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Mail Time: All-Americans, Skinner and 2008 Challenges

Today we open up our mailbox for our first ever Mail Time post. If you want to send an email for future Mail Time blog posts, or if you'd like to encourage us to finally move out of our parents' basements (since we all know every good sports blogger lives in their parents' basement), email us at

Jeff and Brian, can someone please explain why BC never even comes close to recruiting a McDonald's All-American? We've got a great educational institution; we play in the best basketball league in the country; and we have the city of Boston for a home. Perhaps it's time to start wondering if the coach can recruit, instead of lucking out with the leftovers after other coaches have gotten the talent they want for their programs? - Jim

Brian: Great question. First let me say that I think the fact that whether or not a school recruits a McDonald's All-American doesn't mean all that much, but I agree it would be nice to see Boston College land at least one star recruit one of these years. So why hasn't Skinner been able to land one of the best high school players in the country?

I think this all comes down to a numbers game. There are 24 McDonald's All-Americans every year - 12 from each side of the country - and there are 341 Division I-A men's basketball programs. With the exception of a few elite programs (UNC, Georgetown, Duke, Memphis), most of these recruits land at a school close to their high school. So is this a referendum on the quality of New England high school basketball (with all due respect to Michael Beasley)? I think this is the main reason. I mean, if Tyler Roche was two-time New Hampshire Gatorade POY, that says something about the pool of New England high school basketball talent.

Jeff: Over the years 1977-2005 Duke recruited 42 McDonalds all-americans. And I don't have the stats but I am guessing that UNC, Arizona, UCLA, Syracuse and Georgetown recruited in similar volume. Since there are only 24 McDonalds All-Americans every year and for a while many of them would skip straight to the NBA from the mid-90s until two years ago, there aren't too many left to go around for schools like BC. That being said, I do think you might be on to something where Skinner should be pulling in some big name recruits one of these days now that BC has been one of the best basketball programs in the Big East/ACC for the past 78 years.

Brian: McDonald's All-Americans are a blessing and a curse anyhow. Most of these high school phenoms only stay in school 1 or 2 years, so what's the return on snagging one of these players?

Follow up question - And why is it that so very few of our players get better from one year to the next? Is it possible the coach is way too highly over-rated? - Jim

Jeff: This question is tough to answer but I am going to say I disagree with you here. Skinner has taken players who were clearly not dominant at the High School level and turned them into 1st round draft picks. Let's take Craig Smith for example. Perhaps his numbers did not improve drastically from Freshman to Senior seasons but think of how much more opposing teams game planned for him after his Freshman year. Also, he had Troy Bell to carry the load. Then later on, Dudley flourished because teams concentrated on Craig. I do think Skinner develops his players but it just doesn't show up in the box score as much as it would say at Duke because our big time performers need to start producing from the day they step on campus due to our lack of depth.

Brian: I'm going to disagree as well. Look at Tyrese Rice. Sure he might not have the pieces around him to get Boston College back to that elusive "next level," but his game has improved dramatically from freshman year. He is much more confident running the offense now than he was three years ago. I remember watching Rice as a freshman in the Jimmy V Classic at MSG and scratching my head wondering what all the fuss was about as he chucked up airball after airball from behind the arc. Fast forward three years to a 46 point performance against UNC and the maturity shown in Tyrese's decision to stay in school to round out his game as a senior. Some players are lost causes in my opinion, but the better of Skinner's classes have improved year over year by my estimation.

Guys, what is the biggest challenge facing this [year's football] team? - Billy, Chestnut Hill, MA (BC '10)

Brian: The biggest challenge has to be our special teams play - returns and the kicking game. I'm not terribly worried about our offense and our defense should be solid. We only need to look as far back as last season to see what happens when special teams go terribly wrong. Who will step up in the kicking game? Who will fill in for Johnny Ayers for the punting duties? Will we improve on our kick returns (ranked 100+ nationally last year). Winning the field position game and having confidence in our kicking game will be the biggest challenge facing this team this year. If we don't step up on special teams, I can see us dropping 1-2 more games next year that we should otherwise win.

Jeff: The field position game is going to be huge next year. BUT you still can't answer this question without talking about the big question that lies at the quarterback position. No more Matt Ryan to carry the team to a come from behind victory this year. Or will Chris Crane be able to? We'll find out, but the QB position is the most important spot on the field and therefore that is the biggest challenge for our team.