ACC: Gary Tranquill
Or, you can wait for me to give it to you.
I’m a neutral reporter, though, so I see both sides of the story -- why your team will win, and of course, why it won’t. Let the series begin today with one good reason why …
Boston College will get back to a bowl game: Only Florida State has more returning starting experience.
The Eagles return 17 starters, including a two-year starter at quarterback in Chase Rettig. It’s not like coach Frank Spaziani doesn’t have anything to work with. This is not a rebuilding year for the roster. It’s a group of hard-working players who are disappointed with the direction of the program, and are willing to do their best to turn it around.
Nine starters return on offense, including four on the offensive line. What was a major question mark at this time a year ago should now be a strength for BC’s offense. First-year offensive coordinator Doug Martin said the offensive line should be one of the most improved groups. Even without running back Montel Harris, the Eagles have depth at the position. The biggest question is, who will emerge as a dependable wide receiver? Defensively, the Eagles have big shoes to fill after the early, but expected, departure of linebacker Luke Kuechly, but there is still plenty of talent at linebacker. Also, the defensive linemen gained valuable experience last season, and should be better at stopping the run.
Why it won’t: There has been too much turnover at the offensive coordinator position, plain and simple.
Martin will be the Eagles’ fifth offensive coordinator in five seasons, as BC has replaced Steve Logan (2008), Gary Tranquill (2009-10), and Kevin Rogers and Dave Brock (2011). The players have had to adjust to yet another personality, philosophy, scheme and terminology. How much better would Rettig have been, or how much more rapid would his growth have been had he continued to progress in the same system? The entire offensive staff got a shakeup this offseason, as four of the five assistants from last season are gone. Some have wondered whether or not Spaziani is an effective staff manager. He has maintained that Rogers took a leave of absence for health reasons, and the others left for better opportunities. All that matters this season is that everyone works together well enough to win, but even the players know staff stability counts for something.
While Spaziani said that the recent turnover at the coordinator position has obviously been “a disruption,” it wasn’t the factor that defined their 4-8 season. Spaziani also said there weren’t any internal issues among the staff, despite speculation to the contrary. A disappointing 4-8 finish had some BC fans calling for change, but Spaziani said he is confident he still has the program heading in the right direction.
“I’m hired to do a job and I’ve got to focus on the job,” he said. “Were fans, alumni, administration, team members, coaches disappointed? Yes. Should we be discouraged and gloom and doom? No. We’ve got to win and I understand where I started and I understand where we’re at. I have all the information to do what has to be done. I have to focus on doing the job. Certainly 4-8 was not what is expected, but let’s move forward.”
Spaziani is doing that right now by recruiting, and said the staff has made “tremendous progress.” Probably the area most in need of it was on the offensive line where Spaziani said the numbers are finally where they want them to be, though the group is still young. The defensive line remains a recruiting priority.
“We’ve had two classes we feel very good about,” Spaziani said. “ … As we go through the evaluation process and see what your classes are like, we like our two that we’ve had here. We’ve addressed a lot of problems and we’re getting back to where we need to be. And we’re well on our way, hopefully this one will be just like the first two.”
Spaziani said the Eagles will likely remain under the 85 scholarship limit, but that’s normal for the program, which typically saves a few to reward walk-ons and for late recruiting. The priority for the team this offseason, Spaziani said, is to pick up where it left off – on a winning note. BC began the season 1-6, but finished by winning three of its last five, including the regular season finale at Miami.
“I think we have to continue making the progress we made,” Spaziani said. “The most disappointing thing about this year was that it ended. We were developing as a football team. We were getting better. We need to pick up where we left off. Obviously we have a ways to go. We have to get some stuff solidified and the coaching staff, and move forward with our kids. I think our kids understand what it takes and they have a better picture of how competitive it is and what they have to do. We’re still going to be young next year, but it’s a situation we’re working ourselves through.”
