As college football season approaches, I noted how difficult it was to pick someone to win the ACC’s Atlantic Division. On the flip side, I could easily argue the case against every team. The “slow season” for Wolfpack news is an ideal time to explore this in more detail. Previously, we talked about Clemson, Florida State, Wake Forest, and Maryland. Today, we look at the newly hated Boston College Eagles.
Watching Boston College over the past two seasons has been a case of waiting for the other shoe to drop. To date, it’s still hovering in space. In 2007, all-world (and soon to be NFL Rookie of the Year) Matt Ryan repeatedly pulled wins out of his rectal orifice, ultimately leading the Eagles to the ACC championship game – where BC lost a rematch to Virginia Tech (who was the victim of Ryan’s most stunning regular season comeback), falling to the lowest bowl slot allowed under ACC rules. In 2008, a strong defensive front seven led by all-ACC first teamers B.J. Raji (another top ten NFL pick) and Mark Herzlich kept the Eagles in enough games to ultimately rebound from a dismal start, sweep a three game run at Florida State, at Wake Forest, and vs. Maryland, and repeat their ACC title game loss to Virginia Tech. Once again, they fell to the lowest bowl slot allowed by league rules, losing to barely bowl-eligible Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl.
Personally, I expected Boston College to fall precipitously in 2008 without Ryan. So why am I not once bitten, twice shy? Let me count the ways. First, there is organizational drama that would rival any program in the country. As awful as Lee Fowler is, he’s not even the worst athletic director in the Atlantic Division. That honor goes to “Crazy Gene” DeFilippo, who insanely fired Jeff Jagodzinski for interviewing for the New York Jets head coaching job. That’s right, fired for talking to the NFL – the ultimate goal of pretty much every player and coach in Division I football.
The dumbest part of the whole saga is what a missed opportunity it was. Nobody expected Jagodzinski to actually get the job (which he didn’t). So, he was a virtual lock to come back for a third year. Think showcasing a two-time defending division champion coach who the NFL is interested in would be a great way to elevate your program’s profile, especially with recruits? Not if you’re Crazy Gene! The man’s a traitor! Off with his head! Unsurprisingly, top coaches on the market didn’t exactly line up around the block to work for this lunatic, and the job ultimately went to long-time assistant (who was passed over two years prior) Frank Spaziani. The key tacticians who molded Tom O’Brien’s stable of leftover talent (OC Steve Logan also left when Jagodzinski was fired) into championship contenders are both gone. The remaining upperclassmen have now been through two mass exoduses of coaching talent, despite performing quality work. That has to have an impact on team morale.
Speaking of upperclassmen, let’s talk about talent. The last remnants of solid recruiting and talent evaluation efforts from Tom O’Brien and company (most notably a very solid offensive line that should preview what NC State can expect from 2010-12) are still in the two deep – but much less so than the past two seasons. And the cupboard has most definitely not been replenished – for all of his on-field coaching acumen, Jagodzinski was an indifferent recruiter at best. For a small private school with no significant, natural talent pool to draw from, that’s a recipe for disaster. The reckoning might not fully arrive in 2009, but it almost certainly has to start.
Boston College’s rough offseason wasn’t limited to the coaching staff. Projected starting QB Dominique Davis transferred, leaving 25-year old former minor league pitcher David Shinskie as the starter by default. Catching Weinke-in-a-bottle is a “Hail Mary” move at best – one that was further complicated when Shinskie broke a rib recently. Even worse, the Eagles suffered twin blows to their linebacking corps, with the season status of both Mike McLaughlin (torn Achilles tendon) and Mark Herzlich (Ewing’s sarcoma) in serious doubt. With five tough games to start the 2009 ACC season (facing Clemson, Wake, FSU, VT, and NC State by October 17), the Eagles can’t afford a slow (or unhealthy) start.
History shows that you shouldn’t count Boston College out completely, especially in a division as unsettled as the ACC Atlantic. Certainly, there will be a “rally around the flag” effect to play harder for their sick leader Herzlich (to whom we send our best wishes and prayers for a complete recovery). But they have to be the least likely contender, and the team most likely to finish last in 2009.