The Eagles spent the spring trying to decide who would start at two key positions -- quarterback and tailback.
Under center, BC has two capable players in seniors Quinton Porter and Paul Peterson. Porter started the first 10 games of the 2003 campaign before giving way to Peterson, who led the Eagles to three straight victories. Coach Tom O'Brien has indicated that he'd like to redshirt the player who doesn't earn the starting nod for 2004, giving him a veteran QB for the 2005 campaign. Both played well during the spring, with Porter connecting on 15 of 19 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown in the spring game while Peterson was 5 of 15 for 47 yards. Also up in the air is the tailback position after the school's all-time leading rusher, Derrick Knight, departed after last season. Sophomore Jeff Ross had 72 yards in the spring game, but he's part of a large contingent of players fighting to earn playing time at the position. The Eagles will return 34 letter winners and 11 starters from last year's 8-5 squad that played in a school-record fifth straight bowl game, but BC is trying to fill some major holes on the offensive line, with only juniors Pat Ross and Jeremy Trueblood returning on the front five.
There's experience on the defensive side of the ball, but there are also open spots following graduations, especially on the interior of the line and at the outside
linebacking spots. Redshirt freshman linebacker Jolonn Dunbar could earn himself quite a bit of time in 2004 following his 15-tackle performance in the spring game.
NOTES AND QUOTES
PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: DL Mathias Kiwanuka, first-team All-American by Athlon, second-team by Lindy's; third-team by Street & Smith's.
KEY GAME: Every year, the Boston College-Notre Dame contest has special significance for both sides thanks to the history of the rivalry. Last season, the Eagles escaped with a 27-25 victory, but this year's contest, on Oct. 23, is in South Bend and the result could really set the tone for the rest of the season for the Eagles.
THE MINDSET: BC had a lot of momentum at the end of the season, going 3-0 after Paul Peterson took over at quarterback, including a 35-21 victory over Colorado State in the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl. The Eagles scored at least 34 points in each of the three contests Peterson started, and after a school-record five straight bowl appearances, the attitude around BC is one of reloading rather than rebuilding. All the better to build momentum for the move to the ACC next season.
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Derrick Knight put his name in the BC record books with 3,725 rushing yards through his career. But Knight is now gone, leaving coach Tom O'Brien with a major hole to fill on offense. Sophomore Jeff Ross rushed for 72 yards in the spring game, but there will be plenty of players trying their best to get a shot at Knight's empty spot in the backfield.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I believe we had an excellent spring practice. Out of the 15 practices, I think we only had one bad day, so I think we accomplished a lot. Spring practice is still, for me, designed to make individuals the best they can be. I'm not as concerned with the X's and O's, even though that becomes part of spring practice. The most important part is that we improve as individuals." -- Head coach Tom O'Brien on his focus in spring practice.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PROJECTED OFFENSIVE STARS: Assuming he keeps the starting job come fall, Paul Peterson is certainly a player to watch on offense. He threw six of his 10 touchdowns last season after becoming the starter late in the year. Senior wide receiver Grant Adams looks like he's ready to break out in his final year with the Eagles. PROJECTED DEFENSIVE STARS: Junior defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka led the Big East in sacks a year ago, so it will be interesting to see how he responds to the inevitable extra attention he'll see in 2004. Another junior, cornerback Will Blackmon, continues to improve each year, and he should be a standout for the Eagles this season.
MOVING VAN: DB Nathanael Hasselbeck is transferring to Division I-AA Massachusetts. Hasselbeck had announced he was leaving BC in late May and one month later he decided to play for the Minutemen. Because he is going to a I-AA program, he will be able to play immediately. He is the brother of former BC quarterbacks Matt and Tim Hasselbeck. "He has great hands. He's an outstanding athlete," Umass coach Don Brown told the Boston Globe. "He made significant contributions to a great program and we're happy to have him."
INJURY IMPACT: The Eagles are extremely relieved to have long snapper Francois Brochu back in the fold after he missed all of 2003 with a wrist injury. The kicking game definitely suffered with Brochu out. The punting game, however, could suffer with the loss of starting punter Jeff Gomulinski, who was kicked off the team in spring. Gomulinski averaged 39.8 yards last season. Punting duties likely fall to Johnny Ayers, a true freshman.