Schedule Preview: Boston College

The Tar Heels will leave the state of North Carolina for the final time of the 2009 season on Nov. 21 with a trip to Chestnut Hill to face Boston College and new head coach Frank Spaziani.

Overview: After winning the Atlantic Division in 2008, Boston College's offseason has been saturated with bad news on top of bad news. First, head coach Jeff Jagodzinski interviewed for the vacant New York Jets coaching job, knowing full well that in doing so, Boston College athletics director Gene DeFilippo would fire him. Enter longtime defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani as the new head coach, who led the Eagles to a victory in the 2006 Meineke Car Care Bowl over Navy after Tom O'Brien bolted for N.C. State. Next came the heartbreaking news that reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich had been diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a malignant tumor most often found in bone or soft tissue. And to finish off the roller coaster ride, expected starting quarterback Dominique Davis (63-of-138 passing, 741 yards, 6 TD, 4 INT) decided to transfer after being suspended for academic reasons.

For a program blanketed in turmoil, Spaziani is the rock solid constant that was needed to right the ship. Entering his 40th-year of coaching, the former Penn State defensive end watched as O'Brien rebuilt the BC program to prominence in the late 1990's and then as Jagodzinski elevated the Eagles to the next level with two straight ACC Championship Game appearances. Now, Spaziani wants to take that next step toward a conference title, but those expectations may have to be put on hold in '09.

New offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill has a long track record of developing quarterbacks, and he'll need to work some magic as none of his options at quarterback – David Shinskie, Justin Tuggle and Codi Boek – have ever taken a snap at the FBS level. But it's not as though Tranquill must replace Matt Ryan-type production – the Eagles ranked 93rd nationally in passing offense (176.5 ypg) and 103rd in passing efficiency (103.3) last fall. Montel Harris (900 yards, 5 TD) and Josh Haden (479 yards, TD) are back to lead the ground game (142.9 ypg, 63rd nationally) and most produce as the new quarterback(s) adjust to the starting role. Wide receivers Rich Gunnell (49 catches, 551 yards, 4 TD) and Justin Jarvis (25 catches, 274 yards, 3 TD) are two of Boston College's seven returning starters on offense, joining four offensive linemen led by second-team All-ACC tackle Anthony Castonzo.

The Eagles defense was dominant in '08, leading the ACC in rushing defense (91.2 ypg, 7th nationally), pass efficiency defense (98.8, 7th) and total defense (268.1 ypg, 5th). Five stalwarts of that unit are missing, including Herzlich, LB Brian Toal and NFL draft picks Ron Brace and B.J. Raji at defensive tackle. LB Mike McLaughlin (89 tkl, 8 tfl) is expected to return from a torn Achilles tendon suffered last winter, and free safety Wes Davis (60 tackles, 2 INT) is back to lead the secondary. With such heavy losses, however, new defensive coordinator Bill McGovern has his work cut out for him.

Chris Weinke, Part II? While his new teammates having been enjoying the college life in recent years, David Shinskie has been pitching in minor-league baseball for nearly seven seasons (24-30 W-L, 4.61 ERA in 162 games). The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder spurned Boston College in 2003 to sign with FCS member Delaware to play both sports, but ultimately was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the fourth round. Shinskie hovered in Double-A ball before being released by the Toronto Blue Jays in May. He was a four-year starter at Mount Carmel Area High School in Pennsylvania, posting a 41-6 win-loss record with a school-record 400 completions for 6,334 yards. Rutgers and Pittsburgh also expressed interest in Shinksie.

Time to Develop: With new coaches and quarterbacks working into the Eagles' equation, an early season reprieve in the schedule could provide the cushion needed for this program to get back on its feet. Home contests against Northeastern and Kent State provide ample opportunity for trial-and-error learning curves, while a Week 3 trip to Clemson – in which Boston College will be a likely double-digit underdog – will allow for experience in a hostile setting without an overbearing amount of pressure to win.

Key Game: Wake Forest on Sept. 26. If Boston College is going to challenge in the Atlantic Division, taking care of business at home against a Demon Deacons squad that lost pivotal defensive pieces is critical for the Eagles.

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5   Northeastern 
Sept. 12  Kent State
Sept. 19  @ Clemson
Sept. 26  Wake Forest
Oct. 3    Florida State
Oct. 10   @ Virginia Tech
Oct. 17   N.C. State
Oct. 24   @ Notre Dame
Oct. 31   Central Michigan
Nov. 14   @ Virginia
Nov. 21   North Carolina
Nov. 28   @ Maryland
 

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