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2015 Boston College Football Season Preview Roundtable, Part I: Players To Watch

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Our panel takes a look at players to watch for the upcoming season.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

It's almost here. Boston College kicks off the season in 12 days, and it's time to get in our final thoughts before the season begins.

This will be a three-part series. Part I takes a look at players to watch on each side of the ball. Part II will preview some big games to look forward to this fall. Part III is the bottom line: the predicted win total, and likelihood of a bowl bid in 2015.

Without further ado...

1. Who will be BC's offensive MVP this season?

Dan Rubin, BC Interruption

There's a cliche pick here in Jonathan Hilliman. He's coming off a tremendous freshman campaign, and if he develops any further this year, he's going to be in the national running for recognition. There are flashes and potential, and I think we all kind of see it with him.

There's a reason the cliche exists. "Chestnut Hilliman" has the potential to become a very special kind of player at Boston College. People talk about Andre Williams and compare the two, but people usually forget that Andre wasn't the all-everything back until his senior year. If Hilliman has a decent enough season, he could start measuring up to other names like William Green or Derek Knight. Those guys were the heartbeat of the offense during their time. I think Hilliman has that potential. He might not be the flashiest back, but he's a workhorse and if he can be the difference maker, BC's offense will transition from the Tyler Murphy era to the Jon Hilliman era.

A.J. Black, BC Interruption

Jon Hilliman. I expect a huge year out of the sophomore. He put up some more weight, he is fast, I just think he is perfect for Steve Addazio's system. Given a full year of touches, he probably should increase both his yards, touchdowns, and most importantly yards per carry.

Rich Thompson, Boston Herald

Jon Hilliman.

Grant Salzano, BC Interruption

It's going to be Jon Hilliman. He's the next great BC back and he looked like an upperclassman by the end of the season last year. I'm expecting big things by the time he graduates and I really think he's going to shine this season, despite the new offensive line.

John Fidler, BC Interruption

Jon Hilliman—he has to be. there won't be a linemen or a receiver who will stand out and I am almost as sure that someone else will wind up at QB as will Darius Wade, so Hilliman's the choice

Eric Hoffses, EagleAction.com

As much as I want to maybe mix it up and pick someone else, I'll have to stick with Jon Hilliman.

Brian Favat, BC Interruption Editor Emeritus

The season will hinge on Darius Wade's performance under center, but the offensive MVP will almost certainly be Jon Hilliman. Even though the offensive line will be a work in progress, I'm strangely confident that Addazio will have the line ready to roll once the season gets going. Getting Harris Williams back is a huge plus. Hilliman, a big part of last season's success, really finished the year on a high note in the Pinstripe Bowl (25 carries, 148 yards, 1 TD). Look for him to pick up where he left off and put together a really solid season as the feature back in the Eagles' run-heavy offense.

Joe Gravellese, BC Interruption

For the sole purpose of picking someone different, i'm going to say Harris Williams. But it'll probably be Hilliman.

2. Who will be the Eagles' defensive MVP?

Dan Rubin, BC Interruption

The one thing to remember about the BC defense is that Don Brown's schemes are only as good as the unit is as a team. While Frank Spaziani was defensive coordinator and, later, head coach, we were treated to a number of solid individual efforts—guys like Mark Herzlich and Luke Kuechly. BC isn't that type anymore. No one guy jumps off the roster as the absolute best at his position. That's what makes this team so compelling to watch.

That said, BC needs to replace more percentages in production in the defensive backfield than many other positions. They're going to do it with a lot of younger guys who are inexperienced. One lone "old guy" back there, Justin Simmons, was vital to the team's success last year and returns as the only one with experience this year. He's the Eagles' leading tackler returning, but at the same time, he's sliding over to play more coverage than last season. That means he's taking a safety's mentality to the cornerback position. It's going to be interesting to watch, but if he transitions seamlessly, it's going to make things a lot easier on the rest of those guys who are adjusting to new homes.

A.J. Black, BC Interruption

Kevin Kavalec. BC is LOADED on the front seven this year, which should be a lot of fun for Don Brown and his crazy blitzing schemes. Kavalec just improves more and more every game, he is becoming a dominant pass rusher. Keeping him fresh with some rotational changes should allow him to increase his sack total even more.

Rich Thompson, Boston Herald

Kevin Kavelec.

Grant Salzano, BC Interruption

It has to be Justin Simmons. He led the team in tackles, both solo and total, and he is the only returning player at the top of the list. He was also the only player on the team with multiple interceptions (although it was just two, but still). He's been a big part of the defense since his freshman season. Look for him to continue that as a senior.

John Fidler, BC Interruption

I'm going to take Stephen Daniels. He won't put up Kuechly numbers and he's more the run stopper than pass defender, but I think he has a big year and I will take Kevin Kavalec as another possibility.

Eric Hoffses, EagleAction.com

On defense, I'm going to go with Justin Simmons. I could see Wujciak up front being an answer for this question, but to be honest, the entire D-line has really impressed me throughout camp as a unit. This includes the younger guys too.

Brian Favat, BC Interruption Editor Emeritus

Connor Wujciak should have a big year on the defensive line, but I'm going to go with Mike Strizak here. The junior from Don Bosco Prep should be poised to anchor the linebacking corps and continue the line of star linebackers on the Heights. The front seven will really have to do a better job of getting to the QB this year to avoid getting burned deep and Strizak should be one of the upperclassmen leaders that helps to turn around the passing defense.

Joe Gravellese, BC Interruption

I'm going to echo Hoffses a bit here and go with Justin Simmons, if only because I have full confidence that BC has depth in the front seven and should be excellent at stopping the run and putting pressure on the QB. What's really going to determine if this is a great defense is whether or not the secondary can play its role too.

3. Which freshmen could step in and have an immediate impact this season?

Dan Rubin, BC Interruption

Everybody knows how high I am on Lukas Denis. I've called him the next Manny Asprilla (and even is wearing #21 like Asprilla)—a local kid out of Everett High School with the right speed and physical attributes to play the secondary right away. I've had my eye on him for a little while, and I really believe in the kid. Denis is a big hitting defensive back capable of getting his hands in the right place to jam receivers. He's good in coverage, and he's fearless. Coming from a local high school, he has that extra chip on his shoulder, and he will have something to prove when he's on the field. I am really excited to see what he has in store.

AJ Black, BC Interruption

My choice for rookie of the year is going to be a little unorthodox. I'm going to go with Colton Lichtenberg, the kicker. Mike Knoll continues to struggle in the preseason, and Howell could be the answer, but I think eventually Colton is going to win the job. He's done well at a variety of lengths. Maybe he will be the answer to last year's kicking woes.

Rich Thompson, Boston Herald

Offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom.

Grant Salzano, BC Interruption

True freshmen? Tough one...I was inclined to go with a WR or OL just out of necessity, but then I'm not sure who will redshirt. Knopfke on the OL, might be our top recruit, but he may redshirt. It's sounding like Zach Allen will see the field a lot, and he's having a great summer, so I'll turn my own thinking on its head and go with the DL Allen.

John Fidler, BC Interruption

This assumes of course that true freshman get on the field, I'll toss out Chris Lindstrom, who was in for spring and has gotten a lot of early attention will get into the rotation and make a splash.

Eric Hoffses, EagleAction.com

Chris Lindstrom is going to play this year right away and people are going to see immediately that he's going to be a future great at BC. On the defense I think you could pick any of those linemen that are going to get regular reps—any one of them could have an impact year.

Brian Favat, BC Interruption Editor Emeritus

I'm really high on freshman WR Nolan Borgersen, and think he could be in a position to play right away.

TOMORROW: Part II, Games to watch