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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Football is the furthest thing from Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich's mind right now, and understandably so, but there is still a team in Chestnut Hill, and it's in dire need of leadership now more than ever.
With Herzlich's future uncertain because of his recent diagnosis of cancer, the Eagles' linebacking corps -- and the entire team -- will need somebody besides coach Frank Spaziani and defensive coordinator Bill McGovern to keep the players pushing forward.
The best candidate to do that would be linebacker Mike McLaughlin, but he missed the entire spring because of a torn Achilles he suffered during a conditioning session prior to spring practice. Without McLaughlin, whose return time remains a question, the linebackers are a very young, inexperienced group.
There is no veteran quarterback on this roster to take charge -- Spaziani has yet to name a starter there -- but the team is not without leaders.
Defensive end Jim Ramella, who started all 14 games last season on the right side, impressed the coaches this spring and will be a senior. And senior Matt Tennant has started the past 28 games at center and is the anchor of the offensive line. Both are blue-collar players from Ohio poised for breakout seasons. While they might not have asked for it, that trio of McLaughlin, Ramella and Tennant have now been tasked with keeping the Eagles together.
McLaughlin was slated to be the starter at middle linebacker, but in his absence this spring, Will Thompson was able to improve. Thompson got a decent amount of snaps last fall behind Robert Francois after Brian Toal's season was lost to a broken leg. Herzlich's backup at strongside linebacker is sophomore Dominick LeGrande, who saw action off the bench last year as a strong safety and played sparingly on special teams. His backup is Kevin Distaso, whose experience has been limited to the scout team. The starting weakside linebacker is redshirt freshman Nick Clancy.
"None of them have played a great deal except for Mark," McGovern told ESPN.com in April. "We're just trying to keep pushing them out there. They all have ability, they all have plusses, but they're making a lot of mistakes, too. A lot of them have to learn how to practice and prepare."
The summer now becomes even more important for that to happen.