ACC: Jack Bicknell Jr.

Thoughts on BC's new offensive coach

January, 24, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Considering the time crunch he was under, Frank Spaziani's first hire as head coach was a respectable one.

Not only did he bring in someone with head coaching experience, Spaziani also brought in a longtime friend in Gary Tranquill. Those two intangibles should help make the coaching transition a smooth one. The two were assistants together on George Welsh's staff at Virginia in 1990, and both coached at Navy during the 1970s.

Tranquill, who had retired after the 2005 season as offensive coordinator at North Carolina, brings a wealth of coaching experience to Chestnut Hill, and has spent plenty of time in the ACC, with stops at Virginia, Virginia Tech and UNC. He also brings NFL experience, and worked with Bernie Kosar and Vinnie Testaverde. The one thing he doesn't bring is a lot of winning records. Tranquill was a part of five winning seasons during his 12 years as an offensive coordinator at the collegiate level.

The biggest question hanging out there is Tranquill's age and the fact that he has already retired -- twice. For a staff desperately seeking stability, it's hard not to wonder if Tranquill, 68, will stick around long enough to see a full recruiting class through. He turns 69 in April, and yes, other coaches will use his age against BC in recruiting. This hire reminds me a lot of Joe Paterno's hire of Galen Hall, and -- surprise -- they're both still there.

As for his work on the field, let's let the numbers tell the story. Here is how UNC fared during Tranquill's time there:

UNC's Numbers During Gary Tranquill's Tenure
Year Record Points Per Game Yards Per Game
2001 8-5 26.8 366.8
2002 3-9 18.6 369.1
2003 2-10 26.4 394.3
2004 6-6 26.6 390.7
2005 5-6 18.0 315.7

Wide receivers coach Ryan Day was reported by The Boston Globe to had been a favorite to take over as offensive coordinator. Will he stick around after being passed up for the job he wanted, like Jack Bicknell Jr. did, or will Spaziani have yet another coach to replace with signing day less than two weeks away? Spaziani still has to fill the defensive coordinator spot and offensive line position.

BC announces Bicknell's departure

January, 23, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

BC officially announced the departure of assistant head football coach and offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. to the New York Giants, where he was hired by former BC coach Tom Coughlin.

In 1991, Coughlin succeeded Bicknell's father, also Jack, as the head coach at Boston College.

"He was the offensive line coach at Boston College for two 10-win seasons," Coughlin said in a prepared statement. "They played in back-to-back ACC championship games with a lot of young guys in his second year.

"I have followed his career closely and I know very well of him and I think he will make an excellent addition to our staff."

Here is more from the release:

"I couldn't be more excited," Bicknell said. "Obviously, the New York Giants are one of the top organizations in the NFL, and I feel like I am going to have a chance to work for one of the top head coaches in the NFL and for one of the top teams in the NFL. It really is exciting and at this point in my career it is something that I am looking to do. I have enjoyed working at the collegiate level, but I have never really had an opportunity to get into the NFL, and this is a chance for me to start to learn the NFL game and what that is all about."

Bicknell is particularly excited about being reunited with Coughlin after more than 25 years.

"He was basically the offensive coordinator," Bicknell said. "He was the guy running the show, for sure, though he didn't have that title. I just had the utmost respect for him. Obviously, we all know he is an unbelievable coach, but also to me he is just a great person. One thing you know about him is he is a very loyal person and very honest, so it was an honor to play for him, and I really look forward to working for him now."

In the recently-concluded season, the line coached by Bicknell helped Boston College finish fifth in the ACC in both scoring (24.7 points a game) and in rushing (143.3 yards per game) and third in sacks allowed (21 in 14 games). In 2007, Bicknell helped mold a young offensive line that protected ACC Player of the Year Matt Ryan -- now the Atlanta Falcons' quarterback -- and helped the Eagles generate nearly 6,000 yards of total offense. The Eagles allowed only 22 sacks in 14 games. Bicknell helped develop Gosder Cherilus, whom the Detroit Lions selected with the 17th overall pick in last year's NFL Draft. BC finished the season ranked 10th in the nation, the team's best final poll finish since Bicknell was a member of the team in 1984.

"It was great to be back at B.C.," Bicknell said. "That is my school and I love the school and we were able to win 20 games in two years, went to two ACC championship games, and we had Matt Ryan, so it was a wonderful two years. I certainly appreciate all the opportunities that (athletic director) Gene DeFilippo and coach Jags (former coach Jeff Jagodzinski) gave me. It was just a great two years, but I am really, really excited about starting in with the Giants."

That '84 team is perhaps the one that is most fondly remembered in Boston College history. The Eagles went 9-2, Flutie won the Heisman and the quarterback and Gerard Phelan hooked up for one of the most famous plays in college football history -- which started with Bicknell's snap.

Bicknell's career highlight was snapping the ball to Flutie when the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback threw the famous Hail Mary pass to beat the University of Miami in 1984.

