I can almost taste that first pulled pork sandwich of the new season at Alumni Stadium. Only a few hours away from the Eagles’ season opener at home against Weber State (1 p.m. EST, ESPN3.com), the depth chart has fallen into place and head coach Frank Spaziani and company are ready to roll.
"We’re anxious to get started," Spaziani said on Media Day. "We’re getting a foundation. Last year, we were brought into the emergency room in critical condition, and we survived. But we’re in intensive care now and we have medicine to take."
Now that the roster is in place, it’s safe to start assessing the 2010 Eagles and making our preseason predictions.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the Eagles’ preseason report card.
QUARTERBACKS – C+
If I were grading just starter Dave Shinskie, I would have given him a However, Shinskie isn’t the only quarterback on the roster.
Shinskie completed 149-of-288 (51.7) passes for 2,049 yards and 15 touchdowns as a true freshman in 2009. While both his passing yards and touchdowns totals were rookie records at Boston College, Shinskie did throw 14 interceptions.
"From last year to this year, he has progressed a lot," junior running back Montel Harris said of Shinskie. "During the offseason, he got a little bit bigger and stronger. Experience wise, he’s able to read a defenses better."
Now, we all know the story behind Shinskie. The 26-year-old hadn’t played organized football for seven years while pursuing a baseball career, but opted to return to football and compete for the starting job at Boston College last summer.
Shinskie shined in the Eagles’ second ACC game last season against Wake Forest, completing 18-of-29 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns.
He went on to have solid performances against Florida State (13-of-22, 211 yards, 3 TD), Notre Dame (17-of-35, 279 yards, 1 TD) and Central Michigan (18-of-28, 262 yards, 1 TD).
The consensus thought it that Shinskie will only be better this season, and that is a fair assumption. For someone who hadn’t played the sport for nearly a decade to perform as well as he did last year, Shinskie should be able to reach the 3,000 yard mark and toss for at least 20 touchdowns this season.
Even with his relative inexperience, Shinskie is still seen as a leader in the locker room.
"He’s definitely a leader on and off the field," Harris said. "Whenever there’s a problem, he’s always getting on people. We call him Uncle Dave for a reason, because he’s always being a leader on the team."
If Shinskie falters early in the season, coach Spaziani has sophomore backup Mike Marscovetra waiting in the shadows.
Last season, Marscovetra completed 13-of-22 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns. His standout performance came against Virginia Tech, where he completed 10-of-16 passes for 114 yards and a pairs of TDs.
Marscovetra played well in the spring and look solid at camp this year, so expect him to get the call if Shinskie goes down via injury or doesn’t perform well.
The other quarterbacks on the roster are freshman Josh Bordner and Chase Rettig. Bordner, an All-State player in Maryland, threw for over 2,000 yards in his senior year of high school with 18 passing touchdowns (28 total).
As for Rettig, he was an all-state selection in California as a senior, throwing for 1,748 yards and 18 scores.
On the whole, the Eagles have a talented group of youngsters under center. But the key word is youngsters. We’ll have to see how Shinskie, Marscovetra and the rest of the crew perform as they age.
OFFENSIVE LINE - A
Senior left tackle Anthony Castonzo heads a talented group of lineman that lost just one starter to graduation (captain Matt Tennant).
A Rhodes scholar candidate, Costonzo was named to Lindy's preseason All-American first team. All of last season, Costonzo allowed just one sack in 650 snaps.
Center Nathan Richman moved from left guard to the middle after Tennant graduated. This year's offensive line boasts experience, and as we have seen time and time again, that goes a long way towards winning in college football.
RUNNING BACKS – B+
Montel Harris made a name for himself as one of the nation’s best backs last season, shocking the nation by rushing for 1,457 yards and 14 touchdowns on 308 carries.
His most dominant performance came against N.C. State, rushing for a school-record 264 yards and 5 touchdowns on 27 carries. In total, Harris crossed the 100-yard plateau eight times in 2009 and the 130-yard plateau six times.
"Whenever you have a good season like that, the defenses try to plan to stop you," said Harris. "I think there’s going to be a target on my back, and that’s what’s making the offensive line and myself work harder to be more productive than last year."
Harris had a yards per carry average of 8.6 in 2009 and an average of 8.3 in two seasons with the Eagles.
In two years at Boston College, Harris has totaled 2,357 yards and 19 touchdowns on 487 carries.
Harris is ranked 10th all-time at Boston College in career carries and rushing yards. It’s hard to imagine that, barring an injury, Harris won’t be the record holder in both categories after his college career is over.
Alone, Montel Harris receives a solid A. But again, there’s more to a roster than its starters.
Rolandan Finch is Harris' backup, rushing for 134 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries last season.
Full back James McCluskey played in only eight games last season due to a torn Achilles, however, he is all set to go for the 2010 season.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS - B
Losing Colin Larmond, Jr. hurts, plain and simple. Entering the season, Larmond was slated as the Eagles' number-one receiver.
He certainly deserved the honor, racking up 692 yards and six touchdowns in his first two seasons at Boston College. In 2009, he put up career numbers, totaling 596 yards and five touchdowns on 29 catches.
