With less than a week to go before the Boston College Eagles kick off their season against the Wildcats of Weber State, it is time to take a look at the upcoming season.
Head coach Frank Spaziani has shed light on the most glaring question, declaring sophomore quarterback Dave Shinskie the starting quarterback. Shinskie beat out sophomore Mike Marscovetra, and freshmen Chase Rettig and Josh Bordner. However, after a strong spring and summer sessions, do not be surprised if Marscovetra sees significant playing time in the first two tune-up games against Weber State and the Kent State Golden Flashes.
Mark Herzlich returned to practice this Saturday after having missed the first weeks of camp due to a fracture in his foot. While Spaziani has not announced whether or not Herzlich will start, or even play, on September 4th against Weber State, Spaziani had earlier stated that if Herzlich did not return by Saturday, he would not be under consideration to play against Weber State.
The Eagles lost Colin Larmond Jr., their most dangerous receiving threat, this summer for the season after he suffered a knee injury that will require surgery. Larmond would have entered the season as the top-producing receiver, finishing only behind graduated Rich Gunnell in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns in 2009. The loss of Larmond leaves the Eagles dangerously thin at wide receiver.
Redshirt-freshman defensive tackle Dillon Quinn, a highly touted recruit in 2009, will be suspended for the first three games of the season for an unknown violation of team rules. Like the loss of Larmond, the absence of Quinn in those first three games will leave the Eagles thin on the defensive line.
Offensive Line: If football is won and lost in the trenches, then the Eagles have a good shot at, once again, silencing the pundits (who picked Boston College to finish 3rd in the Atlantic division, behind Florida State and Clemson). Of the five starting offensive lineman, BC returns three starters, each a senior, and each a likely selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, Anthony Castonzo, Thomas Claiborne, and Rich Lapham. Castonzo leads the charge, ranked by Mel Kiper Jr. as the top senior offensive tackle in the 2011 draft. While neither Lapham nor Claiborne have received the same accolades, do not sleep on either. Rounding out the offensive line is sophomore guard Emmett Cleary, and junior center Nathan Richman. It appears likely that BC can retain the title of “O-Line U” for at least another year.
Running back: Carrying the weight of the offense in 2010 will undoubtedly be junior running back Montel Harris. Harris enters the 2010 season only 1368 yards behind the Eagles all time leading rusher Derrick Knight, and as the second leading rusher in the ACC in 2009 behind Ryan Williams. While the Eagles need better production from quarterback Dave Shinskie, Harris will remain as the go-to option in 2010. Even though his production did not fade with touches in 2009, the Eagles must find a way to give Harris, who ran the ball 308 times last season, a breather. With sophomore Rolandon Finch out for the season after tearing his ACL, the Eagles are left with inexperience with only sophomore Sterlin Phifer, and freshmen Andre Williams and Tahj Kimble behind Harris. While Phifer is the most experienced of the three, he has not yet shown that he has the speed or the “wiggle” to be successful as an ACC runner. Look for freshman Andre Williams, a 6’0 speedster (has been clocked at a 10.7s 100m) with decent size (216 lbs) to provide both a breather and a change of pace for Harris.
Quarterback: As with any football team, the quarterback remains an important cog in the offense. After a turbulent freshman campaign in 2009, the 26 year-old quarterback Dave Shinskie returns as the starter in 2010. While his play in scrimmages this spring and summer have been at times erratic, coaches have been quick to cite a dramatic improvement in his play. If the Eagles hope to live up to lofty goals of an ACC Championship game, and possibly a BCS bowl, Eagles fans better certainly hope so. Backing up Dave Shinskie will be sophomore Mike Marscovetra, and freshmen Chase Rettig and Josh Bordner. Expect Marscovetra to get significant playing time in the first two games against Weber State and Kent State, as even though Spaziani has announced Shinskie as the starter, Marscovetra’s performance in the spring and summer scrimmages was enough to keep Spaziani from announcing a starter until just one week before the start of the season.