Aside from the two new head coaches -- Maryland's Randy Edsall and Miami's Al Golden -- the coordinator positions will have the most influence on the conference race. Five programs in the ACC -- Boston College, Clemson, Maryland, Duke and Miami -- will have new coordinators in 2011:
OUT: Offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill (retired)
IN: Offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers (spent past five seasons as QB coach of Minnesota Vikings)
OUT: Offensive coordinator Billy Napier (fired)
IN: Offensive coordinator Chad Morris (hired from Tulsa)
OUT: Offensive coordinator James Franklin (head coach at Vanderbilt)
IN: Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton (hired from LSU)
OUT: Defensive coordinator Don Brown (took same position at Connecticut)
IN: Todd Bradford (promoted from inside linebackers coach after a month)
OUT: Defensive coordinator Marion Hobby (hired as Clemson defensive line coach)
IN: Jim Knowles (promoted from within)
OUT: Mark Whipple (fired)
IN: Jedd Fisch (former QB coach of Seattle Seahawks)
OUT: John Lovett (fired)
IN: Mark D'Onofrio (spent past five seasons with Golden at Temple)
BEST HIRE: Rogers. His experience is unmatched, and it's what separates him from the others. That's not to say there's not experience on this list -- Knowles and Crowton are both former head coaches. That's a huge bonus. But Rogers recently completed his 36th year in the coaching profession, 28 of which have been spent at the collegiate level. Fisch coached one collegiate season, at Minnesota. Morris has one season of collegiate coaching experience. Rogers has worked with the likes of Donovan McNabb, Bryan Randall and most recently Brett Favre. His biggest strength -- developing quarterbacks -- is what BC needs most right now. Rogers knows the ACC -- he coached at Virginia Tech. That's not to say that the others won't make an immediate impact or extract drastic improvements, but Frank Spaziani's hire was worth the wait.
Spring practice starts: March 15
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- The progression of quarterback Chase Rettig. As a true freshman, Rettig replaced Dave Shinskie as starter against Notre Dame on Oct. 2. He’ll only get better with more experience, and there’s room for improvement, as he threw nine interceptions and six touchdowns. He completed 51.3 percent of his passes for 137.6 yards per game. Two of those picks came in the 20-13 loss to Nevada in the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl, but he’s expected to take an important step forward this offseason and will need to if BC is going to graduate from the nation’s 109th best offense.
- The offense under a new coordinator. Kevin Rogers replaced Gary Tranquill, who retired after the bowl game, and the Eagles will have to adjust to a new scheme and system, starting this spring. Rogers said he'll adapt his system to the personnel he has to work with, but considering he was hired on Monday, there hasn't been much time for him to evaluate film.
- The revamped offensive line. BC has to replace three starters up front, including left tackle Anthony Castonzo, right guard Thomas Claiborne and right tackle Rich Lapham. Emmett Cleary and center Mark Spinney are returning starters, and left guard Ian White started a few games at the end of the year. Bryan Davis, Claiborne’s backup at right guard, and John Wetzel, Castonzo’s backup, are frontrunners to earn starts.
Spring practice starts: March 7
Spring game: April 9
What to watch:
- Quarterback Tajh Boyd. Prior to the arrival of two early enrollees, Boyd was the only scholarship quarterback on the roster, and his experience alone -- albeit limited -- makes it his job to lose. The staff wants him to become a little more accurate and consistent this spring. His education was accelerated at this time a year ago when former quarterback Kyle Parker spent the spring playing baseball, but that was under former offensive coordinator Billy Napier. He’s got a new coordinator -- and a new offense to learn.
- The new offensive scheme. First-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris brings an up-tempo style similar to that of Auburn’s, and the Tigers will have to learn it as quickly as he’ll want them to execute it. Morris has said Boyd is suited just right to lead it. Morris will want to stretch the field in every direction, depend on a strong running game and include long pass plays. He’s tasked with improving an offense that ranked No. 10 in the ACC in both scoring offense and total offense.
- Defense up the middle. It starts up front, where the Tigers have to replace defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins. Linebacker Brandon Maye, who played in the middle a lot, decided to transfer, and safety DeAndre McDaniel, who controlled the middle of the field in the secondary, has also graduated. The Tigers have the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 1 outside linebacker in the country in this year’s recruiting class, but they won’t arrive until the summer. For now, Corico Hawkins returns as a starting middle linebacker, while Quandon Christian is likely to stay on the outside. Rennie Moore will replace Jenkins, but McDaniel’s spot is up for grabs.
