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Wednesday, October 20, 2010
BC's Jim Noel fitting in nicely

By Jack McCluskey
Special to ESPNBoston.com

NEWTON, Mass. -- A week after making his first collegiate start, Jim Noel is talking trash like a veteran.

The Boston College safety already has exchanged words with a future opponent, well ahead of Saturday's home matchup with ACC foe Maryland. But Noel isn't providing the Terrapins with bulletin-board material; he's keeping the smack talk in the family.

Noel's been going back and forth with his younger brother, Rodman, a safety for Milford Academy and a Terrapins commit.

Jim Noel
Jim Noel (left), who made his first collegiate start last week against Florida State, has drawn praise from fellow safety Wes Davis (right).

"He called me last night," Noel said before practice Wednesday. "I asked him if he's coming to the game, and he said, yeah he's coming to the game and told me that I better watch out because the Maryland boys don't play. I told him it's going to be a good game, so we're going to see what happens."

If the Everett, Mass., native has another game like he did against No. 16 Florida State, chances are he'll have the upper hand in this edition of the sibling rivalry.

The 6-foot-4, 186-pound sophomore made his presence known in his first start for the Eagles, collecting 10 tackles and grabbing two interceptions, one of which he ran back 43 yards for a touchdown.

It was, to put it lightly, a career day for Noel. But Eagles coach Frank Spaziani was quick to caution that one good game does not a career make.

"He had a good game," Spaziani said. "I think he had a couple of very visible plays … but there are 68 other plays too.

"He's making progress and he needs to make a lot more."

Noel had appeared off the bench in the Eagles' 13 previous games, making 12 tackles and breaking up one pass.

Asked what his mentality was going into his first start, Noel said: "I was just thinking I've got to be ready at all times because this is my first start. Florida State knew it was my first start, so I knew that they were going to try to come at me."

Senior captain Wes Davis said he wasn't surprised by Noel's auspicious debut as a starter, and noted that Noel is far from a finished product.

"It was good, he made some plays," said Davis, a free safety. "If you watch the whole game there's definitely room to grow but I was very happy with the way Jim came out."

Davis said one of the biggest adjustments for new starters is staying focused for many more snaps than usual, and that it's important that the rest of the defense ensures new cogs fit in and don't jam the machine.

Davis said that while communication is important when it comes to integrating a new player into the defense, at the end of the day it's the cog's duty to turn the gears.

"Performance comes down to them, it's their own responsibility to get it done and I think Jim handled his own on Saturday," Davis said.

"He's somebody who does the right things day in and day out, and those types of people, good things happen for them," Davis said. "He's just been waiting his time, he's somebody who never complained, never batted an eye, just been waiting for his opportunity.

"So did I expect two picks and 10 tackles? No. But I expected a solid game out of him, much like I expect from all of the rest of the DBs every game."

Noel attributed his personal success in the 24-19 loss to Florida State to staying focused.

"Coaches always say you've got to stay focused every play, no matter how bad you're hurting or how tired you are, because the next play can determine the game, and I showed that Saturday," Noel said.

Noel's pick-six of Christian Ponder in the third quarter Saturday cut the FSU lead to 17-16. The Eagles took a 19-17 lead in the fourth quarter on a Nate Freese field goal, but couldn't hold off the Seminoles in the end.

Though he was disappointed in the result -- a fourth straight loss that dropped the Eagles to 2-4 -- the process against the Seminoles gave Noel some reassurances.

"I know I can play with anyone, so you need to have that determination that you can play with anyone in the country," Noel said. "It just gave me a huge confidence boost."

Noel, who was a three-sport star at Everett High, first visited BC during his sophomore year. He came with his high school coach, John DiBiaso, and Everett teammate Isaac Johnson. He said he's loved the school ever since.

But that didn't stop him from looking around, and Noel came close to committing to Maryland, which had also offered him a scholarship. Ultimately, though, Noel decided that BC's mix -- close to home, good academics and a football program on the rise -- was a better fit than UM's.

Maybe it's not surprising that Noel acquitted himself well in his high-profile starting debut against the Seminoles. After all, the self-described "soft-spoken, hard-working, motivated" defensive back put himself solidly on the Eagles' radar by performing well in a high-profile matchup.

As a sophomore at Everett, Noel was assigned to cover Cambridge Rindge & Latin's Joshua Adams, who was then a top prospect and is now a wideout for North Carolina.

Asked how he fared against Adams, Noel laughed and said, "I did pretty well."

Spaziani said BC was originally scouting Noel's Everett High teammate Johnson -- who left the Eagles earlier this season for personal reasons, according to published reports -- but the coaches liked Noel's size, quickness and competitiveness.

With 4-2 Maryland coming to Alumni Stadium this weekend looking to rebound from a 31-7 loss to Clemson, Noel & Co. will have their work cut out for them. The Terrapins are fifth in the ACC in passing efficiency, and freshman quarterback Danny O'Brien hadn't thrown an interception in his first 96 attempts before the Tigers picked him off three times in the fourth quarter this past Saturday.

For his part, Noel said his mindset has been mostly the same coming off the bench or starting.

"You've always got to stay sharp, always, no matter what the situation is you always have to compete to the best of your abilities," he said.

Don't expect any less from him on Saturday. After all, in addition to a key ACC win, with brother Rodman on the opposing sideline, sibling bragging rights are at stake.

"I guess after Saturday we'll know who the winner is," Noel said, "[and] we'll see who gets to talk the trash."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and contributes to ESPNBoston.com.