December 20, 2007

Tough blow

The football career of Jeff Smith is over.

The exciting running back/kick returner will not play anymore because of what Jeff Jagodzinski called "repeated concussions" and what could happen to Smith in the future.

Jagodzinski indicated Thursday Smith will remain at The Heights, in school, but will no longer play football.

"We're going to medical scholarship him so he's done," Jags said before practice in the bubble. "Just repeated concussions. He just felt, along with his family, his mom and dad, that it was best that he doesn't play (anymore)."

The official loss of Smith further thins the running back picture for next season (at least in terms of experience), but really doesn't come as much of a surprise.

Jags said the overall health of his football team has improved. He said Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Tyronne Pruitt (ankles) and DeJuan Tribble (knee) are ready to go. Asked about Marcellus Bowman, he said, "He's not back yet, either. He hasn't been cleared but he may be within a day or to."

The Eagles began their official preparation for the bowl matchup Thursday.

"We're looking good," the coach said.

He added he saw no evidence of a post-ACC title game hangover, that all appears well on the emotional front.

"I think so," he said. "We are what we are, we have a bunch of tough guys around here. I have no doubt that these guys will bounce back. We've got a chance to play for 11 (wins and a Top 10 finish, so there's still a lot to play for.

"Big Ten (opponent). They had a chance to win 10 games this year. They lost two games in overtime, they're a good football team.

"They're a typical Big Ten team," he said. "They're big, they're physical, they run downhill, physical defense, they've got a good, sound scheme that they use. I think we match up against them well, though."

And the Spartans posted a pair of big wins to get to this bowl.

Jags said the extra practice time has been big for his program because it amounts to an extra spring practice period - extra work for "the young guys" who will be counted on more next year with the loss of this talented senior group.

Matt Ryan agreed with his coach, saying this team will be ready to play next week.

"We made it pretty clear at the beginning of the year - we set out, we wanted to win a championship and we came up a little short," he said. "It's frustrating. But after that, we gotta get back, we're trying to get an 11th win, a lot of seniors it's the last time we're going to play here at BC, so we just have to get over it, get back on the practice field and keep working towards a new goal."

Asked about the opponent, he said, "We have never played Michigan State. We've seen a bunch of them on tape - Bowling Green played against them this year so I saw a little bit of that. Notre Dame also, so there's a little bit of a sense of familiarity with them - but at the same time, it's a little different, different style of play in the Big Ten from what we're accustomed to. But I think it should be a great matchup."

Ryan said the seniors "haven't really talked about it too much," the "it" being the final game. "I think everybody's trying not to bring it up," he said, "but it's going to be a lot of fun, a lot of fun to play with a bunch of guys that have meant a lot to me over the past couple of years, so hopefully we can walk away with a win."

Another thing at stake in this game? The eyes of the pro scouts, of course, will get another look at the BC seniors who have a shot at the NFL. Every national television showcase is another chance to shine.

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