Spring practice starts: March 21
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- Big holes on the offensive line. There’s depth, experience and incoming talent, but there are also big shoes to fill with the graduation of left guard Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon. Right guard David Spurlock has been seen snapping on the sidelines at practices, indicating he could move to center, while recovering from concussions and going through rehab. McMahon’s backup was Jacob Stanley. Henry Orelus, Bryan Stork and Rhonne Sanderson all started at right guard for Spurlock when he was out. Junior college transfer Jacob Fahrenkrug, the No. 4 overall junior college prospect, could have an immediate impact at left guard.
- Backup quarterback battle. With EJ Manuel a lock as the starter, the attention turns to the No. 2 spot. Clint Trickett, a redshirt freshman and son of offensive line coach Rick Trickett, and Will Secord, a redshirt sophomore, are the top two candidates. Secord was named the most improved quarterback of the spring at this time a year ago. Neither of them have thrown a collegiate pass.
- Linebackers. The Seminoles will have to replace two starters in Kendall Smith and Mister Alexander. Nigel Bradham is the only returning starter. This spring will feature competition among Christian Jones, Telvin Smith, Vince Williams and Jeff Luc. It’s a more talented crop waiting in the wings, but inexperience is a factor. It’s a chance for Luc and Jones -- two of FSU’s top recruits in the 2010 class -- to remind everyone why they were rated the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 2 outside linebacker, respectively, in the country.
Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: April 30
What to watch:
- New staff, new schemes. First-year coach Randy Edsall wants to be multiple, get vertical and take advantage of quarterback Danny O’Brien’s strengths. The departure of former defensive coordinator Don Brown to Connecticut was a surprise and a blow to the defense, which will now have to make a transition under a new coordinator who has yet to be hired.
- Competition at linebacker. Two starters have to be replaced in Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten, who were also both leaders of the defense. Demetrius Hartsfield returns as a starter, but the new staff will have to figure out who else fits into what slots. Ben Pooler has had knee trouble, but he is expected to compete with Darin Drakeford and Ryan Donohue, who were both No. 2 at their respective positions in 2010.
- Special teams. Not only did the Terps lose a four-year starter in punter/placekicker Travis Baltz, they also have to replace their top kick returner and conference leader in all-purpose yards in receiver Torrey Smith, who left early for the NFL. Nick Ferrara handled kickoffs last year and was No. 2 behind Baltz at both kicker and punter, but he’s a placekicker first, and has to get back on track with consistency. He’ll be the only scholarship kicker on the roster until incoming freshman Nathaniel Renfro joins the team this summer. Dexter McDougle has returned kickoffs in the past, and Trenton Hughes is another option, but with a new staff, it could be a clean slate.
Spring practice starts: March 17
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- Mike Glennon. The team is moving forward as if starter Russell Wilson won’t return, promoting Glennon to No. 1 on the depth chart. The offense will have a new look, as the plays will be suited to Glennon’s strengths. At 6-foot-7, he’s much taller than Wilson, a more prototypical drop-back passer with a strong arm. While the plays might look different to the fans, they’re the same ones Glennon has been practicing since the day he arrived on campus. He’s a smart, unflappable player scheduled to graduate this May, but we haven’t seen enough of him to know just how good he is.
- A new crop of receivers. NC State will have to replace three seniors in Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams and Darrell Davis. Spencer and Williams led the Pack in receiving last year, combining for nine touchdowns and over 1,600 yards. NC State will turn to Jay Smith, who had 10 catches in 12 games, Steven Howard, Quintin Payton, and T.J. Graham, who had four touchdowns and played in all 13 games. Payton played a little more toward the end of the year, and he’s a tall, big target (about 6-foot-4) and comparable to Williams. Bryan Underwood, who redshirted last year, could also contribute.
- Running back competition. James Washington had taken over the starting job at the end of 2010, but he’ll be pushed this spring by Dean Haynes and Mustafa Greene, who led the team in rushing in 2010 as a true freshman. They’ll also be under the direction of a new assistant coach, as Jason Swepson is now the head coach at Elon. It will be the first time Greene has been in a spring practice, and Washington, who was hurt last year, is finally healthy.
Spring practice starts: March 15
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- Progress of quarterback Tanner Price. The maturation of Price, who started nine games as a true freshman last year, will be crucial to the Deacs’ hopes of returning to the postseason. Price was forced to play earlier than expected and finished with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. He completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 1,349 yards.
