Big East Preview - Part 3

This is the third 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 rising power Boston College. I'll review lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits.

 

BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES PREVIEW 

Boston College is a rising power in eastern football.  The Eagles gained their first Top 25 win in 22 games and earned a #23 national ranking with a 20-16 win over Georgia in the Music City Bowl.  Boston College is a smash-mouth team that pounds on opponents until they crumble.  They are known for strong play on the line of scrimmage and a deep stable of hard-running TBs.  Head Coach Tom O'Brien lost only 6 starters after a breakthrough season.  The Eagles are eager to knock Virginia Tech down the Big East pecking order.  Here's a look at the rising Eagles of Boston College.  

 

OFFENSE

Boston College lost 3 starters from a methodical unit that wore down opponents in battles of attrition: 

  • 29 points per game (#3 in the Big East and #41 of 115 in Division 1A)
  • 397 yards per game (#2 in the Big East and #46 in Division 1A)
  • 208 rushing yards per game (#1 in the Big East and #18 in Division 1A)
  • 188 passing yards per game (#3 in the Big East and #82 in Division 1A)

Boston College has developed a recent tradition of big, powerful OLines.  The Eagles lost only one starter – 2nd Team All-Big East LT Marc Colombo.  The Eagles return 2nd Team All-Big East RS Sr C Dan Koppen, 2nd Team All-Big East Sr OG Mark Parenteau, and RS Jr RT Leo Bell.  RS Jr OG Augie Hoffman and RS So OG Chris Snee were co-starters last season.  O'Brien switched Parenteau to LT in spring camp.  Both Hoffman and Snee will start at OG this season.  The backups are also experienced.  Boston College should have the best OLine in the Big East. 

RS Sr QB Brian St. Pierre (149 of 279 for 2,016 yards, 25 TDs, and 10 INTs) emerged head and shoulders above a pack of unproven Big East QBs (excluding Miami's Ken Dorsey, of course).  St. Pierre was not impressive during a 2-year understudy that saw him play in the 2nd quarter of nearly every game.  But with the sole QB burden squarely on his shoulders last season, St. Pierre proved capable of moving the offense through the air and easing the burden on workhorse TB William Green.  St. Pierre will need to produce more to take up the slack from the loss of Green.  So Quinton Porter returns as St. Pierre's backup and should see more playing time in the 2nd Quarter, as is O'Brien's custom. 

Boston College has also 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.  Last season was an anomaly because departed consensus All-American and Big East Offensive Co-Player of the Year TB William Green single-handedly gained almost 80% of the TB rushing yards.  There wasn't much of a rotation.  Green was a workhorse.  The Eagles likely will employ three TBs – Jr Derrick Knight (76 carries for 337 yards an one TD), Penn State transfer RS Jr Horace Dodd, and So Brandon Brokaw (24 for 90 yards).  RS Jr FB JP Comella returns as the starter.  Comella is a pure blocker as he had no carries and only 9 receptions last season.  RS Jr FB Greg Toal will backup Comella.  The Boston College backfield reminds me of the 1999 edition of unknowns that replaced NFL-bound TB Mike Cloud – Jr Cedric Washington, Sr Carlton Rowe, and Fr William Green.  They won't blow opponents away.  They will simply wear them down. 

Boston College has had solid QBs in recent seasons -- Matt Hasselbeck, Tim Hasselbeck, and Brian St. Pierre -- but weak production at WR has constrained the Eagle offense.  The same was true last season as the Eagle WRs combined to average only 106 receiving yards per game despite the presence of Green to preoccupy the defense.  An anemic receiving corps was further weakened by the departure of leading receiver WR Dedrick Dewault.  The Eagles return RS Sr Jamal Burke (25 receptions for 320 yards and 8 TDs) and RS Jr TE Sean Ryan (17 receptions for 223 yards and 3 TDs).  Sr Keith Hemmings (8 receptions for 168 yards and 2 TDs) is the likely replacement for Dewault.  The backups are inexperienced.  A weak unit apparently got weaker and will be hard pressed to help St. Pierre take pressure off the rushing attack.   

 

DEFENSE

Boston College lost 3 starters from a much-improved young squad that reaped the benefits of a year of experience: 

  • 19 points per game (#3 in the Big East and #19 in Division 1A)
  • 327 yards per game (#5 in the Big East and #28 in Division 1A)
  • 154 rushing yards per game (#5 in the Big East and #63 in Division 1A)
  • 174 passing yards per game (#5 in the Big East and #12 in Division 1A)

After playing young DL the past two seasons, Boston College will reap the benefit of that experience this season, as only 2nd Team All-Big East DE Sean Guthrie was lost.  The Eagles return 2nd Team All-Big East RS Sr DE Antonio Garay (57 tackles and 5 sacks), Jr DT Doug Goodwin (50 tackles and 4 sacks), and RS Jr DT Tom Martin (55 tackles and 4.5 sacks).  RS Sr DE Derric Rossy (44 tackles and 2 sacks) will likely replace Guthrie.  So DT Tim Bulman (19 tackles) and either RS So DT Justin Hinds or RS So DT Anthony Crosson will be the backups.  RS So DE Phillip Mettling (10 tackles) and RS Fr DE Mathias Kiwanuka will backup Garay and Rossy.  The front four will be the strength of the Eagle defense. 