Wide Receiver: The biggest weakness of this season’s squad will undoubtedly be the receiving corps. This group has little experience, and little production among the experience it does have. After losing junior Colin Larmond Jr. for the season, senior Billy Flutie and sophomore Clyde Lee are listed as the starting receivers. Combined, these two have accumulated a grand total of 12 receptions for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Behind Flutie and Lee is a lackluster group made up of sophomore Donte Elliott, redshirt freshman Jonathan Coleman, senior Ryan Lindsey, redshirt junior Ifeanyi Momah, and freshmen Alex Amidon, Bobby Swigert, and Shakim Phillips. Look for wide receiver turned defensive end (now playing both sides of the ball) Ifeanyi Momah, who has put up impressive numbers in each of the summer scrimmages, to possibly replace Flutie as a starting receiver. While Flutie does have more experience, he simply does not possess the speed to get separation in the ACC. Also keep an eye on Bobby Swigert to make an impact in the 2010. Despite being less highly touted than fellow freshman Shakim Phillips, Swigert has performed well this summer and has developed a reputation for being an accurate route-runner, and an intelligent player (he played quarterback in high school). His abilities make him a perfect fit for the slot.
Tight End: Luckily for Dave Shinskie, the Eagles troubles at wide receiver do not cross over to the other pass catchers, the tight ends. Leading the charge will be sophomore Chris Pantale. While not a dazzling athlete, Pantale is reliable and has a knack for getting open. Because of his inability to make the spectacular play, Pantale is often overlooked, but his production this year will be a key to the Eagles success in 2010. Behind Pantale are junior Lars Anderson, and senior Jordon McMichael. Anderson, like Pantale is not an outstanding athlete but has proven to be a reliable target. After arriving on campus as a four star recruit, fans are hoping that McMichael can salvage his career at Boston College after flashes of potential over the past three seasons, and justify the excitement at his arrival four years ago.
Overview: Like many Boston College offenses before it, this season’s offense will be successful but lack the threat of a big play. Montel Harris, the headline on offense, is perfect example of this. Despite being one of the best rushers in the nation, Harris rarely breaks a 50+ yard run. Rather, it his consistency and ability to shed the initial hit that is his greatest attribute. Unlike a runner like West Virginia’s Noel Devine, who will provide instant energy, Harris is at his best when he is given the chance to wear down the opponent. Harris is the archetype of the Eagles offense. Assuming that Dave Shinskie shows visible improvement and becomes a better decision maker, Boston College may be able to overcome the lack of a home-run threat. If the Eagles find success in 2010, it will be at the hand of a stringent defense led by senior Mark Herzlich, sophomore Luke Kuechly, and senior Wes Davis.
For much of the last decade, the strength of Boston College teams has been their defense, in large part because of the continuity of the long tenure of current head coach Frank Spaziani, who spent the ten years running up to his promotion as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. For this year’s squad, do not expect anything to change, as the Eagles defense looks primed to become one of the best in the nation.
Linebacker: If Boston College has earned the title of “O-Line U”, it may also be time to give the Eagles the title of “Linebacker-U”. After producing such players as Robert Francois, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, and Mike McLaughlin in the last 5 years, 2010 appears to be the best crop yet. Needless to say, senior Mark Herzlich, the 2008 ACC defensive player of the year who in 2009 was sidelined by Ewings Sarcoma headlines this season’s linebacking corps. Teaming up with Herzlich will be sophomore phenom Luke Kuechly, who ranked second in the nation in tackles with 158 as a true freshman. Rounding out the starting unit will be either junior Will Thompson or the former walk-on, senior Mike Morrissey. However, the strength Eagles linebacking unit is not just its headline names, but rather, in its depth. Expect sophomores Nick Clancy and Alexander DiSanzo to get some playing time as the season progresses. In addition, Boston College was able to reel in 4 star prospect, Kevin Pierre-Louis, and 3 star prospect, Steele Divitto, both of whom have played well in the summer sessions. Even further down on the depth chart, Boston College has some solid prospects including redshirt freshmen Andre Lawrence and Jake Sinkovec.
Defensive Backs: In the defensive backfield, depth and experience are also plentiful. At free safety, senior captain Wes Davis looks to continue the tradition of strong safety play following the departures of Jamie Silva, Paul Anderson, and Marcellus Bowman. Opposite Davis at strong safety will be either sophomore Jim Noel, or junior Dominick LeGrande, who after playing LB in 2009 was switched back to his natural position. Whichever player Spaziani decides to name the starter, the Eagles appear sound at the safety position.