"Everybody forgets about me," Bicknell said. "They remember about the guy who threw it and caught it, but if I screwed up the snap, it never would have happened."

Another coach departs BC

January, 23, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Boston College offensive line coach/assistant head coach Jack Bicknell Jr. resigned this week, reportedly because he was under the impression he would be a leading candidate to be the Eagles' head coach if the position ever opened.

Bicknell actually was one of the top candidates to replace Jeff Jagodzinski earlier this month, but according to the Globe, Bicknell still felt misled by athletic director Gene DeFilippo. DeFilippo declined to comment for this article.

There are no guarantees, though, and if anyone knows that, it's DeFilippo.

DeFilippo was under the impression Jagodzinski would stay the length of his five-year contract, and felt a bond of trust had been broken when his head coach decided to start job hunting after two seasons. Bicknell was under the impression the title assistant head coach actually meant something.

Three Boston College coaches have now willingly walked away -- Jagodzinski could have saved his job but blatantly ignored a request from his boss not to interview with the Jets, offensive coordinator Steve Logan resigned, and now Bicknell left to join former BC coach Tom Coughlin and the Giants. Don't forget former offensive line coach Jim Turner, who also abruptly resigned two years ago and is now at Texas A&M. And of course, Tom O'Brien wasn't given much of a choice.

To be fair, Logan was one of Jagodzinski's hires, and had basically come out of retirement and radio to coach with him again, so his departure isn't too surprising. Bicknell was never promised the head-coaching job, and was given an opportunity to interview for it. DeFilippo hired the right man for the job, and the staff changes are consistent with most head-coaching transitions. Loyalty -- or perhaps more accurately miscommunication -- appears to be an underlying issue at Boston College, and it starts at the top.

How else do you explain the departure of two assistants with significant ties to the program and area?

Bicknell's father, Jack, was head coach at BC from 1981-90, and Bicknell earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees from BC. He was the starting center when Flutie threw the Hail Mary pass to defeat Miami in 1984. Anyone connected to Flutie is forever linked with BC. This couldn't have been an easy decision for Bicknell, considering his father's place in school history.

Turner, a native of Braintree, Mass., was a two-year starter for coach Jack Bicknell as a fullback. He was named a team captain his senior year and earned a degree in sociology in 1988. He, too, walked away from his roots.

That adds up to two former head coaches and two assistant coaches who are no longer in Chestnut Hill in part because of decisions DeFilippo made. He fired Jagodzinski "without cause," but made public his desire for a coach who is loyal for the length of his contract. The irony of that situation is he had a loyal coach in O'Brien.

Ask DeFilippo's former Big East counterparts what they think of his loyalty.

Now, coach Frank Spaziani is tasked with finding a new offensive coordinator, a new defensive coordinator and a new offensive line coach, not to mention assure all of his recruits that everything is just fine and dandy in Chestnut Hill. If the coaches and athletic director can't honor their commitments, why should the recruits?

Because the coach that matters most -- Spaziani -- isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

That's one thing the folks at BC seem to be able to guarantee.

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 19, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

These won't be coming every day anymore because there simply isn't enough out there to link to. Nobody likes a weak link, right? I dug up a few good reads for today in case you missed 'em:

Miami's strength and conditioning coach is credited with molding the Canes into NFL players and championship contenders.

With so many high school recruits committing months before signing day, there's just not as much drama as there used to be on Feb. 4. There is still plenty left unanswered, though, at Florida State.

Virginia had an important recruiting weekend, and could be on the verge of building one of best offensive lines in the ACC.

Boston College offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. interviewed for the head job at UMass, but the program hired internally.

Top five suggestions for the BC job

January, 8, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Let's say, hypothetically, that I was Gene DeFilippo for a day. Here is the list of resumes I'd have on my desk, in order of interview priority:

1. BC defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani
He has been with the program for the past 12 seasons, including the last 10 as defensive coordinator. He is a family man who has settled in the area, and every year his defenses are consistently among the best.

2. Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly
He is a rising star who has ties to Boston and would reportedly love to come back. His parents and most of his family still live there. He led the Bearcats to the Big East championship and the program's first BCS game.

3. Richmond coach Mike London
In his first season as head coach at his alma mater, London led the Spiders to the program's first FCS national title. The former Virginia assistant knows the ACC, and knows BC, as he was defensive line coach there from 1997-2000. He knows he has to recruit, and knows how to recruit, because he was Virginia's recruiting coordinator from 2001-04. With it only being his second head coaching gig, though, would he stay?

4. Jack Bicknell Jr.
He snapped the ball to Doug Flutie for the "Miracle in Miami" pass in 1984. What more could you ask for? Bicknell, currently the assistant head coach and offensive line coach, was BC's center from 1981-85. He received his masters degree from BC in 1987. His father was head coach at BC from 1981-90.

5. Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley
If the Nittany Lions aren't ready to reward him with a guarantee, Bradley should finally say goodbye. He can recruit the Northeast and at this point in his career would be happy to stick around the length of his contract.