Big East Preview -- Part 3

This is the third in a six part preseason preview of the Big East. I'll continue my tour with a look at the always consistent Boston College Eagles. I'll review lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits.

BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES PREVIEW


Boston College maintained its consistency through a rebuilding year.  Breaking in a new QB, rebuilding its OLine, and replacing its secondary, the Eagles still managed a 7-5 (2-4 Big East) season.  Boston College struggled in league play.  The struggles were catalyzed by Boston College's midseason betrayal of membership to whom it had just renewed its commitment in favor of another dalliance with the ACC.  Bad timing.  Bad decision.  Payback came immediately at SyracusePittsburgh and West Virginia piled on.  Even Rutgers was on the verge of getting their shot in, before blowing a 4th Quarter lead.  Boston College salvaged its season with its first win over Virginia Tech since 1995.  A strong non-conference performance propelled the Eagles into bowl season, where the Eagles earned a Diamond Walnut Bowl bid and a 35-21 win over Colorado State.  The Eagles get to run the gauntlet one more time before willingly embracing their role as New England Yankees in King Swofford's court. 

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.  That foundation is shaky this year.  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 11 starters plus one kicker off a rebuilding team.  O'Brien is still rebuilding.  Boston College may struggle with its smash-mouth offense behind a twice-rebuilt OLine and inexperienced RBs but the weakened Big East offers a great opportunity for a successful farewell as Boston College looks to add to its school record streak of five straight bowl appearances and four straight bowl wins.  Here's a look at the always consistent Eagles of Boston College. 


OFFENSE

Boston College lost 6 starters from a unit that returned to O'Brien's conservative ways:

  • 182 rushing yards per game (#3 in the current Big East and #31 of 117 in Division 1A)
  • 222 passing yards per game (#5 in the Big East and #52 in Division 1A)
  • 404 total yards per game (#3 in the Big East and #35 in Division 1A)
  • 29 points per game (#4 in the Big East and #44 in Division 1A)


O'Brien juggled two starting QBs last season but received solid, steady performances from both.  Sr QB Quinton Porter (140 of 250 for 1,764 yards, 14 TDs, and 6 INTs) opened the season as the starter but lost his job after a three game Big East losing streak.  Sr QB Paul Peterson (84 of 147 for 1,124 yards, 10 TDs, and 7 INTs) replaced Porter in Game 10 against West Virginia and started thereafter, leading Boston College to three straight wins to close the season.  Despite Peterson's strong finish, O'Brien has opened the starting QB job to competition.  The Coach plans to redshirt the backup so that he has an experienced QB next season.  RS Fr Matt Ryan will likely serve as the backup this season, barring a season-ending injury to the starter that forces O'Brien to pull the redshirt off his other senior QB.  The experienced QBs will enable O'Brien to throw more, taking pressure off the running game. 

Boston College maintained an atypically proficient passing game for a consecutive year behind a deep receiving corps.  Four-year starter, former Second Team All-Big East, and fifth round NFL draft pick TE Sean Ryan (35 receptions for 447 yards and 6 TDs) is the only loss of the two-deep.  Starting WRs RS Sr Grant Adams (46 receptions for 720 yards and 5 TDs) and RS Sr Joel Hazard (32 receptions for 401 yards) return, as do backups RS Jr WR Larry Lester (17 receptions for 378 yards and 5 TDs) and RS So WR Jason Lilly (13 receptions for 155 yards and 3 TDs).  RS Sr TE David Kashetta (18 receptions for 262 yards and 4 TDs) will replace Ryan while RS Fr TE Trey Koziol will backup Kashetta.  The experienced receiving corps will ease the transition of a new starting QB.  O'Brien may need his receivers – normally complementary players – to bear the offensive burden this season. 

Boston College has developed a recent tradition of big, powerful OLines.  The Eagles lost three starters off an overhauled unit.  RG Augie Hoffman and LG Chris Snee, both two-and-a-half year starters and First Team All-Big East honorees, departed.  Snee declared early for the NFL draft and was selected in the second round – a particularly devastating loss.  Starting RT Keith Leavitt also departed.  Returing starters RS Jr LT Jeremy Trueblood and RS Jr C Pat Ross will be the core of the rebuilt OLine.  Former backups RS So LG Josh Beekman will replace Snee while former backup LT RS So James Marten will switch to starting RG in place of Hoffman.  RS Fr RT Gosder Cherilus will replace Leavitt.  RS So RG Shadu Moore is the only experienced backup.  RS Fr C Kevin Sheridan, RS Fr LG Tom Anevski, RS Fr OT Ty Hall, and RS Fr OT Ryan Poles will form a very green second unit.  The Eagle OLine is as young and inexperienced as it has been since O'Brien arrived at Chestnut Hill seven years ago. 

