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Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Chris Crane can lead, but can he win?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

 
 Elsa/Getty Images
 New BC quarterback Chris Crane is all business this year on the field.

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Being Boston College's starting quarterback is no joking matter.

The backup, apparently, is a different story.

Chris Crane's teammates describe him as a laid-back, silly guy. Or he was.

Last season, Crane was sort of like an assistant coach, and when the head coach, Matt Ryan, came down hard on his teammates, Crane was the go-to guy, the friend.

Now he's the one commanding respect.

"I feel like I really had to make a big effort to show everyone that there's no joking around anymore, that I'm here to lead this team," Crane said. "It's weird because a lot of people didn't feel like Matt was their friend and that I could be. When I took over a lot of people would say, 'Oh you're not going to turn into Matt are you? You're not going to be so hard on us?' And you just have to tell them bluntly, I'm the same person, but I'm going to be tough on you. Nothing is going to change."

On the field, though, the offense is certain to change.

Crane is a more mobile quarterback than Ryan, and that gives the Eagles the option to have him run the ball. Clearly, he's not going to throw it as much. Crane said he's progressed throughout the spring and summer and is able to get through his reads, and is able to hit the open receiver.

But he hasn't quite sparkled yet. Is that because he's going against one of the better defenses in the ACC, and it knows his every move? That's part of it. Here are his stats through the Eagles' three scrimmages:

• 8-of-12 for 110 yds, TD

• 14-of-25 for 178 yards, TD (The offense was held to 64 net rushing yards and the defense had eight sacks and four interceptions, not necessarily all from Crane).

• 10-of-20 for 66 yards and one touchdown.

The Aug. 30 season opener at Kent State is 10 days away, and we still don't know what Crane can do, but he's got experienced receivers to help him in starters Rich Gunnell, Clarence Megwa and Brandon Robinson. Tight end Ryan Purvis is also back.

"A lot of people see me as a rookie," Crane said. "I'm really hoping that when we go out there, if there are any nerves, if the passes aren't quite perfect, that they'll be able to in stride make it look like everything's good. That's what I'm hoping."

Robinson, a fifth-year senior who averaged 14.2 yards per catch last year, said the receivers aren't great, but they're good enough to get it done. Both he and Gunnell were among the 2007 ACC leaders in receptions and receiving yards per game.

"We got badgered all season. 'Matt would have been so much better if he had better receivers.' But he wasn't throwing the ball to himself, like a lot of people have said," Robinson said. "I don't really see us as great receivers. We make plays, but that's what our job is to do. We're supposed to make the quarterback look good."

Not that he doesn't have any confidence Crane will uphold his end of the deal.

"I always knew and he always knew that he was a good quarterback, but it's really hard following an All-American," said Robinson. "Now he knows it's his time, so he can play. He was recruited here as a great quarterback, a big, strong-armed, fast quarterback. I think that's what people don't understand -- we may not get the best recruits in the country but the guys that come here know how to play football, they're tough mentally and are smart and they get the job done."

While the verdict is still out on the field, Crane answered the one question his teammates wanted to know most:

"One thing that we were all looking for Chris to do was lead, and he has done just that," linebacker Mark Herzlich said. "He's become a great leader as well as improved his personal skills and techniques. I have the utmost confidence in him to lead our team to victory and do what's necessary to get that done."