Boston College only lost standout CB Lenny Walls from a solid secondary.  The Eagles return three starters – RS Sr FS Ralph Parent (75 tackles and 1 INT), Sr SS Doug Bessette (85 tackles and 2 INTs), and Sr CB Trevor White (49 tackles and 1 INT).  Former backup RS So CB Peter Shean (39 tackles and 2 INTs) will likely replace Walls.  Several redshirt freshmen will be the backup CBs.  RS Jr SS Paul Cook (23 tackles and 1 INT) and RS Jr FS Brian Flores (22 tackles) will be the backup safeties.  This is a veteran secondary that can nicely balance run support with pass coverage. 

Boston College lost 2nd Team All-Big East SLB Scott Bradley and three backups.  The Eagles return RS Sr MLB Vinnie Ciurciu (87 tackles and 2 INTs) and RS Jr WLB Josh Ott (75 tackles and 2 INTs).  O'Brien switched RS So FS TJ Stancil (16 tackles) to SLB in spring camp.  Stancil likely will replace Bradley as the starter.  The backups are inexperienced.  This unit will be vulnerable to injuries, which has been a problem on the Eagle defense in recent years.   

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Boston College had a solid kicking game but a lackluster return game last season.  The Eagles lost PR Dedrick Dewault.  RS So PR Grant Adams likely will replace Dewault.  RS Sr KR Jamal Burke (21 yards per return) will again return kickoffs this season.  The Eagles return 2nd Team All-Big East Sr P Kevin McMyler (43 yards per punt) and RS Jr PK Sandro Sciortino (7 of 10 FGAs and 29 of 32 TDs).  Special teams will likely continue in their solid but unspectacular supporting role.   

 

SCHEDULE

Boston College has a full 12 game schedule with 7 home games.  The Eagles play once on Thursday night – vs Virginia Tech – after a bye week.  Boston College has another bye week in mid-September.  The Eagles have a moderate non-conference schedule with only Stanford and Notre Dame providing serious opposition.  The home schedule has two key games – Stanford and Virginia Tech.  The road schedule is imposing, without a gimme in the bunch -- @ Miami, @ Pittsburgh, @ Notre Dame, @ West Virginia, and @ Temple.  Consecutive road games against Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and West Virginia are the key stretch in the Boston College schedule.   

August 31

Connecticut

September 7

Stanford

September 21

@ Miami

September 28

Central Michigan

October 10

Virginia Tech

October 19

Navy

October 26

@ Pittsburgh

November 2

@ Notre Dame

November 9

@ West Virginia

November 16

Syracuse

November 23

@ Temple

November 30

Rutgers

 

PREDICTION

I predict that Boston College will have a breakout season, finishing 10-2 (5-2).  The schedule is tough but favorable.  The Eagles still aren't ready to knock off Miami – last year's 19-7 loss notwithstanding – especially at the Orange Bowl.  The home game against Virginia Tech will be the most important conference game for Boston College, as it likely will decide the battle for second place behind Miami.  Boston College hasn't proven it can beat Virginia Tech, though, and I won't believe it until I see it.  The veteran Eagles should handle depleted Syracuse at home.  Boston College should win at Pittsburgh and at West Virginia but neither game will be easy in those environments – Pittsburgh still has plenty of talent and Morgantown is as hostile as it gets.  The Eagles must win these two games to achieve the breakout season

The road game against Notre Dame is the key to the non-conference schedule.  While Stanford is the more formidable opponent – having beaten Boston College 38-22 in Palo Alto last year – the Eagles get the Cardinal at home, early in the season, after traveling 3,000 miles.  The Eagles will get their payback as long as they control the ball. However, Notre Dame is hosting Boston College after nearly beating the Eagles in Chestnut Hill last season (BC 21, ND 17).  However, I think the Eagles' experience and the first-year turmoil associated with a radically different Notre Dame staff will give Boston College the edge. 

Boston College is in a no-win position come bowl season because Eagle fans do not travel well.  A 10-2 record could position Boston College for an at-large BCS bid but the Eagles bowl attendance track record will not break the SEC/Big 12 monopoly on the BCS at-large bids.  Likewise, attendance will cost Boston College a Gator Bowl bid (Big East #2) even if the Eagles finish ahead of Virginia Tech because the Gator Bowl will take the Hokies, who travel well.  That will send Boston College back to the Insight.com Bowl in Phoenix, at which Boston College attendance has been poor.  The Eagles will face Southern Cal (Pac 10 #4).

 

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

Please send any comments to bump86@earthlink.net.  I welcome and appreciate your feedback.


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