- A defense in transition. Coach Jim Grobe has said the staff is committed to making the transition to a 3-4 defense. The Deacons used that scheme to defend the triple option against Georgia Tech and Navy, and continued to experiment with it as the season progressed. This linebackers in this year’s recruiting class were brought in specifically with the 3-4 defense in mind.
- Redshirt offensive linemen. There were three true freshmen who redshirted last year who are expected to give four returning starters some legitimate competition -- Colin Summers, Dylan Heartsill and Daniel Blitch. The Deacs will also have to replace starting center Russell Nenon. Chance Raines was his backup last year.
- There's a bit of confusion surrounding Clemson's open offensive coordinator position.
- Boston College offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill has decided to retire, and coach Frank Spaziani is expected to promote from within.
- "Holy mackerel," this future Maryland offensive lineman is big.
- Virginia coach Mike London added a strength coach to his staff.
- Doug Roberson takes a look back and a look ahead at Georgia Tech's defense.
- NC State kicker Chris Hawthorne is transferring to Minnesota.
- Miami hired a wide receivers coach, but the offensive coordinator position remains on hold -- and a big secret.
- Odds are he's coming to Miami from the NFL.
- Is Miami's former interim head coach leaving for Alabama?
- Will Miami's former offensive coordinator, Mark Whipple, be the next head coach at Connecticut?
- UNC defensive lineman Marvin Austin didn't play a snap this season and yet he's an all-star? Puh-lease.
- FSU finished with its highest national ranking since 2004.
It's easy to look back and say the game might have been different had Harris played, but Nevada would have done a good job stopping BC's run game regardless of who was in there because of the Eagles' lack of a passing game. BC's receivers didn't match up well against the Wolf Pack's secondary, which was faster and won the one-on-one matchups. True freshman running back Andre Williams was held to 3.7 yards per carry, and the Eagles had 64 total rushing yards.
And this wasn't Stanford's defense, which held the Hokies to 66 rushing yards.
So where does BC's offense go from here?
Some Boston College fans have lamented the job offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill has done, but they might not have to anymore, as his retirement could be imminent. With so much youth on offense, there was bound to be a learning curve this year, and the Eagles should be better in 2011, especially at quarterback, where Chase Rettig has shown promise. A new offensive coordinator could give the offense a spark, but it will also be yet another transition for a staff that has lacked stability in recent years.
Whether it's recruiting, coaching or a combination of both, offensive improvements are needed quickly if Boston College is going to be a contender again in the Atlantic Division. Meanwhile, somebody get defensive coordinator Bill McGovern a raise.
- I really like David Cutcliffe. He's a straight shooter. Here's his take on quarterback Sean Renfree and the outside influences:
"He knows who to listen to -- [Duke assistant] Kurt Roper, his daddy and me," Cutcliffe said Tuesday. "The rest of ya, the hell with ya."
- North Carolina true freshman offensive lineman James Hurst will get one of his biggest challenges of the season on Saturday against Miami's Olivier Vernon.
- Forget the past, Georgia Tech and Clemson. It's a new season.
- It's about time John Blake surrendered. Make a public statement. Apologize. Apologize to Butch Davis and his players, apologize to North Carolina fans and apologize to your lawyers for making them take the heat for you.
- Individually, Miami has some players on offense who are having outstanding seasons. Collectively? They're still not producing the results they want to see -- namely points.
- When it comes to hiring coaches, Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson and Clemson's Dabo Swinney are reminders not to get too caught up in labels.
- BC offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill is in a tough spot having to start from scratch with a new quarterback two years in a row.
- FSU coach Jimbo Fisher is even happier with his team now than he was after it stomped on Miami.
- UVA walk-on Trevor Grywatch sacrificed a bit of himself to help save another.
- Do you snore? If so, Virginia Tech fans kindly ask that you stay away from Dyrell Roberts and Danny Coale at their team hotels on the eve of games.
It is logical to assume that now that Shinskie has earned a letter, all is well and good with the Eagles. Shinskie believes so.
His coaches are waiting to be convinced that Shinskie understands the work it takes to be a good quarterback in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They understand why Shinskie may not have figured it out. When you ride buses for seven summers, and your biggest intellectual challenge is a scouting report and which fast-food place the bus may stop at, it’s tough to dive into a daily diet of pass-coverage video.
