ACC: Sean Duggan

Boston College spring wrap

April, 29, 2014
Three things we learned in the spring about the Boston College Eagles:

1. Tyler Murphy is the starting QB. Surprised? Well, you shouldn't be. The Florida transfer, who was recruited to Gainesville by Steve Addazio when the coach was an assistant there, always seemed like the front-runner to win the No. 1 job, and the second-year BC head coach raved about Murphy's poise and pocket presence throughout the spring. His SEC experience should prove beneficial for the Eagles.

2. More dynamic offense on the way. Replacing Andre Williams will definitely be tough for one man to do. But Addazio is confident that the rushing attack as a whole could be very productive, as having a quarterback such as Murphy will help stretch the field and give defenses more to look out for from the backfield. Running backs Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse had strong springs as well.

3. Secondary makes some strides. BC took several hits among its front seven, but Addazio is confident that the defensive backs are slowly but surely on their way to leading this defense. While the pass defense struggled last season, ranking last in the ACC, the secondary brings back all of its starters from 2013, led by Manuel Asprilla.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Who steps up at linebacker? Stalwarts Kevin Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto leave behind a massive hole. Mike Strizak and Sean Duggan bring some experience, and the staff liked what Josh Keyes brought to the table this spring. But will it all be enough to replace the combined 220 tackles that Pierre-Louis and Divitto made last year?

2. Where are the pass-catchers? BC's leading returning receiver is a running back, as David Dudeck caught 10 passes last season for 84 yards and a touchdown. The passing game was overly reliant on Alex Amidon last season, and the Eagles return just two receivers who made catches in 2013: Dan Crimmins and Harrison Jackson, who totaled 15 grabs for 107 yards and a touchdown last season.

3. Are there enough proven bodies on the roster? Addazio has said he loves the collective attitude, but BC said goodbye to a deep and talented senior class last year and will still be roughly six scholarship players short of the max. Summer enrollees might have to take on bigger roles than the staff would probably prefer.

One way-too-early prediction:

BC's progress will not be reflected in its record in 2014. That might be a tough reality for a program that absolutely shattered expectations in Addazio's first year, and he certainly has the Eagles ahead of schedule, but BC probably loses too much veteran production on both sides of the ball to win eight or more games in 2014.

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 16, 2012
Maybe next year, UVa.

Opening camp: Boston College

August, 3, 2012
As ACC teams begin to start practicing again, Andrea Adelson and I will have a quick preview of each team to get you caught up on the basics. Next up to open camp …

School: Boston College

Start date: Monday

Projected finish at ACC media days: Fifth in the Atlantic Division

Biggest storyline: New faces. Boston College will look a lot different when it opens the season against Miami: No Luke Kuechly. No Montel Harris. And a complete overhaul of the offensive staff. Former BC assistants Kevin Rogers and Ryan Day are now coaching at Temple, where Harris transferred after he was dismissed from the team in May for a repeated violation of team rules. The Eagles are now under the direction of first-year offensive coordinator Doug Martin. When compared to last season’s coaching staff, four of the five offensive assistants have changed. BC had one of the worst offenses in the country last season, ranking 112th in scoring offense. This overhaul will either be exactly what the Eagles need, or it will be yet another bumpy transition year.

Biggest position battle: Running back. This group is still crowded, even without Harris on the roster. Rolandan Finch, Andre Williams and Tahj Kimble will be competing for carries. Finch led the team in rushing attempts (157) and yards (705) as a sophomore. Williams is a 6-foot, 220-pound power runner who has 219 career attempts for 978 yards and six touchdowns. Kimble had eight receptions out of the backfield last season and 43 carries.

Who needs to step up: The linebackers. Kuechly accounted for 535 tackles in three seasons. The Eagles won’t replace Kuechly with one person, but senior Nick Clancy and juniors Steele Divitto, Andre Lawrence, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Sean Duggan and Nick Lifka are talented players eager to emerge from Kuechly’s shadow.

Opening camp:

Boston College spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
2011 overall record: 4-8
2011 conference record: 3-5 (5th, Atlantic)

Returning starters: Offense: 9; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
LT John Wetzel, RT Emmett Cleary, LG Bobby Vardaro, RG Ian White, TE Chris Pantale, QB Chase Rettig, RB Rolandan Finch, RB Tahj Kimble, RB Andre Williams, WR Coin Larmond, WR Bobby Swigert, DE Kasim Edebali, DT Kaleb Ramsey, DT Dominic Appiah, DT Dillon Quinn, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB Steele Divitto, LB Sean Duggan, CB Jim Noel, SS Spenser Rositano

Key losses
C Mark Spinney, TE Lars Anderson, DE Max Holloway, LB Luke Kuechly, CB Donnie Fletcher, FS Hampton Hughes, P Ryan Quigley

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Rolandan Finch* (705 yards)
Passing: Chase Rettig* (1,960 yards)
Receiving: Colin Larmond* (528 yards)
Tackles: Luke Kuechly (191)
Sacks: Max Holloway (2.5)
Interceptions: Luke Kuechly (3)

Spring answers

1. Chase Rettig makes strides: Rettig was thrown into the fire early, and he has endured plenty since, with injuries, new schemes and last year's 4-8 campaign. Now a junior, and playing for another new offensive coordinator, Rettig has the command of the offense and should benefit from playing behind an experienced offensive line.

