Big East Preview, Part 5

This is the fifth in a seven part preseason tour of the Big East. I'll continue my pre-season tour of the Big East with a look at rebuilding Boston College. I'll review lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits.


The 2002 season was a lost opportunity for Boston College.  A confluence of a veteran team, a favorable schedule, and a rebuilding year among the upper division of the Big East positioned Boston College to challenge Miami for the conference championship.  A second place finish and Gator Bowl invitation were distinct possibilities.  An undefeated Virginia Tech visited a Boston College team with one loss – a tough effort against Miami – on a Thursday night in early October.  A win would have put the Eagles solidly into second place.  But Virginia Tech, as it usually does, found a way to win ugly.  Conference losses to Pittsburgh and West Virginia followed.  A 10-2 goal faded into a just another typically solid Boston College season 9-4 (3-4 Big East) with a 61-25 victory over Toledo in the Motor City Bowl.  The upheaval that rocked the Big East months later added to the sting of disappointment in missing that breakthrough opportunity. 

Boston College is a smash-mouth team that pounds on opponents until they crumble.  The Eagles are known for strong play on the line of scrimmage and a deep stable of hard-running TBs.  The defense tends to be very conservative, with lots of two-deep zone designed to force the opponent to patiently drive the length of the field.  Head Coach Tom O'Brien lost 12 starters plus one kicker off a team that peaked last season.  O'Brien must rebuild this season.  Boston College may struggle with its smash-mouth offense behind a rebuilt OLine and an inexperienced QB.  The Eagles' school record streak of four straight bowl appearances may be in jeopardy.  Here's a look at the rebuilding Eagles of Boston College. 


Boston College lost 6 starters from a unit that was the least conservative Eagle offense in the O'Brien era:

  • 30 points per game (#4 in the Big East and #34 of 117 in Division 1A)
  • 390 yards per game (#3 in the Big East and #40 in Division 1A)
  • 159 rushing yards per game (#5 in the Big East and #50 in Division 1A)
  • 231 passing yards per game (#2 in the Big East and #46 in Division 1A)

Boston College has developed a reputation as a TB factory.  They have stockpiled big, powerful TBs that provide depth from series to series, game to game, and season to season.  O'Brien has had a 1,000-yard rusher for five straight seasons.  Boston College returns an experienced RB stable, losing only backup TB Brandon Brokaw (96 carries for 334 yards and 10 TDs) and FB JP Comella (8 receptions for 113 yards) earlier than expected.  Brokaw quit the team in February while Comella elected not to return for a fifth season and instead declared for the NFL draft.  He was not drafted but signed a free agent contract.  The Eagles likely will employ two TBs – Second Team All-Big East Sr Derrick Knight (259 carries for 1,432 yards and 12 TDs plus 37 receptions for 372 yards and 2 TDs) and backup RS Sr Horace Dodd (51 carries for 141 yards and 2 TDs).  RS Sr FB Greg Toal returns as the starter.  Toal is a pure blocker as he had no carries and only six receptions last season.  RS Jr FB Haven Perkins will backup Toal.  The Boston College backfield will carry the load for a conservative offense. 

Boston College had its most prolific passing season in years and a deep receiving corps was a principal reason.  The Eagle WRs increased their receiving yards by one-third.  Although two-year starter WR Jamal Burke (33 receptions for 498 yards and 3 TDs) and fellow starting WR Keith Hemmings (41 receptions for 559 yards and 2 TDs) have departed, Second Team All-Big East and two-year starter RS Sr TE Sean Ryan (22 receptions for 254 yards and 3 TDs) returns.  Productive former backup WRs RS Jr Grant Adams (37 receptions for 542 yards and 6 TDs) and RS Jr Joel Hazard (19 receptions for 231 yards and 2 TDs) should make a smooth transition to starters.  RS Jr TE David Kashetta (7 receptions for 63 yards) will replace departed backup TE Frank Misurelli (11 receptions for 132 yards).  The experienced receiving corps will ease the transition of a new starting QB. 