“You have a game every day,” Shinskie said, “but as a relief pitcher, I wasn’t pitching every day. Here, you have practice or you lift, you’re running or you’re rushing out to make classes in between. You’re rushing out every day somewhere, two meetings a day. It’s the mental part of football that’s time-consuming. That’s the thing that people outside of football don’t understand.”
Shinskie, of course, was outside of football until he came to Boston College. When he describes the difference in him this spring from last season, he sounds as if the light bulb above his helmet may have gone on.
“I can do this,” he said, “if I just know what coverage they are playing before the ball is snapped.”
Veteran coach Gary Tranquill reaffirmed his stature as a master teacher by transforming Shinskie into a serviceable quarterback last season. Shinskie threw for 2,049 yards last season. He threw 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Tranquill spoke in automotive terms. Last year, he said, the offense under Shinskie was “maybe first gear. We’re a little ahead of that; maybe second gear now.”
Shinskie, Tranquill said, “sees things better. He has a little bit better understanding of what’s going on. He throws the ball well. He’s pretty accurate. ... I still think he doesn’t totally understand that one of the things, if the goal is to do better, is spend a little bit more time studying the football part of it, not come over here and forget it until you come back over here.”
Boston College wants more. The analogy that Eagles head coach Frank Spaziani uses indicates how far he believes Shinskie has to go.
“We were admitted to the emergency room last year, with the quarterback situation,” Spaziani said. “We were in dire straits. We came out of the emergency room and we lived. We’re still in intensive care.”
Tranquill has seen more leadership this spring from Shinskie, a guy who lives his life in a low key. And it’s hard to lead when you don’t know Cover 2 from, well, third base.
“You learn that if you might not know what you’re doing, you have to act like you know what you’re doing,” Shinskie said.
Behind Shinskie is sophomore Mike Marscovetra and two January enrollees. No one has put away the smoke and mirrors just yet.
To have won eight games with a new starting quarterback, a new coaching staff, and their best player sidelined by cancer, it's an understatement to say the Eagles exceeded expectations in 2009. Boston College was picked by the media to finish last in Atlantic Division.
But that's what BC does -- better than you think.
Since the 2005 season, its first in the conference, Boston College has won 44 games, the most during that span with the exception of Virginia Tech, which has won 47.
So it's time to give BC a little more credit from the start. Sure, Boston College has questions to answer. Everyone does. But here are three good reasons why the Eagles should be considered a contender to win their division right from the start. After all, that's where they left off last November.
- The running game. With four starting offensive linemen returning, Montel Harris should repeat as one of the most successful running backs in the country. He finished No. 18 in the FBS last year with 112.08 yards per game. After just two seasons, Harris leads all active ACC runners with 13 100-yard rushing performances. (Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams in second place with 10 after just one season.) Harris rushed for 1,457 yards and 14 touchdowns last fall. He'll have a formidable front blocking for him, led by offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo, who has started 41 straight games, the most of any player in the ACC. (Castonzo is out this spring with a broken foot.)
- The return of Herzlich. He's not doing any hitting this spring, but the impact of having Herzlich back on the field after a long but successful fight against Ewing's Sarcoma is immeasurable. Herzlich is invaluable not only from a leadership and inspirational standpoint, but also because he was the ACC's top defender in 2008. That season, Herzlich tied for the national lead among all linebackers for pass interceptions (six), returning two for touchdowns. Herzlich and Luke Kuechly could prove to be one of the nation's best combinations of linebackers.
- Second season under new staff. There was a smooth transition defensively last year, since Spaziani was formerly the defensive coordinator, but quarterback Dave Shinskie and offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill have had a year to get to know each other. Whether or not Shinskie remains the starter through August is yet to be determined, but improvement in the passing game should be expected in Year 2. This staff has now had a chance to go out and recruit together, and assess their personnel and start to rebuild the depth. They had less to work with last year and won eight games.
