With spring practice beginning Saturday, what better time could there be to review our five questions facing the Boston College Eagles prior to the 2012 season?
1. What will Luke Kuechly do?
As the Eagles prepare to erase the memories of a 4-8 season, Kuechly will be preparing for the NFL combine. After an award-studded, record-shattering career in Chestnut Hill, Kuechly decided to forego his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
2. Who will the new offensive coordinator be?
Doug Martin. After one season as offensive coordinator at New Mexico, Martin joins the BC staff and will install the up-tempo offense he ran at New Mexico and at Kent State (where he was offensive coordinator and then head coach, from 2004 to 2010).
Martin recently spoke to ESPN ACC blogger Heather Dinich about the transition, about his system and about why he wanted to come to Chestnut Hill.
3. Will there be a new defensive coordinator?
No. Bill McGovern did interview for the open head-coach position at UMass, but the Minutemen chose Notre Dame offensive coordinator Charley Molnar instead.
While there was little turnover on the defensive coaching staff, the offensive staff is almost entirely different. Gone are Dave Brock (interim offensive coordinator/former tight ends coach), Ryan Day (wide receivers coach) and Ben Sirmans (running backs coach), arrived are Martin, Jim Bollman (offensive line, running game coach), Sean Desai (running backs and special teams coach) and Aaron Smith (wide receivers coach). Sean Devine, who had been the offensive line coach the past three seasons, will now coach tight ends.
And just for good measure, the Eagles have a new strength and conditioning coach as Mike Poidomani (who was at BC from 1996 to 2002) replaces Jason Loscalzo (who took a similar position at Washington State).
4. Will the Eagles have the depth necessary to withstand the usual winnowing effect of injuries?
To be determined.
The Eagles announced a 16-player recruiting class earlier this month, and Spaziani says the coaches are excited to start developing the new blood. Many young players were pressed into service in 2011 -- due to injuries, ineffectiveness or a simple lack of veteran bodies ahead of them on the depth chart -- and more will be expected of them this season.
BC will get a big boost if its all-time leading rusher can stay healthy in 2012. Montel Harris, who missed most of 2011 with a recurring knee injury, received a medical hardship waiver and was granted a fifth year of eligibility. If Harris can stay healthy and be the type of weapon he was expected to be last season, when he was voted 2011 ACC Preseason Player of the Year, the BC offense should be better.
Spaziani told Dinich that Harris has been cleared for spring practice, but the coaches won’t really know what he’ll be able to do until he does it. They’ve been told before that he was over the knee ailments, and everyone knows how that worked out.
5. What did the Eagles learn from 2011 and how will that knowledge help them in 2012?
They learned they need to execute better to win in the ACC.
Spaziani has never been dissatisfied with his team’s work ethic; he said he couldn’t see any difference in them from week to week, regardless of the previous game’s result.
Kuechly was a great example of that -- always even-keeled, always with his nose to the grindstone. And now that Kuechly is moving on to the next level, another linebacker is being praised for his willingness to work: Steele Divitto spent part of his offseason at Athletes Performance in Arizona, prepping for his junior season.
Spaziani also said many times that the Eagles just weren’t good enough to overcome mistakes. There was no margin for error.
There still may not be. But if anything, after the season it just went through this team should know better than any that the best way to win games is to avoid mistakes.
It seems safe to say this BC team will be like other BC teams before it: blue-collar and workmanlike. The Eagles will have to master a new offense for the second time in as many seasons, and they will be playing without one of the best defensive players in the country acting as a safety net.
But assuming the young players’ hard work translates into improved performance, the key will be whether or not they can avoid the costly mistakes they made too often in 2011. If they can, improved results should follow.
The process starts now. Spring is here.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.