By Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: In his first full season as head coach, Frank Spaziani led the Eagles to an 8-5 record. The team's 5-3 mark in the ACC was good for second place in the Atlantic Division, but considering the change at the top
and the emotional loss of one of the nation's premiere defenders, the 2009
campaign had to be considered a success.
Boston College opened the year with ease, posting back-to-back routs of
Northeastern (54-0) and Kent State (34-7), but got handled in the ACC opener
at Clemson in mid-September (25-7), leaving the team with some question marks.
Those questions received favorable answers with an overtime win against Wake
Forest (27-24) and a narrow victory against Florida State (28-21), leaving the
team 2-1 in conference play at the beginning of October. A sobering loss at
fifth-ranked Virginia Tech the following week (48-14) proved that BC was
probably a notch below the conference elite. The team however responded with
three wins in the next four games, with the lone loss coming at Notre Dame in
late October. The team would split its last two regular-season tilts, before
bowing to USC in the Emerald Bowl (24-13). Despite being without one of the
nation's top defensive players, BC still finished 19th nationally in scoring
defense and 14th in run defense.
OFFENSE: The Eagles pride themselves on solid play up front and a ground game
that thrives off of it. This season will be no different, as BC returns four
of its five starting offensive linemen from a year ago, including All-American
candidate Anthony Castonzo (First-Team All-ACC in 2009) at left tackle.
Castonzo credits the offensive line's chemistry for BC's offensive success.
"We are going to be dynamic," he said. "We have a lot of guys returning to the
offensive line. We're going to get the rushing game going and Dave (Shinskie)
has progressed so much since last year. Our success on the offensive line is
due to our camaraderie. We know what each other is thinking. We communicate so
well because we are such good friends."
The guys up front will once again pave the way for one of the country's top
rushers in Montel Harris. As a sophomore last year, Harris rumbled for 1,457
yards and 14 TDs, averaging nearly five yards per carry. When the Eagles do
get vertical, it will be up to QB David Shinskie to make things happen. Though
just a freshman in terms of eligibility in 2009, the 26-year old threw for
just over 2,000 yards with 15 TDs. However, he did throw 14 INTs and will need
to cut down those kinds of mistakes if BC is to compete in the Atlantic
Division in 2010. With the team's top two receivers from last year gone, and
the recent loss of WR Colin Larmond Jr. (knee injury), Shinskie will need to
rely even more on sophomore TE Chris Pantale, who earned Freshman All-American
honors after hauling in 25 balls a year ago.
DEFENSE: There is no question that Boston College will make things very
difficult for opposing offenses again this year, as seven starters return from
2009, with the very special addition of All-American Mark Herzlich, who sat
out last year while battling bone cancer. A galvanizing force on and off the
field, if Herzlich can return to form, this unit could rival any in the
league. He is undoubtedly chomping at the bit to get back to action.
"I'm going to go crazy," Herzlich said. "9-4... someone from above made that
happen. It will be the most memorable moment of my life up to this point. But
once we cross those white lines, that part is over and it's time to play."
He will have plenty of help in the middle, as Herzlich's absence last season
allowed a freshman, Luke Kuechly to not only get on the field, but light it
up, as he finished with a whopping 158 total tackles, including 51 stops in
the last three games. A Freshman All-American in 2009, Kuechly joins Herzlich
to form perhaps the best linebacking duo in the country. Herzlich certainly is
aware of the playmaker he has beside him this year.
"We are a run-stopping defense and we pride ourselves on that," he said. "We
need to produce a better pass rush to make it easier on our defensive backs,
though. We will have the best linebacker group in the country. Luke (Kuechly)
has only gotten better. He has gotten stronger and faster."
The defense has playmakers elsewhere as well, with DE Alex Albright (32
tackles, 8.0 TFLs) leading the way up front and CB DeLeon Gause (49 tackles)
and FS Wes Davis (46 tackles, three INTs) pacing the secondary.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The kicking game will look to a new face to lead the way, as
BC's all-time leading scorer, PK Steve Aponavicius (290 pts) finished up his
collegiate career in 2009. Punter Ryan Quigley returns however, after ranking
fifth in the ACC as a sophomore, averaging 40.8 yards per punt.
OUTLOOK: Matching last year's eight win total is certainly within the realm of
possibility, as BC returns 16 starters from a year ago. The non-conference
schedule is more than manageable, with Weber State, Kent State and Notre Dame
all coming to Chestnut Hill, with the lone road trip coming in the season's
finale at Syracuse. The team catches a break in-conference as well, as the
Eagles avoid Miami and Georgia Tech all together. Conference foes that travel
to BC include Virginia Tech, Maryland, Clemson and Virginia, with all but
perhaps the VaTech game winnable. The road slate consists of trips to Florida
State, NC State, Wake Forest and Duke. Look for the Eagles to once again be
among the better teams in the ACC and if the offense can keep pace with the
ravenous defense, BC will vie for the Atlantic Division title.