All across the conference, uncertainty looms at quarterback heading into spring practices. The biggest transitions will occur at Duke and Wake Forest, where two of the ACC’s most accomplished quarterbacks -- Thaddeus Lewis and Riley Skinner -- have graduated. Virginia is also starting from scratch to replace Jameel Sewell, and nobody on the roster but Marc Verica has experience. Maryland's Jamarr Robinson has two starts ahead of the competition. Some schools, like North Carolina and Boston College, have experienced starters returning, but have welcomed an audition from the backups. At NC State and Clemson, the position’s future depends on whether or not starters Kyle Parker and Wilson decide to pursue their baseball careers.
“My goal is to prepare to be the starter, regardless of what decision [Wilson] makes, whenever he has to make a decision,” Glennon said. “… Once spring comes around, I’ll be getting all of those extra reps I wouldn’t have been given if he was there. Every ball I throw is really an advantage to me.”
Florida State is the only school in the Atlantic Division without any questions about who the starter is, as Christian Ponder will return from a shoulder injury and has the potential to factor into the Heisman race. The Coastal Division is a little more secure, with Georgia Tech’s Josh Nesbitt, Miami’s Jacory Harris, and Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor all established and on the brink of their best seasons yet. Whether or not that gives them an edge in the conference race will depend upon how quickly the league’s rookies can catch up.
“It’s always difficult to replace a guy who had the ability [Lewis] had,” said Duke offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper. “He’s obviously very, very talented, and then the experience factor. You don’t have a four-year starter very often ever at many positions, especially at quarterback.”
Boston College is in a much better position than it was this time a year ago, as the staff had no idea who its quarterback would be until 25-year-old Dave Shinskie arrived on campus. Shinskie is the front-runner heading into the spring, but Mike Marscovetra and two true freshmen -- Chase Rettig and Josh Bordner -- are on campus and will be given a chance.
“I think there should always be competition,” said offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Gary Tranquill. “It’s Shinskie’s job, and if they can unseat him, then they can unseat him.”
Duke’s quarterback depth took a hit after Lewis graduated and his backup, Sean Renfree, tore his ACL. Renfree is expected to be the Blue Devils’ starter this fall, but he will miss all of spring drills while he recovers.
Next man up? Schroeder.
“I’m expecting to really get a hold of the offense,” he said. “I’ve got a year under my belt as a redshirt freshman. That helped a lot. I’m looking to grow from that and master the offense and different schemes we have.”
Wake Forest has to replace the winningest quarterback in school history in Skinner. Truth is, there really is no front-runner. Not when the most experienced player, Ted Stachitas, has one series against Elon to fall back on.
“It is legitimately wide open,” said quarterbacks coach Tom Elrod.
The contenders include Skylar Jones, who was moved to wide receiver last year; Stachitas, who has had two shoulder surgeries on his right shoulder but said he feels almost 100 percent; Brendan Cross; walk-on Turner Faulk; and true freshman Tanner Price.
“I can’t tell you that I’m very confident, just because we haven’t seen the guys in live fire,” Grobe said. “I don’t know that we’ll feel good about them until they get a real game under their belt. I like what we’ve got – I like the kids who are playing quarterback for us, but even in practice and the scrimmages, it’s just really hard to tell who the guys are until they get out in games that really mean something.”
The one thing Grobe can take some solace in? He’s hardly alone this spring in the ACC.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
In another wild game for the ACC, Boston College found its offense under quarterback Dave Shinskie and beat Wake Forest 27-24 in overtime.
Considering the Eagles had just 54 yards of total offense against Clemson last week, you can't give Boston College and its staff enough credit for this win. If anyone doubted Frank Spaziani as a head coach, this game should quiet those doubts if not erase them entirely. He and Gary Tranquill found a way to beat a veteran quarterback and a veteran coach. This is what Boston College does - it proves people wrong, and it does by playing smart, tough football.
Wake Forest had a busted play on its final possession, Riley Skinner fumbled, and the Eagles shook up the Atlantic Division standings simply by not being in last place.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Boston College quarterback Dave Shinskie didn’t watch Thursday night’s game between Clemson and Georgia Tech, even though the Eagles will travel to Death Valley to face the Tigers in their first ACC game of the season on Saturday.
It’s hardly as if Shinskie was the only one on the team who ignored the prime-time game, and coach Frank Spaziani was hardly surprised to hear it.
|AP Photo/Lisa Poole|
|Frank Spaziani’s Eagles have outscored their first two opponents 88-7.|
“Well, I asked him not to watch it,” Spaziani said. “It doesn’t surprise me that they listened to their coach. It’s a distraction. We have had everybody, ever since the summer, talking about the third game of the year before we played our first two. We hadn’t played No. 2 yet, and there was still a lot of talk about Game No. 3. We usually like to watch the Thursday night game, it was just bad timing that it was Clemson.”