Boston College also has developed a recent tradition of big, powerful OLines.  The Eagles lost three starters off a veteran unit  – two-time Second Team All-Big East C Dan Koppen, two time All-Big East (First Team last season) RT Mark Parenteau, and two-year starter LT Leo Bell, who elected not to return for a fifth season.  Backups RG Frank Wilpert, RT Rudy DiPietro, and LG Jim Connor will also not return for their fifth seasons.  RS Sr RG Augie Hoffman and RS Jr LG Chris Snee, each with a year-and-a-half starting experience, will anchor the rebuilt OLine.  RS So LT Jeremy Trueblood and RS So C Pat Ross likely will replace Bell and Koppen, respectively.  The unexpected loss of Bell forced O'Brien to move former DTs RS Sr Keith Leavitt to RT to battle for the starting job that Trueblood otherwise would have filled.  RS So C Chris Hathy, RS Fr LG Josh Beekman, RS Fr RG Shadu Moore, RS Fr LT James Marten, and true Fr RT Gosder Cherilus complete a very inexperienced backup unit.  Without an experienced QB, the development of the inexperienced OLine will dictate the viability of a conservative offense. 

The departure of two-year starter and former Second Team All-Big East QB
Brian St. Pierre (237 of 407 for 2,983 yards, 18 TDs, and 17 INTs) leaves Boston College very inexperienced at QB.  Jr QB Quinton Porter barely played last season, breaking O'Brien's custom of giving his backup QB playing time in the second quarter of every game.  Porter threw only 7 passes last season.  The uncertainty surrounding Porter caused O'Brien to recruit JUCO Jr QB Paul Peterson to compete for the starting job.  Expect a very conservative offense with many posses thrown to the TBs. 


Boston College lost 6 starters from a veteran unit that was compromised by injuries:

  • 19 points per game (#4 in the Big East and #23 of 117 in Division 1A)
  • 339 yards per game (#6 in the Big East and #37 in Division 1A)
  • 167 rushing yards per game (#5 in the Big East and #73 in Division 1A)
  • 172 passing yards per game (#2 in the Big East and #13 in Division 1A)

For the second time in three years, injuries forced O'Brien to play a young DLine.  Starting DEs Derric Rossy (40 tackles, 8 TFLs, 6 sacks, and 3 FF) plus three-year starter and former Second Team All-Big East Antonio Garay (34 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, and 5 sacks), who missed the final eight games after breaking his ankle against Virginia Tech, both have departed.  Two year starters Sr DT Doug Goodwin (10 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, and 3 sacks), who likewise suffered a season-ending injury (hip) against Virginia Tech, and RS Sr DT Tom Martin (36 tackles and 7.5 TFLs) will anchor the DLine.  Jr DT Tim Bulman (56 tackles and 8.5 TFLs) – who replaced the injured Goodwin last season –and RS So DT Al Washington (10 tackles) will backup Goodwin and Martin.  RS Sr Phillip Mettling (31 tackles and 6 TFLs), who replaced the injured Garay last season, and RS So Mathias Kiwanuka (44 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, and 4.5 sacks) will likely start at DE.  The loss of So DE Jim Unis (15 tackles, 3 TFLs, and 2 sacks), whose career was ended by concussions in summer camp, leaves no experienced backups at DE.  RS Fr Jake Ottolini, RS Fr Robert Ziminski, and true Fr Justin Bell will battle for the backup DE jobs, ahead of less productive upperclassmen.  The strength of the DLine is up the middle but the Eagles lack depth at the ends. 

Boston College lost two-year starter and second leading tackler MLB Vinnie Ciurciu (108 tackles and 2 FFs).  Two year starter and leading tackler RS Sr SLB Josh Ott (128 tackles, 8 TFLs, 2 INTs, and 3 FR) will lead the defense.  Starting WLB RS Sr Brian Flores (74 tackles, 9 TFLs, and 2 FR) also returns.  RS So Ray Henderson (25 tackles, 4 TFLs, and 2 sacks) and So Ricky Brown (18 tackles) will battle for the starting MLB job.  RS Sr SLB Kevin Kiley and RS So WLB Patrick McShane are the likely backups behind Ott and Flores, respectively.  The depth and experience at DT should reduce the exposure at MLB and camouflage the weakness of an otherwise solid LB unit. 

