2009 ACC Football Preview: Boston College

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Boston College Eagles

Returning Starters: 12 (7 offense, 5 defense)

Key Returnees: RB Montel Harris, RB Josh Haden, WR, Rich Gunnell, FB
James McCluskey, C Matt Tennant, OG Thomas Claiborne, OT Anthony Castonzo, PK
Steve Aponavicius, DE Jim Ramella, DE Alex Alright, LB Mike McLaughlin, CB
Roderick Rollins, CB Donnie Fletcher, FS Wes Davis

Key Losses: QB Chris Crane, QB Dominique Davis, WR Brandon Robinson, TE
Ryan Purvis, OG Clif Ramsey, DT B.J. Raji, DT Ron Brace, LB Mark Herzlich, LB
Brian Toal, LB Robert Francois, SS Paul Anderson, CB/LB Kevin Akins

Overall View

Boston College has lost to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game in each
of the last two seasons. Heading into 2009, they are experiencing heavy turnover
at critical positions, including head coach. Jeff Jagodzinski departed in the
offseason to be the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Former
defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani is now BC’s third head coach since 2005.

The Eagles also lost starting quarterback Chris Crane, as well as backup
Dominique Davis. Defensively, BC loses mammoth defensive tackles B.J. Raji and
Ron Brace. Linebacker Mark Herzlich, Defensive Player of the Year last year in
the ACC, will miss the season while battling cancer.

BC has plenty of good players returning, but they will have some weaknesses
that will prevent them having the success that they enjoyed over the past two

Offensive Strength

Boston College should have a very strong running game in 2009. That
should help ease their transition to a new quarterback. The Eagles return four
offensive line starters, as well as two talented running backs. Matt Tennant
(center) and Anthony Castonzo (OT) could be the best players at their respective
positions in the ACC.

In the backfield, BC has two sophomore tailbacks who are capable of moving
the chains. Montel Harris broke the Boston College freshman rushing record with
900 yards on the ground in 2009. He had five 100-yard rushing games, and his
62.9 yards per game average ranked third nationally amongst true freshmen.

Joining Harris in the backfield will be talented sophomore Josh Haden. Haden
rushed for 479 yards last season. Despite rushing for fewer yards than Montel
Harris, Haden actually started 12 games in 2009.

Harris and Haden should give Boston College a very good 1-2 punch in the
backfield this season, particularly when running behind a very experienced
offensive line.

Offensive Weakness

Chris Crane used up his eligibility and rising r-sophomore Dominique Davis
decided to transfer in the offseason after academic difficulties. That makes quarterback
the weak spot for Boston College. Three candidates have emerged for the job:
r-freshman Justin Tuggle, r-junior Codi Boek and 25-year old freshman Dave

Boek played fullback last year, but he was a quarterback in a spread-style
offense in junior college. He could be the best fit for new offensive
coordinator Gary Tranquill. Shinskie is a former minor league baseball player.
However, Shinskie hasn’t played in a football game since high school.

Whoever plays quarterback for Boston College will enter the season having
never taken a snap in a college game. They could get a rude awakening, and
quarterback play could very well hold the team back. No one can lose a game
faster than a bad or inexperienced quarterback, and BC could find that out the
hard way this season.

Defensive Strength

The BC defense looks like it will drop off a lot this year, but the Eagles do
have three quality defensive ends. Jim Ramella, Alex Albright and Austin
Giles all have plenty of starting experience, and they are all capable of making

Albright is the most athletic of this group, but he missed the 2008 season
because of an injury. His return should add a playmaking boost to BC’s front
seven. While the loss of Mark Herzlich at linebacker will hurt, the return of
Albright at defensive end will help. Jim Ramella had nine tackles for loss last
year, and he is the likely starter at the other end.

Austin Giles, at 283-lbs, has played well at defensive end, but he also has
the size to play defensive tackle. He could be needed on the inside and outside
this year.

Defensive Weakness

With the loss of linebackers Mark Herzlich, Brian Toal and Robert Francois, linebacker
will be the weakness of the BC defense this season. Middle linebacker Mike
McLaughlin returns, but he tore his Achilles during March conditioning. How
effective he can be this season remains to be seen.

If McLaughlin is limited, or he can’t go at all, then BC will have three new
faces at linebacker: Dominick LeGrande, Will Thompson, and Nick Clancy. LeGrande
played in the secondary last season as a true freshman, but he’ll be expected to
play the strongside linebacker position vacated by Herzlich. Nick Clancy is a
rangy r-freshman with good speed. BC will likely have a faster group of
linebackers this year, but combined with the loss of Raji and Brace at defensive
tackle, the Eagles aren’t going to be as effective against the run.

Biggest Game

Boston College plays at Clemson on September 19, and we’ll find out early
exactly how good the Eagles are. BC and Clemson have played great games against
each other since ACC expansion. The Eagles are 3-1 against the Tigers since
2005, but the four games have been decided by an average of just 3.5 points.

Both teams will have something to prove. Dabo Swinney of Clemson will want to
prove that he is the right man for the job in Death Valley, while Frank Spaziani
will be coaching his first big game for Boston College. This game could go a
long way in setting the tone for the season.

Will Stewart’s Take

The Eagles have been surprisingly competitive with the Hokies, and I say
“surprisingly” because the Eagles are the anti-VT. They’re a private,
northern, Catholic university, with a relatively small fan base that isn’t
nearly as passionate as VT fans are about football.

VT is a large, public, southern school with a rabid fan base that travels
well, and we revere our blue-collar approach to football, because it mirrors our
blue-collar approach to life. If you’re a VT fan, you know that these
characteristics are the foundation upon which Virginia Tech’s successful 16-year
fun in football has been built.

So … how can a school that is the anti-VT boast one of the best records
against the Hokies in recent memory? BC has won 4 of the last 7 against Virginia
Tech, a run matched by very few teams, and BC is one of the schools you would
least expect to pull it off, at first glance.

Tech fans feel that. They go nuclear whenever VT loses to BC. The 2006
embarrassment (22-3 in Chestnut Hill), the last-minute loss in Lane Stadium in
2007, and last year’s 28-23 loss on the road engendered vehement responses from
the Tech fan base the likes of which aren’t directed at many teams on Tech’s
schedule (because, as the retort goes, VT doesn’t lose very many football
games). You can tell that losses to BC really rub Tech fans the wrong way.
Fortunately, the Hokies have won both of the last two ACC Championships against
Boston College, which heals the wounds a little.

So, are you ready to see the Hokies string together some wins against the
Eagles? I am. No more of this win-one, lose-one deal that’s been going on for
six seasons now. The Eagles are on the precipice, and the time is ripe for the
Hokies to take control of the series again, like they did from 1996-2002, when
Tech won seven in a row.

BC’s biggest problem is that they have a great, gaping hole at QB, and that
should equal a Hokie win in Lane Stadium this season, provided Tech is healthy
at QB when the teams meet October 10th.

Beyond that, we’ll find out over the next few years if Frank Spaziani can
bring stability to the program, plug the holes he’s got, and continue what Tom
O’Brien had going before handing it off to Jeff Jagodzinski for two smarmy,
jig-dancing seasons. I, for one, would like to see BC become a guaranteed win
again, instead of the anti-VT that tags the Hokies with losses almost every

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