Now, after outscoring their first two opponents 88-7, Clemson is all they’re watching. Granted, Boston College’s first two wins against Northeastern and Kent State were somewhat expected, considering the first was an FCS program and the second a 4-8 team in the MAC a year ago. But the Eagles, which were predicted by the media this summer to finish last in the Atlantic Division after winning it the past two seasons, have looked more promising despite the many questions the team faced heading into September.
Remember, this is a team that entered the season without a quarterback with any collegiate experience. There was a staff overhaul that included promoting Spaziani from defensive coordinator to head coach, and hiring Gary Tranquill as offensive coordinator. Two NFL draft pick defensive tackles had to be replaced, as did the entire linebacking corps after standout Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer, and leader Mike McLaughlin has been sidelined with an Achilles injury. It seemed as if they couldn’t catch a break this offseason.
And yet the Eagles enter this week 2-0.
Asked if he has any sense of what this team is capable of this year after its commanding start, Spaziani didn’t hesitate when he said, “no.”
“Nope,” he said. “This is a real, real young squad in a lot of ways, with a new staff and a new system. I’m not sure. It’s going to take four or five more weeks before we know really what kind of football team we have. We’ve got good kids, I’ll tell you that. We’ve got good kids who know how to work.”
|Michael Tureski/Icon SMI|
|Dave Shinskie has thrown one TD pass in each of BC's first two games.|
Led by a veteran offensive line, Boston College’s offense has steamrolled its opponents, despite not knowing who its starting quarterback will be this season. The running game, led by Montel Harris, has flourished, and both quarterbacks, Justin Tuggle and Shinskie, have had their moments. There has only been one turnover so far -- an interception by Shinskie against Kent State. Spaziani said Sunday they’re still evaluating the position and that “there’s not a great deal of separation.”
“Me and Justin, we’re going at it at practice every day and in the games, and we’ve both been successful,” Shinskie said. “It’s been fun so far. We back each other up every week, we back each other up every series. When Coach Spaz makes a decision and gives the nod to one of us, I’ll be happy for him, he’ll be happy for me. Whatever works out.”
While they might not yet know where their place is in the Atlantic Division, or who their quarterback will be on Saturday, or how the young defense will fare against the veteran talent and speed of Clemson, the Eagles have definitely learned a few things about themselves in the first two weeks.
“We’ve learned that we can overcome adversity, in losing some guys on defense and having no quarterback,” Shinskie said. “By working hard we’ve overcome all the stuff people have said about us in the beginning of the year. I mean, they expected us to win these first two games, but we’re going to work hard this next week and the week after. We’re looking one game at a time and this Clemson game is the biggest game of the year so far.
“We might have to work a little harder than we did the past two weeks,” he said, “but that’s what BC football is all about -- overcoming adversity and working hard.”
And in that respect, the Eagles are also 2-0.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Yes, it was against Northeastern, but 54 points is still 54 points, and a shutout is a shutout -- not to mention a rather impressive one for a team that had so many questions heading into its season opener.
Boston College finally has reason to celebrate, and it was a heck of a debut for first-year offensive cooridnator Gary Tranquill. The Eagles made a statement today against the little guy, and it was that they intend to win this season, regardless of what outsiders like myself might think about their chances.
The true evaluation of what BC is capable of obviously won't come until they play a quality FBS opponent, but this was certainly a win worth giving them credit for, and one that should give them some confidence when they were surrounded by so much doubt.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here are five things that will play a role in the ACC's conference race this fall:
1. Virginia Tech's backfield. How the Hokies recover from the season-ending injury to star tailback Darren Evans will go a long way in determining their fate on the national stage, and it starts in the season opener against Alabama. They've got reasons for hope in Josh Oglesby, David Wilson and Ryan Williams, but for the most part, their talent is unproven. Until Tyrod Taylor and the receivers show the passing game is a dependable option, it's going to be up to the young backs to make the difference.