Boston College also 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 six straight seasons.  However, O'Brien lacks a proven TB for the first time in his tenure at Chestnut Hill.  He also lacks a proven FB.  Three-year starter, two time Second Team All-Big East honoree, and school career rushing leader TB Derrick Knight (321 carries for 1,721 yards and 11 TDs plus 26 receptions for 227 yards) and backup TB Horace Dodd (89 carries for 442 yards and 10 TDs plus 13 receptions for 99 yards) departed.  So did two-year starter FB Greg Toal (15 receptions for 86 yards and 2 TDs).  Backup FB Haven Perkins will not return for a fifth season.  RS So TB Jeff Ross (7 carries for 33 yards) will compete with RS Fr TB Andre Callender and RS Fr TB LV Whitworth for the starting and backup jobs.  RS So FB Mark Palmer, a transfer from Utah, will replace Toal; So Paddy Lynch will backup Palmer.  O'Brien has a very inexperienced and unproven backfield upon whom he may not be able rely for carrying the offensive load. 


DEFENSE

Boston College lost 5 starters from a veteran unit:

  • 129 rushing yards per game (#1 in the current Big East of 117 and #30 in Division 1A)
  • 230 passing yards per game (#6 in the Big East and #74 in Division 1A)
  • 358 total yards per game (#2 in the Big East and #44 in Division 1A)
  • 26 points per game (#5 in the Big East and #60 in Division 1A)


The Eagles lost a wealth of experience with the departure of four-year starters DT Tom Martin (34 tackles, 8 TFLs, and 2 sacks) and Second Team All-Big East DT Doug Goodwin (25 tackles, 6 TFLs, and 1.5 sacks).  Two-year starter RS Sr DE Phillip Mettling (29 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, amd 5 sacks) and First Team All-Big East RS Jr DE Mathias Kiwanuka (83 tackles, 16 TFLs, and 11.5 sacks) return.  Former backup DTs Sr Tim Bulman (33 tackles, 11 TFLs, and 3 sacks) and RS Jr Alvin Washington (18 tackles and 3.5 sacks) will likely replace Goodwin and Martin.  RS So DE Jake Ottolini (10 tackles 2.5 TFLs) is the only returning backup with appreciable experience.  Backup DTs So Justin Bell and So Danny Zepp saw a little action last year (at De for Bell).  RS Fr DE Nick Larkin will likely complete the second team.  The DLine again will be the strength of the Eagle defense, led by All American candidate Kiwanuka. 

Boston College returns and experienced secondary with starting SS Paul Cook (68 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, and 2 INTs) the only loss.  Starters Second Team All-Big East Jr CB Will Blackmon (64 tackles, 2 TFLs, and 4 INTs), RS Sr CB Peter Shean (54 tackles, 3 TFLs, and 3 INTs), and RS Sr FS TJ Stancil (82 tackles, 2 TFLs, and 3 INTs) return.  Former backup FS So FS Ryan Glasper (52 tackles) will replace Cook as the starting SS.   Backup CB RS Jr Jazzmen Williams (59 tackles, 4 TFLs, and 2 INTs) and backup SS RS So Larry Anam (13 tackles) will likely return to their roles after briefly trying other positions in spring camp.  Former backup CB So Taji Morris will backup Stancil at FS while RS Fr CB DeJuan Tribble will backup Blackmon.  The Eagle secondary has plenty of depth and experience which should compensate for a green LB unit. 

