- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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With his 38 career starts, Boston College tight end Chris Pantale is the leading veteran returning in the ACC this year at all positions, as nobody in the conference has more career starts. He had 21 catches and three touchdowns last year, but is hoping for a bigger, more productive role this fall. Pantale was the Eagles’ third-leading receiver last year and enters 2012 with 77 career receptions for 797 yards (10.35 avg.) and five touchdowns. I spoke with him recently to get his take on the upcoming season. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
What are your expectations for yourself for your senior year?
Chris Pantale: I’m hoping to have a breakout season. I haven’t really had a season I can look back on and say, ‘I really got the most out of what I did this year, and I really helped the team rack up some wins.’ Not only for myself, but for the team. I want to help lead us to an ACC championship and be a big part of that.
Why do you feel like you haven’t had the kind of season you’ve wanted?
CP: I’m not really sure. Over the past few years our offense hasn’t really been too productive. Not just me, but the offense as a whole hasn’t done so well. I can’t really pinpoint it exactly, but most of the time we’ve been playing to our strength, which is our running game, our offensive line, and playing to our defense. It’s a combination of things.
Do you think that could change this year with the hire of Doug Martin as offensive coordinator?
CP: I definitely think so. We always want to be a productive offense. We don’t want to have to play conservative and use our defense to our advantage. We want to be a fast-paced, up-tempo offense and put the defense on their heels, and spread the field. I think Coach Martin will bring that to the table, especially with the whole up-tempo offense he installed this spring.
Were you aware that you’re the most experienced starter returning in the ACC?
CP: I didn’t know about the whole ACC, but for my class, the fifth-years I’m in with now, we came in with like 30 freshmen and have slowly dwindled to about 10 guys. I’ve noticed I’m one of the guys who has played the most, but I had no idea it was the most in the ACC, which is pretty shocking to believe right now.
The class you came in with, why did it get so small?
CP: Part of it was the coaching changes. Some guys came in with bad attitudes I guess, thought they should’ve been playing right away. Some of the guys I came in with had a bigger ego and when they didn’t play right away hung their heads a little bit and started to slack off in school. They brought it upon themselves. It wasn’t what BC did to them. It was their own fault for most guys, but some guys left for what they felt was better options. You can’t blame them if they didn’t feel like they didn’t belong there.
What does it mean to you that you stuck through … you were there for Jagz, right?
CP: Yeah, I was there for Jagz and that whole, I guess you could say it was a debacle.
Yeah, there was that, but there were two ACC championship games, too, right?
CP: Freshman year, it was amazing being around campus, back-to-back ACC championships, coming off the whole Matt Ryan tenure … it’s disappointing to see the trend we were at last year. We’re definitely working to get back to that level. I know what it was like for those guys when they got there, to the ACC championship, so that’s even more important for me to talk and be vocal about what it takes to get to the ACC championship.
How have you handled having so many offensive coordinators? You personally?
CP: It’s been difficult at times. You see these offensive coordinators come through and I guess they all kind of say the same thing and two years down the line they’re leaving or looking for other options. It’s tough to build a relationship sometimes with all of the coaches.
Yeah, I can imagine that. There’s something to be said for stability.
CP: It would be nice to have a coach there for five years and have a whole relationship with him and be real comfortable, not have to learn a new offense every spring, which I’ve had to do for the most part. It’s always a learning process. Each spring I’m not real comfortable with the offense and learning it over again, but I think that has actually helped me become a better football player because I’m able to adapt to offenses better. I know how to study it. I’ve had to do it a couple of years in a row.
Do you feel old yet?
CP: I’ve started to feel a little bit when I look around the locker room, and these guys are all 18 years old, or 17 going on 18, and I’m like, ‘Wow, what the heck?’”
Tell me about your role for this season in terms of leadership. As one of the older guys, what will your role be?
CP: For the past few years I’ve been kind of under the radar. I’m more of a soft-spoken quiet guy who tries to lead by example. I’m always going to work and do my job and guys respect that. I always work to the best of my ability, but I feel it’s real important for me to step up and be a more vocal guy this year. Some of the younger guys count on that. I can lead by example, but there has to be a voice behind the message sometimes.