With Larmond sidelined for the season, the No. 1 spot on the depth chart goes to senior Billy Flutie (yes, another one). Flutie has been a jack-of-all-trades it two seasons at BC, doing everything from punting, returning and passing.
Last season was Flutie's first as a receiver, and he totaled just 48 yards and two touchdowns. While he is relatively inexperienced as a wideout, his versatility makes him a valuable member of the Eagles' roster.
On the whole, this group receives a B. But without Larmond, that grade drops to a C. Sorry, but experience counts.
Sophomore Chris Pantale racked up 223 yards and one touchdown on 25 catches last season, playing in every game. Tight ends Lars Anderson and Jordan McMichael also look to contribute this season.
DEFENSE - B+
Senior linebacker Mark Herzlich and sophomore linebacker Luke Kuechly are the two brightest stars on defense. Kuechly had a brilliant season in 2009, amassing 158 tackles (87 solo), one sack and 13 tackles for a loss.
Add Herzlich back to the mix, and you have what appears to be the best linebacker core in the nation. For his career, Herzlich has 247 tackles (167 solo), 30.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks.
He has been cleared to play by his cancer doctors, but Herzlich has been battling a foot injury all preseason. Regardless, when Herzlich hits the field, he will be a force.
Alone, the Eagles' linebackers receive an A+.
As for the defensive line, senior left end Alex Albright is the standout performer. Albright has 94 career tackles, 21 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks.
When Albright isn't in the game, former wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah will serve as his backup.
Cornerback DeLe on Gause has started ever since his first season in 2007, starting a total of 23 games. Juniors Donnie Fletcher and Isaac Johnson may play opposite of Gause.
The defense is led by its linebackers and has experienced sprinkled all throughout. Still, the defense goes as Herzlich and Kuechly go.
September 25: vs. Virginia Tech - The Eagles’ first ACC match of the season is at home against the Hokies and will serve as the first test for a confident Boston College team.
October 2: vs. Notre Dame – This year’s Battle for the Ireland Trophy features two new coaches trying to work their systems into their programs, Spaziani at BC and Brian Kelly at Notre Dame. It seems like these two teams always put on a thrilling show, and the Eagles’ are ready to try and avenge last season’s 20-16 loss in South Bend.
"Yeah, it’s definitely circled," said Harris about the Eagles’ nationally televised home game against archrival Notre Dame. "We should have won that game last year, but some things happened towards the end of the game. That’s definitely a game were looking forward to this year."
October 16: at Florida State – This is the Eagles’ only other match against a preseason top-20 team. Jimbo Fischer is finally at the helm of the Seminoles, and having home field advantage should serve as an advantage.
November 13: at Duke – No, just kidding. This one should be the closest thing to a scrimmage for the Eagles after opening the season against Weber State and Kent State. Crazier things have happened, though, and Boston College would suffer a severe to its ACC championship aspirations if it fell at the hands of the Blue Devils.
2010 Predictions (9-3, 5-3 ACC, 2nd in ACC Atlantic Division)
- Weber State Wildcats – Win
- Kent State Golden Flashes – Win
- Virginia Tech Hokies – Loss
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Win
- at N.C. State Wolfpack – Win
- at Florida St. Seminoles – Loss
- Maryland Terrapins – Win
- Clemson Tigers – Win
- at Wake Forest Demon Deacons – Win
- at Duke Blue Devils – (Big) Win
- Virginia Cavaliers – Loss
- Syracuse Orange - Win
If you take a reasonable look at the Eagles’ 2010 schedule, 9-3 is a pretty fair prediction. Boston College should have no problem against FCS opponent Weber State and Kent State to open the season. However, Virginia Tech will give the Eagles’ fits on both sides of the ball and by all accounts should hand BC a loss. The Eagle’s can rebound with wins against Notre Dame and N.C. State, as both programs are unstable. Clemson will be a good game, and even though they lead the all-time series 9-8-2 and have won the last two meetings, 27-21 in 2008 and 25-7 last season, Boston College should play with a little extra effort after being embarrassed by the Tigers last season. Wake Forest and Duke should essentially be walk-throughs for the Eagles. BC has never lost against Virginia, going 4-0 since the two schools started playing each other in 1963, but I have a feeling that this is the year the Cavaliers notch a win. Syracuse, like Duke, is a basketball school. Enough said.
If you take a sip of the Kool-Aid (which I will be doing if BC comes away with wins against Virginia Tech and Florida State), you could see the Eagles posting a 11-1 overall record and go 7-1 in ACC play. That could put them at the top of the ACC’s Atlantic Division and have them in position to reach the ACC championship game and maybe even the Discover Orange Bowl.
Gethin Coolbaugh is a Sports Lexycaster at Lexy.com. Listen to his Boston College Football Audio Minute on Lexy.com for game previews and recaps, the weekly Eagles Notebook and interviews with Boston College radio commentators Jon Meterparel and Peter Cronan, as well as Boston Herald beat writer Steve Conroy and Boston Globe beat writer Mark Bladschun. Gethin can be reached at 774-279-1995 or at email@example.com. Visit Gethin’s website and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/gethincoolbaugh.