Boston College suffered heavy losses in their linebacking unit – three-year starter and leading tackler SLB Josh Ott (128 tackles, 6 TFLs, 2 FF) plus two-year starter and second leading tackler WLB Brian Flores (106 tackles and 6 TFLs).  Backup WLB Patrick McShane (15 tackles) also left the team prematurely.  MLB RS Jr Ray Henderson (88 tackles and 8 TFLs) is the only returner starter; RS Fr MLB Jolonn Dunbar will backup Henderson in the middle.  Former backup MLB Jr Ricky Brown (30 tackles) will replace Ott as the starting SLB; RS So SLB Jeff Burns will backup Brown.  Former backup SLB RS Jr Jon Misiewicz (24 tackles) will battle true Fr Brian Toal for the starting WLB job.  The talent and experience of the DLine should take some pressure off a LB that won't be fully settled in its roles until summer camp is underway. 


SPECIAL TEAMS

Boston College suffered heavy and unexpected losses on special teams.  Three-year starter and former Second Team All-Big East PK Sandro Sciortino (11 of 18 FGAs and 36 of 36 XPAs) departed.  PR Nat Hasselbeck (11 yards per return TD) left the team prematurely and O'Brien dismissed P Jeff Gomulinski (40 yards per punt) from the program after Gomulinski was arrested for kidnapping and domestic assault.  O'Brien will put his kicking game into the hands of two true freshmen – P Johnny Ayers and PK James Ohliger.  Jr CB Will Blackmon (26 yards per return) returns as the KOR; he will also likely replace Hasselbeck as the PR.  A questionable kicking game will also likely prompt O'Brien to open up his offense because he may lack the tools to operate the conservative, ball control strategy that typifies Boston College football. 


SCHEDULE

Boston College has an 11 game schedule with only 5 home games.  The Eagles have two bye weeks in early and late October.  Boston College opens the season on a Thursday night at Ball State and hosts Connecticut on a Friday night.  The non-conference schedule features tarnished Penn State and Notre Dame but Wake Forest – the only of the three to lodge a win against the Eagles last year – could be the toughest opponent.  The league schedule poses a big challenge to Boston College's BCS aspirations, with road trips to fellow contenders Pittsburgh and West Virginia Pittsburgh.  The Eagles host middlings Connecticut, Rutgers, and Syracuse.  Boston College has a soft home schedule and should be comfortably favored against its guests.  The road will make or break the Eagles' season, with games at Wake Forest, at Pittsburgh, at Notre Dame, and at West Virginia.  The key to the season is an November 13th date with West Virginia that likely will decide the BCS bid. 

 

September 4

@ Ball State

September 11

Penn State

September 17

Connecticut

September 25

@ Wake Forest

October 2

Massachusetts

October 16

@ Pittsburgh

October 23

@ Notre Dame

November 6

Rutgers

November 13

@ West Virginia

November 20

@ Temple

November 27

Syracuse

 


PREDICTION

I predict that Boston College will maintain its consistency with an 8-3 (4-2 Big East) record in another rebuilding year.  The Eagles will open the season 5-0, sandwiching easy victories over Ball State and Massachusetts around wins over Penn State, Connecticut, and Wake Forest.  Boston College manhandled Penn State last year in not-so-Happy Valley and will do so again in Chestnut Hill.  The Eagles will also prove too strong for the Huskies, as they were last year.  Boston College uncharacteristically gave the game away against Wake Forest last year with TOs; the Eagles won't be so generous this year.  The Eagles will lose close games at Pittsburgh and at Notre Dame.  Pittsburgh has superior athletes, the home field advantage, and the motivation to beat Boston College; Notre Dame and Boston College have reversed roles and the Eagles are the team that is rebuilding while the Fighting Irish are completing the transition to Coach Tyrone Willingham's west coast offense.   Boston College will handle Rutgers and Syracuse at home but will not be able to win in Morgantown, as the Eagles have not done since 1990, to stake a claim to the Big East title.  With 7-4 Notre Dame playing in the Cotton Bowl this year, Boston College will accept a bid from the Insight Bowl as the #3 Big East team.  The Eagles will face the #4 Pac-10 team – the homestanding Arizona State Sun Devils. 


Coming Next:  Big East Preview, Part 4.  I'll continue my pre-season tour of the Big East with a look at the struggling Syracuse Orangemen.  I'll review lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits.   


Please send any comments to dwelch11@comcast.net.  I welcome and appreciate your feedback.  And please put "Rutgers" in the message header because I wouldn't want to miss your email in a sea of spam.  In the meantime, if you would like to discuss the spring camp with other Rutgers fans, please visit our message board.


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