2. More running back depth than BC probably hoped for: Montel Harris and Andre Williams couldn't go in the spring game. Then Tahj Kimble injured himself early in the contest. Finch, who played a lot last season with Harris sidelined, ended up shouldering the load, and it will take a group effort this season with Harris out of the picture. Injuries and a dismissal gave BC a better look at its backfield talent than it had probably hoped for, but the group effort this spring should benefit the Eagles come fall.

3. Defense looking to build off 2011 finish: Coach Frank Spaziani said the worst thing about last season was that it ended. BC is hungry to build off its 4-8 campaign, as the team hopes to carry the momentum from winning two of its final three games. A long offseason gave the defense time to think about that finish, which was keyed by a unit that held each of the final three opponents to fewer than 20 points.

Fall questions

1. Who will replace Luke Kuechly? The short answer is no one. Kuechly's legend will only continue to grow with each passing day. But the Eagles do return plenty of talented linebackers, led by Steele Divitto and Kevin Pierre-Louis. It will take a collective effort and then some for the linebackers to make up for the loss of Kuechly, but their attitude in trying can certainly rub off on the rest of the defense.

2. What happened with Harris? The school's all-time leading rusher was dismissed from the team after the spring for a repeated violation of team rules. The backfield is used to playing without him after his injury-plagued 2011 campaign, but the suddenness of Harris' departure -- which Spaziani will not get into -- has to have some effect on his former teammates, especially with Harris having been primed to chase the ACC's career rushing record this season.

3. How will the offense transition under Doug Martin? Spaziani said he was impressed with the unit coming out of the spring, but a fifth offensive coordinator in five years has to be challenging for the players. Martin has said he is looking to increase the pace, and he'll have nine starters back to work with come preseason camp.
Frank Spaziani knows he probably is not getting 190-plus tackles from any of his linebackers this season. The Boston College coach is OK with that.

So, too, are the linebackers who will fill the void left by Luke Kuechly, the ACC's single-season (191) and career tackles (532) leader who left early for the NFL draft.

"If you talk to Luke, he'll be the first to say that we're a defense first, not just one guy," Sean Duggan said. "Losing a guy like him is a lot of tackles to make up, but we'll all chip in as a defense to get it done. Evenly as a unit we have to step up."

[+] EnlargeLuke Kuechly
Michael Tureski/Icon SMIThe Eagles have a large void to fill following the departure of Luke Kuechly, who won the Nagurski and Butkus awards last season.
Kuechly will likely be the first linebacker to hear his name called in New York in less than three weeks. But the Eagles' linebackers are hardly fretting over Kuechly's departure, not after the promise they showed in winning two of their final three games to end an otherwise unfulfilling 2011 season.

The lone loss during that stretch was a two-point squeaker at heavily favored rival Notre Dame.

"I was on a team where losing was unacceptable," said linebacker Steele Divitto, who played for national power Don Bosco (Ramsey, N.J.). "That's the same mindset we're starting to apply here. It's not good enough to just do your job -- you have to go that extra mile. All my life I haven't really lost many football games, maybe two or three prior to BC. I hate to lose, and I think there are a lot of guys that hate losing and will do whatever it takes this offseason and in the season to win all these games.

"It's almost a mentality thing. I played for a great coach in high school and play for a great coach now. Coach Spaz talks about winning all the time: in the weight room, in conditioning, in the film room. We have to apply that mentality to everything."

Divitto is looking to build off a 72-tackle campaign from last season, when he was third on the team. (He added 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception as well.) In place of a bowl trip for last season's 4-8 squad, Divitto flew to Phoenix, where he worked out and studied with draft prospects at Athletes' Performance.

In the shadow of Kuechly last season on the outside, Divitto is now among the most experienced linebackers returning, along with fellow junior Kevin Pierre-Louis, who was hobbled much of the spring but had 74 tackles, six tackles for loss and a fumble recovery last season.

A possible replacement to Kuechly in the middle could be Duggan, who started three games outside last season as a true freshman, recording 39 tackles, three tackles for loss, an interception and a fumble recovery.

"Steele, he's gonna get better. He has a lot of experience now out there, played a lot of football he's going to have to up his production to make up for obviously Luke not being there," Spaziani said. "And Sean, he played a lot in a backup role, started a couple games for us. Now it's a new position for him in the middle, but he's a good football player. And he just needs reps and he needs more time, but we're happy to have him on the football team."

