Boston College finished the 2011 season 4-8, failing to qualify for a bowl game for the first time in 12 years. In the offseason, head coach Frank Spaziani made a host of changes to his coaching staff. And in May, all-time leading rusher Montel Harris was dismissed from the team for repeated violations of team rules.
So, of course, the first question the players representing the team at the ACC Football Kickoff event on Sunday faced was: Why do you feel the upcoming season will be different?
“I’m kinda more excited about what’s the same,” senior left tackle Emmett Cleary said, according to a video of the news conference posted on the ACC’s website. “We didn’t lose very much on offense from last year, only two real regular players. We got a lot of young guys coming up who gained experience last year and really had great springs.
“We have a lot of talent coming back, and we have a chip on our shoulder,” he said.
And indeed, while the offensive coaching staff has been almost entirely done over, the lineup will be mostly intact. The departed regulars Cleary referred to are most likely tight end Lars Anderson and center Mark Spinney.
Though the loss of Harris -- the team’s all-time leading rusher in terms of yards, carries and 100-yard games -- would seem to be a big one, the Eagles already played most of the 2011 season without the redshirt senior. The hierarchy at running back is already established (with Deuce Finch, Andre Williams and Tahj Kimble, in roughly that order).
Doug Martin is in to run the offense, and while that means a fourth offensive coordinator (after Dave Brock replaced Kevin Rogers who replaced Gary Tranquill) and a third system in three years, Cleary didn’t seem too torn up about the need to learn yet another new system.
“It’s not that different,” he said. “I think we’re gonna open it up a little bit more, try and push the pace a little more. A little less two-tight end sets.
“But I think more the difference is we’re gonna force the defense to play to our terms. They’re gonna have to defend the whole field and we’re gonna take advantage of any weaknesses and any opportunities they give us.”
To prove Cleary right, the Eagles need to see improvement from quarterback Chase Rettig. Asked about whether the junior quarterback’s starting job was up for grabs, Cleary didn’t mince words.
“Every position is up for grabs. If you’re the best player, you’re gonna be on the field,” Cleary said. “That being said, Chase is the guy. This is his team. He took a little flak last year, but people forget he was 19 years old. He’s really come into his own this spring. I think the offense is very well-suited to him. He walks into the huddle like it’s his.”
And while Rettig actually played most of the 2011 season as a 20-year-old, since his birthday is Sept. 26, the big left tackle’s point is well taken. The quarterback is confident, and the new offense seems to work for him.
For Eagles fans hoping for improvement after the Chestnut Hill crew finished 112th in the nation in total offense in 2011, that has to be music to the ears.
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.