a big enough improvement over the disastrous Gary Tranquill. That would be enough to improve on last year's performance.