2. Health of starting quarterbacks. Tyrod Taylor. Josh Nesbitt. Chris Turner. Jacory Harris. Christian Ponder. Russell Wilson. Riley Skinner. They're all backed up by players who have yet to take a collegiate snap. NC State's situation should improve with Mike Glennon, and expectations are high for E.J. Manuel at FSU, but some teams -- like Maryland and Wake Forest -- would experience a significant drop-off if their starter went down.
3. Georgia Tech's defensive line. It's the biggest question the Jackets are facing this fall, as they have to replace three of their four starters up front who combined for 87 career starts. Those within the program seem confident the previous backup experience of the new starters will help make for a smooth transition. With a league-high 19 starters returning, it's the only unknown for these Coastal Division contenders.
4. Coach/coordinator changes. The entire package at Clemson is worth watching, as Dabo Swinney was promoted from wide receivers coach and Billy Napier, at 30 years old, is now the offensive coordinator. At Boston College, first-year coach Frank Spaziani has his hands full, and introduced first-year offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill to a team that lacks a starting quarterback. At Maryland, Don Brown's defense is sure to throw several ACC offenses off-kilter, and there's a buzz around Miami's offense that has been lacking now that Mark Whipple has arrived. And the Canes will have their third defensive coordinator in as many seasons with John Lovett. Virginia will unveil a spread offense under first-year coordinator Gregg Brandon.
5. New faces at receiver. The ACC has something it's been missing, and that's quarterbacks with experience. Problem is, many of them don't know who they're going to be throwing to. Virginia lost all of its top receivers, and so did NC State. Maryland said farewell to Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Clemson to Aaron Kelly. Duke lost Eron Riley and Wake lost D.J. Boldin. The list goes on. Beyond Clemson's Jacoby Ford and Georgia Tech's Demaryius Thomas, the ACC is lacking many proven receivers. Several schools -- like Miami -- have a long list to choose from, but who will separate himself?
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Your front seven, I know you have to plug those holes on the interior line and at linebacker. How have those guys been coming along?
FS: The up-front guys, we have some young, inexperienced guys, we don't have enough depth there. The issue at linebacker is just as critical as at quarterback. If you had to draw a parallel, right now we're missing our two most important cogs at linebacker over there unexpectedly. We have some guys who are inexperienced who have to play and are untested talent-wise. That's just as big of a concern as the quarterback, really.
How have you handled all this? Are you losing sleep at night?
FS: First of all, a lot of the concerns are not new, I knew going in. One of the biggest surprises was to find out the problems were just as bad as I'd been telling everybody. I understood what was going on. We've got a plan. We know how to fix it, we know how to get better. We're anxious to see how it's all going to turn out, but we're not losing sleep -- yet.
Does it help to bring in a new offensive coordinator when you don't have quarterbacks who were necessarily entrenched in the old system?
FS: It helps to bring in Gary Tranquill. Gary is tailor-made for what we needed here. He was the first guy who came to my mind and thank God he's here. It's certainly very challenging and you need an experienced guy who's been around and is not going to be flustered by the situation, and that certainly is Gary. I just feel very fortunate every day to go out to practice knowing that that's in his hands.
What's the overall attitude of the team right now? Do you sense these guys are really itching to prove they can exceed people's expectations again?
FS: That's always been the case here. That's sort of the mindset. We're trying to develop an attitude ... They're young and inexperienced. Some of our leaders aren't out there, and we're unsettled at quarterback. You've been following sports, that can be very unsettling as far as leadership and personnel, and the team and dynamics. We're trying to find ourselves here. We're seeing improvement in that area, but we've got to get the right attitude.
How's Mark (Herzlich) doing?
FS: I talked to him about a week ago. He's in whatever stage of treatment it is right now. He sounded fine. Some days are worse than others, obviously. He's planning on being back here in early September and joining us.
Where do you set your goals at right now? Do you say, 'hey, we're trying to win the ACC title,' or are you just taking it one day at a time right now?
FS: We have obviously team goals, and that's always the case. You have to have those. In the context of one day at a time and in order to get to those goals, there's a lot of little things that have to be taken care of. That's where we're at with that. We talk about goals, we have aspirations, but we're realistic. We understand what people think of us and why. It's not like somebody just came off outer space and decided how good we're going to be. There's reasons. That's the way it always is in football.