A: The season started with more questions than answers. This is a team that went into the year with a new coach, new QB and a whole bunch of new guys on defense. No one knew what to expect and expectations were low. Fans hoped for a winning season, but were prepared for a rebuilding year.
The offense went through a few adjustments as the coaches figured out who would play quarterback. They looked at Justin Tuggle early as he had one year in the program. They quickly moved onto Dave Shinskie, a guy who joined the program in the summer after six years in minor league baseball. Shinskie kept the job, but he had some rough patches.
The defense slowly came around and finished fairly strong. They are in the top-15 in several categories. They are young in most places, but the talent is there. They just needed time to learn how to play together as starters.
The result was some ugly losses on the road (Clemson & Virginia Tech), but some big wins at home. They did drop a tough game at Notre Dame, despite outplaying them end to end. Five turnovers were enough for even The Irish to win that one. Amazingly they found a way to win two games on the road and posted an eight win season. All in all, it was one of the finer coaching jobs in a long time and the result was an unexpectedly solid season for BC.
Q: Who are the key players on both sides of the ball?
On offense, the two guys that make it happen are running back Montel Harris and wide out Rich Gunnell. Harris is just a sophomore but is on pace to break the career rushing mark at BC. He is not big or blazingly fast, but he moves the chains and finds yards on every snap. Gunnell is a big time player that runs great routes and makes tough catches.
On defense, the buzz at BC about freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly. He is the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year. The kid is natural, even though he does not look the part. He is a tackling machine. Marty Bowman is a hard hitting safety that patrols the middle of the secondary. He is not a blazer, but he always where he is supposed to be in coverage.
Q: How would you assess the job that Frank Spaziani has done in his first year as the head coach at Boston College?
Given all the challenges he inherited, it is an amazing job of coaching by Spaz and his staff. This is the least experienced team in many years and depth is an issue at many spots. Yet, they worked through it during the season and found ways to put the kids in a position to make plays. They probably won a few games they should not have one, but the coaches had the kids ready to play every week. That resulted in an eight win season.
The thing with Spaziani that works at BC is he is an old school football coach. He is not going to try anything too fancy or get caught up in fads. He expects the kids to work hard and execute. Fundamentals are the focus. That's always going to work at Boston College because of the type of kid they attract.
Q: How excited is the BC fanbase about the program and the chance to face USC in the Emerald Bowl?
This is the best possible result for BC. The fans love the location and love the opponent. Other than the Orange Bowl, this is the preferred destination and it is ideal this year given they will face a legendary program.
The other aspect that works for BC is they have a large alumni base in the Bay area. It is the third largest for the school, which is probably surprising to most outsiders. Consequently, there should be a great turnout for this one.
Q: Talk about the impact that freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly (ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year) has had on the defense this season.
We have been privileged to see some very good linebackers at Boston College. Three years ago mark Herzlich played as a freshman and everyone could see he was going to be a star. This kid Kuechly could be better. He has a great nose for the ball and roams around out there like a fifth year senior. The kid just has the goods when it comes to playing linebacker.
The scary thing is he will only get better. A year of physical development and he will be All-Conference good, assuming good health. If anyone wants to see what hard work and intelligence means for a football player, look at this kid. He plays smart and keeps working to get better.
Q: Senior wide receiver Rich Gunnell was recently named the team MVP and is second on the all-time Boston College receptions list. Talk about Gunnell and why he has been so successful at BC.
Gunnell is a talented kid that stepped up his game this year. His routes were much better and he took on a leadership role for a young offense. It helps that he gets open and catches the ball, too. He is not a blazer, but he plays smart and does the little things that make him a great college receiver.
Like most BC kids, hard work is the key. It is not enough to just run fast or have a physical advantage. Mastering the little things at the position is what makes a good college player. Gunnell has worked hard and it has paid off for him. He is a complete receiver now and that helps the whole offense.
Q: Lastly, talk about Mark Herzlich's battle with cancer and the courage that he has shown?
When it was announced that Mark had Ewing's Sarcoma and fans learned what it was, it is fair to say the fans of BC were at their lowest emotionally. If there is one guy who stands as an example of what Boston College stands for as a football program, it is Mark. He is not just a great player. He is a great student that volunteers his time and embodies what the school strives for in educating students.
That's what makes his journey through this and recovery even more remarkable. Instead of going away to privately battle this thing, he did it in public with a smile on his face. The phrase "happy warrior" comes to mind. Even though he could not play this year, he found ways to help the team and turn his illness into something positive.
The money he has raised for cancer and the example he has set is simply incredible. The fact that he is cancer free and on his way back to playing football again just makes it a wonderful story. Doing it with good cheer and optimism is just not something that can be put into words. Every BC fans considers themselves lucky to have got the chance to see him play and live at Boston College.
Taylor Mays and USC's defense will look to slow Boston College WR Rich Gunnell.
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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions you can reach Kevin Carden at firstname.lastname@example.org