The cornerback position also looks to be a strength for the Eagles in 2010. Manning one of the starting positions will be junior Isaac Johnson, who had a strong performance in the 2009 season. Opposite of him will be either senior DeLeon Gause, or junior Donnie Fletcher. Like the strong safety position, whichever player Spaziani names the starter, Eagles fans can expect solid play, as both have experience. Behind the starters will be freshman C.J. Jones and Chris Fox. The defensive backfield in 2010 may turn out to be one of the strongest Boston College has had in the last decade, as it has experience, depth, and athleticism.
Defensive Line: Of the defensive units, the defensive line is the one that raises the most red flags. On the starting line are senior end Alex Albright, who has failed to stay healthy for the last three seasons, junior defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey, who until mid-August was uncertain for the 2010 season, citing personal reasons, sophomore tackle Conor O’Neal, and senior end Brad Newman. Overall, the Eagles starting line is solid, but unspectacular. Aside from Albright, none of the other starters have proven to provide a consistent pass rush, the Eagles most glaring weakness on defense last season. Beyond the starting line, the Eagles lack experience, and depth. Backing up the two ends will be redshirt freshman Kasim Edebali and sophomore Max Holloway. While both have showed potential in spring and summer sessions, especially in their ability to rush the passer, it remains unseen as to how they will perform against ACC competition. Behind O’Neal and Ramsey will be redshirt freshman Dillon Quinn, a four star recruit, and sophomore Bryan Murray. Like Edebali and Holloway, both have shown potential, yet are unproven. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Quinn will miss the first three games after being suspended by Spaziani for an unknown violation of team rules, costing him vital playing time and experience against easier opponent before being thrown into the fire against ACC opponents.
Overview: Boston College’s defense should be among the top in the ACC, and possibly the nation in 2010. With its depth, experience, and leadership across the units, and stars such as Mark Herzlich, Luke Kuechly, and Wes Davis, the Eagles defense will be good enough to keep them in any game. While there is a concern of depth along the defensive line, Spaziani, who has made a name for himself by developing players on the defensive side of the ball and fielding tough, hard nosed defenses, will be able to take the wealth of talent on the defensive side of the ball and continue Boston College’s tradition of excellent defense.
Eagles Special Teams
After converting kicks of 52, 48, 47, and 42 yards this summer, it appears as if Boston College may have finally found a bona fide kicker in redshirt freshman Nate Freese. While the once-walk on, and current BC points leader, Steve Aponavicius, did a fine job holding down the position after the dismissal of Ryan Ohliger, Boston College has not had a kicker that is consistent beyond 40 yards. Hopefully, Freese can fill the need, and provide the Eagles offense a larger safety net.
Doing the punting for Boston College will be junior Ryan Quigley. Quigley has proven to be one of the most reliable kickers in the ACC over the past few seasons, ranking second in pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line in the ACC, and third in punts over 50 yards.
The Eagles have established themselves as one of the most consistent programs over the last decade. Over the last few years, the Eagles have finished with 9, 10, 11, 9, and 8 wins, despite two coaching changes, and a fair share of quarterback controversy (including the departure of the projected 2009 starting quarterback Dominique Davis). History may not be the best guide for predicting a season, but I struggle to see a season in which the Eagles, in their second year under Frank Spaziani, will win less than 8 games.
As far as ACC schedules go, Boston College has one of the easiest, avoiding Miami, and North Carolina, who both rank in most pundits pre-season top 25. While the Eagles will have to play Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Florida State, the remainder of their schedule includes Duke, Virginia, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Syracuse, each who are projected to be in a down year. Barring a disastrous plague of injuries, or the loss of Montel Harris, a relatively conservative estimate in which the Eagles lose to Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Florida State, still means a 9-3 season – and that, in my opinion, is conservative.
As I mentioned earlier, the Eagles defense will be stringent enough to keep them in any game. If Dave Shinskie can improve upon his 2009 campaign and become a more consistent quarterback, with the running of Montel Harris, the Eagles offense should be proficient enough to allow the Eagles to sneak out of one, or two of their more difficult games with a victory. Optimistically, this leads me to predict that Boston College will end the season with 10 wins (allowing them room to lose one of their “easier” games), and give them a legitimate chance of, once again, returning to the ACC Championship.
About the Author
Written by Ian Boynton
Student at Boston College. Avid fan of St. Louis Rams, Boston Red Sox, as well as all Boston College Sports.