Boston College lost three of four starters in the secondary – FS Ralph Parent (99 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, 4 INT, and 2 FF), SS Doug Bessette (78 tackles, 9 TFLs, and 2 FR), and CB Trevor White (52 tackles, 3 TFLs, and 2 INTs).  RS So Larry Lester (55 tackles and 2 TFLs), who replaced an inured starter last season, will keep his starting job.  So CB Will Blackmon (29 tackles) will likely start opposite Lester.  Former starter RS Jr CB Peter Shean (16 tackles and 2 TFLs) – who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Game 2 – and RS So Jazzmen Williams (11 tackles) will provide experience as backups.  RS Sr SS Paul Cook (34 tackles) and RS Jr FS TJ Stancil (24 tackles) will replace Bessette and Parent, respectively.  True Fr FS Ryan Glasper will backup Stancil while RS So Nathanael Hasselbeck and RS Fr Larry Anam will compete to backup Cook.  Though both starting safeties are new, their experience should enable Spaziani to continue to employ his conservative two-deep zone pass defense. 


Boston College had improved special teams last season.  The Eagles lost PR Jamal Burke (12 yards per return and one TD) plus two-year starter and former Second Team All-Big East P Kevin McMyler (37 yards per punt).  Second Team All-Big East and two-year starter RS Sr PK Sandro Sciortino (23 of 32 FGAs and 38 of 40 XPAs) gives Boston College a reliable placekicker with range.  So KOR Will Blackmon (23 yards per return) return as the KOR; he will also likely return punts.  Sr P Rob Leuffen will replace McMyler, who had a disappointing season last year that saw him drop six yards off his punting average.  Special teams, especially placekicking, will be crucial to an Eagle team that will run a very conservative offense. 


Boston College has a full 12 game schedule with 6 home games.  Boston College has one bye week in early October and ends the season early.  The Eagles have a challenging non-conference schedule in a rebuilding season with Penn State, Wake Forest, and Notre Dame providing formidable opposition.  The home schedule has three key games – Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and West Virginia.  The road schedule offers opportunities with games at Connecticut, Temple, Syracuse, and Rutgers.  Consecutive road games at Temple and Syracuse followed by a visit from Notre Dame are the crucial stretch in the Boston College schedule. 


August 30

Wake Forest

September 6

@ Penn State

September 13

@ Connecticut

September 20


September 27

Ball State

October 11

@ Temple

October 18

@ Syracuse

October 25

Notre Dame

November 1


November 8

West Virginia

November 15

@ Rutgers

November 22

@ Virginia Tech


I predict that Boston College will stumble to 6-6 (3-4) in a rebuilding year.  Penn State, Miami, and Virginia Tech are certain road losses for a young team.  Pittsburgh will also handle Boston College easily in Chestnut Hill.  That will leave the Eagles with a margin of two additional losses to qualify for a fifth consecutive bowl game.  Of the remaining road games, the Eagles will beat Connecticut, Temple, and Rutgers but will lose to a Syracuse team that is a year ahead of Boston College in the rebuilding cycle.  Of the key home games, Boston College will grind out a season-opening win over equally young Wake Forest and a November win over similarly rebuilding West Virginia.  In between, more experienced Notre Dame will avenge a loss to Boston College that cost Notre Dame a $13 million BCS bowl bid last season.  The barely bowl eligible Eagles will spend the holidays in Boston.  A similarly barely bowl eligible Notre Dame will be offered the #5 Big East bowl – the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl.  An 8-4 Boston College team, similarly shutout of the Big East bowls, landed a Motor City Bowl invitation last year.  A 6-6 Eagle team whose fans don't travel well will not be sufficiently appealing to earn an at-large bowl bid. 

Coming Next:  Big East Preview, Part 6.  I'll continue my pre-season tour of the Big East with a look at a West Virginia program trying to maintain the momentum of its shocking second place Big East finish last year.  I'll review lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits. 

Please send any comments to  I welcome and appreciate your feedback.

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