Duggan actually played briefly with Kuechly, the Nagurski and Butkus winner from a year ago, at St. Xavier (Cincinnati) High School.

"When I talked to Luke he said you've just got to relax out there and trust yourself," Duggan said of his conversations with Kuechly this spring. "You can't think too much out there because then you're slow, and at this level you can't afford to be slow against these guys. So trust yourself and the guys around you."

Biggest shoes to fill: Boston College

March, 5, 2012
The ACC has bid farewell to some outstanding players from 2011. Some of them graduated, others have decided to leave early for the NFL. Whatever their reasons, they left behind some size 15 shoes to fill. Here’s a look at who on each team in the ACC will be the most difficult to replace in 2012, and a snapshot of who is or could be next in line to replace him:

Boston College

OUT: Linebacker Luke Kuechly. He might be the most difficult player to replace in the ACC. Kuechly won the 2011 Lombardi Award, given annually to the nation’s top lineman or linebacker; the Nagurski Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive player; the Dick Butkus Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top linebacker; and the Lott IMPACT Defensive Player of the Year. He left early for the NFL after finishing his junior season leading the nation in tackles for the second straight year. In 2011, Kuechly set ACC records for tackles in a season (191) and career (532).

IN: It’s an open competition, but Sean Duggan played in nine games last year as a true freshman behind Kuechly and on the outside. Duggan had his first career interception at Miami, had three tackles against Virginia Tech and five against Clemson. Coach Frank Spaziani has also said that Steele Divitto is versatile enough to earn the starting job in the middle. Divitto, a junior, won the starting job at outside linebacker when Mark Herzlich left. Last year, Divitto was third on the team in tackles with 72, and finished with 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception, and five pass breakups. Spaziani said redshirt freshman Nick Lifka will also be competing for Kuechly’s spot.
Boston College linebacker Steele Divitto is a meticulous note-taker. The kind of guy you want to sit next to in class.

Boston College missed out on a bowl game in 2011, but Divitto took a trip of his own to continue learning. Thanks to his dad, Divitto flew to Athletes' Performance in Phoenix, Ariz., for two weeks of additional training.

“After my sessions, I’d take out my notebook and I’d jot down everything I learned, whether it was technique-wise, or eating habits, whatever it was,” Divitto said. “I figured if I was going out there, I really should try to get the most out of everything.”

[+] EnlargeSteele Divitto
Bob DeChiara/US PresswireBoston College is looking forward to big things from Steele Divitto in 2012.
In turn, Boston College should be getting the most out of Divitto this offseason.

One of the biggest questions Boston College has entering spring practices on Saturday is what the linebackers will look like without All-American Luke Kuechly, who left early for the NFL draft. (“It looks like Superman is back in his suit and Clark Kent is there now,” coach Frank Spaziani quipped. “That’s what it looks like. The cape is gone and we’ve got the guy in the suit with the glasses.”)

As BC fans know, though, the blue-collar working player can get it done, too, and that’s just the kind of player Divitto is. Sean Duggan and Nick Lifka will both be competing for Kuechly’s old position in the middle, but Divitto is versatile enough to play there, too. When former linebacker Mark Herzlich left, Divitto won the starting job at strongside linebacker, but he played in the shadow of Kuechly. Now he’s looking to establish himself as the team’s next leading linebacker.

Divitto spent his mornings in Arizona working on speed training and the evenings were for lifting. He was given a nutrition plan and had the opportunity to measure himself against some of college football’s top performers, as several NFL draft prospects were also there.

“Steele is exceptional about putting the extra effort in,” Spaziani said. “He’s taken ownership of his own future, which is something we all need to do, and he’s done a great job with it. He went out to train for a week, did it all on his own, out there by himself. He’s just highly motivated and has taken complete ownership of his future and he’s a team player. We’re excited to see his development. We’ll see this spring how far he’s advanced.”

Divitto was good to begin with. He finished third on the team in tackles last season with 72, and had 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception and five pass breakups. The trip to Arizona isn’t the first time he’s taken the initiative to get better. Last year he boxed during the offseason, and now he’s into Muay Thai, which is similar to kickboxing.

Divitto said it’s not about him; it’s about being the best player he can be for his teammates.

“I always believed that how hard you work throughout the offseason -- everything you do -- how you sleep how you eat, how you breathe, every rep you take in the weight room, every rep you take outside, all of that adds up to how you’re going to perform next season,” Divitto said. “I’ve lived my life just going off that hard work means everything. When you play a game, I feel like the outcome is already determined depending upon how much effort you put into it prior.”

If that’s the case, BC already has a winner.

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 2, 2011
We've got another Thursday night game for the ACC this week. Can the Eagles be the next ACC surprise?