2007 ACC Football Season Preview: Boston College

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Boston College Eagles

16 Returning Starters (7 offense, 9 defense)

Key Players: QB Matt Ryan, RB L.V. Whitworth, RB Andre Callender, WR
Kevin Challenger, OT Gosder Cherilus, DT B.J. Raji, LB Brian Toal, LB Jolonn
Dunbar, CB DeJuan Tribble, FS Jamie Silva

Overall
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Tom O’Brien left Boston College to take the job at NC State in the offseason,
and the Eagles hired Jeff Jagodzinski, the offensive coordinator of the Green
Bay Packers. Jagodzinski has experience on Chestnut Hill. He was the offensive
coordinator for BC under O’Brien back in 1997 and 1998.

The Eagles return a lot of very experienced starters for this season, and
many people think they can challenge for the Atlantic Division championship and
play in the ACC Championship Game in December. BC has won seven straight bowl
games, which is the longest streak in college football.

Offensive Strength

Quarterback Matt Ryan is viewed as the top quarterback in the ACC. He
completed 263-of-427 passes last year, good for 61.6%. He passed for 2,942
yards, and threw 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Ryan is a pocket
quarterback who just knows how to get it done.

Ryan also has shown the ability to get it done in the clutch in the past, and
that isn’t likely to change during his senior season. When the Eagles find
themselves in close games in 2007, they are likely to come away with the win
because they have a talented senior quarterback. Most teams in the ACC don’t
have that luxury.

Offensive Weakness

All of BC’s units on the offensive side of the ball are good. They even have
some nice playmakers on the outside in wide receivers Kevin Challenger and
Brandon Robinson. Their weakness on offense this year could perhaps be getting
used to a new zone blocking scheme that Jagodzinski brought with him from Green
Bay.

The Eagles also have a new offensive coordinator, former ECU head coach Steve
Logan. Although they will be experienced, BC’s offense could struggle some at
the beginning of the season with the new offense, particularly the running game.
BC averaged just 3.4 yards per carry last year.

Defensive Strength

BC’s defensive strength will be their front seven, particularly right up the
middle. The Eagles potentially return all seven starters on the defensive line
and at linebacker. The defensive line is anchored by mammoth defensive tackle
B.J. Raji (6-1, 340). Ron Brace (6-3, 335) is no slouch either. The Eagles have
a total of six defensive linemen who have started at least one game.

At linebacker, BC could return all three starters. However, it is looking
more and more likely that Brian Toal will have to redshirt this season to
continue to rehabilitate an injured shoulder. He also serves as BC’s goal line
running back, so his loss would hurt.

Toal’s replacement would be Robert Francois, who started seven games last
year and made 52 tackles. He is a very capable replacement. With basically
everyone returning from a talented front seven, the Eagles will be very tough to
run against in 2007. They should be able to control the line of scrimmage
against just about everyone they play when they are on defense.

Defensive Weakness

Relative to the front seven, BC’s secondary is weak. They are still pretty
good, however. Cornerback DeJuan Tribble had seven interceptions last season and
returned three of them for touchdowns. Jamie Silva is a ballhawk who had 57
tackles and four interceptions. BC was third nationally in interceptions last
year with 21.

However, the Eagles will have to break in one new starting cornerback (Taji
Morris, Roderick Rollins or Razzie Smith), as well as a new strong safety to
replace Ryan Glasper. The best way to attack Boston college this year will be
through the air. But overall, it will be tough to move the ball on their
defense.

Biggest Game

Boston College hosts defending ACC Champion Wake Forest on September 1, the
first game of the season. The loser of this game gets out to a bad start in
their quest to win the Atlantic Division.

But it’s more than that. Boston College always struggles with Wake
Forest. The teams have played every year since 2003, with the Demon Deacons
winning three of the four meetings. BC’s only win in the series was a narrow
35-30 comeback victory on Chestnut Hill. Last year Matt Ryan passed for over 400
yards on Wake, but still lost 21-14.

If Boston College loses to Wake Forest, they could be staring at a possible
1-3 start in the ACC. Two of their next three conference games are on the road
at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

Will Stewart’s Take

In the preview for last year’s game at BC, I said, “One thing you need
to know right off the bat is that I will never pick Boston College to beat
Virginia Tech, not unless something changes drastically among the two
teams.” Despite VT’s embarrassing 22-3 loss in Chestnut Hill, I still feel
that way. It’s a matchup the favors VT more often than not, as the Hokies showed
from 1996-2002, winning seven straight.

But the truth is, the Eagles have beaten VT two out of the last three
times they’ve played, including in Lane Stadium (2003). With a senior
quarterback at the helm and a defensive tackle whose pass rush registers on the Richter
scale, they can do it again. Tom O’Brien did a
good job building that program. He was the right fit for Boston College, a guy
who knew BC’s limitations — tough academic standards and a small recruiting
base aren’t key ingredients to building a successful program — and had the
coaching style to overcome them.

But TOB, as he is called, isn’t there anymore, and to me, that’s one of the
most compelling storylines in the ACC in the coming years. Can Jeff Jagodzinski
get it done? For the BC fans who wanted O’Brien to move on, this may be a case
of “Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.”

There’s also the subplot of Steve Logan being the new OC at Boston College.
Logan gained fame among TSL message board posters via a North Carolina radio
appearance a couple of years ago, in which he dissected VT’s perceived offensive
woes, striking a chord among many VT fans who were unhappy with Tech’s offensive
performance. Through that one radio appearance, Logan earned a tongue-in-cheek,
mythical, Chuck Norris-like reputation with some Tech fans.

In the past, I never had much interest in what BC was doing. I always found
them inherently boring in the way they almost always lost to VT, won eight or
nine games, and won their bowl game. Same ole BC, year after year. Now that they
have beaten the Hokies two out of three and changed their coaching staff, I’m a
little more interested in what’s going on in Chestnut Hill right now and where
the program’s going long term.

In the short term, Matt Ryan, B.J. Rahi, and their supporting cast are
reasons to be worried. It’s a good thing the Hokies have the Eagles at home this
year on a Thursday night, because I’m wary of the Eagles.

Boston
College 2007 Football Schedule

Boston
College 2007 Roster

(Updated depth chart not available)

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