March 5, 2008

An early look at the 2008 offense

The 2007 season certainly marked a change in offensive philosophy for the Boston College Eagles. During Tom O'Brien's 10 year tenure as head coach of the Eagles, BC's offense was predicated on ball control and conservatism. While it's hard to argue with O'Brien's 75-45 record as head coach of the Eagles, many supporters questioned whether the Eagles could ever break into the Top Ten with such a vanilla offensive package.

Shortly after first year head coach Jeff Jagodzinski was hired he named Steve Logan his offensive coordinator and promised to place a "dynamic offense" on the field. For the most part, Jagodzinki lived up to his word. The Eagles averaged 28 points per game in 2007 while racking up 425 yards of total offense per game.

The passing offense, led by Senior Matt Ryan, finished 6th in the country averaging 323 yards per game and 6 receivers had at least 30 catches. However, over the course of the season BC proved to be too one dimensional in their offensive scheme. The rushing attack was non-existent in the second half of the season and finished ranked a dismal 107th in the country. This lack of balance hurt BC in close losses to Florida State, Maryland and Virginia Tech.

Looking ahead to 2008, BC clearly needs to find a replacement for the incredible Matt Ryan. Obviously, whoever is named to replace Ryan will not be able to duplicate his tremendous Senior season but they will have to manage the game and make some plays for the new- look offense.

In addition to Ryan, the Eagles will need to replace departed Seniors RB Andre Callender, RB L.V. Whitworth, LT Gosder Cherilus, OG Ty Hall, TE Jonathan Loyte and WR Kevin Challenger to name a few. Along with finding the right fit at quarterback, BC will look to improve its play along the offensive line and in the running game. Without "Matty Ice" running the show and oftentimes willing the team to victory all by himself, the 2008 team will need to establish a better balance between run and pass in order to be a successful unit.

Position by Position Analysis

Quarterback: Heading into spring practice there are three legitimate contenders for the starting quarterback position: Chris Crane, Dominique Davis and Codi Boek. All three are inexperienced; between the three of them they have 1 career start at BC. Crane looks to be the front-runner because of his experience as the #2 QB last season. However, despite the fact that he is a 5th year senior he has only had 1 year learning the Logan offense.

Crane is a big kid at 6'4" 236lbs and he has shown surprising mobility in his limited playing time. Dominique Davis is RSF prospect who stands at 6'4" 187 lbs. He was #3 on the depth chart last year and rumors out of practice were that the coaches were very high on him as a player. He is a very smooth looking athlete that can make plays with both his arms and his legs. He looks to be a real wildcard in this race.

Lastly, Codi Boek enrolled at BC this past semester after transferring from Junior College. Boek stands at 6'3" 220 and reportedly runs the 40 yd dash in 4.6 seconds. He is a true- dual threat QB that has three years of eligibility remaining. Coming out of High School Boek was a major league baseball prospect so he clearly is an athletic kid. All three QB's are a nice fit for Steve Logan's spread offense and expect to see more read/option type plays out of the QB position this year.

Running Back/Fullback: Both Andre Callender and L.V. Whitworth were undervalued system type RB's that had nice seasons last year. Callender finished the year with over 900 yds rushing and over 700 yds receiving; that type of productivity will be very hard to replace. However, neither player had that consistent "extra gear" that BC fans were accustomed to seeing in years past with Michael Cloud, William Green, and Derek Knight.

Due to the departure of A.J. Brooks and the career ending injury to Jeff Smith, BC is very inexperienced at running back and the competition is wide open. True Freshman Josh Haden enters spring practice as the unofficial # 1 RB (as his jersey # will also reflect).

Haden was ranked the #2 high school multi-purpose back in the country by Rivals and chose BC over Florida. Haden is 5'8" 190 lbs and has 4.4 speed ----he is incredibly elusive in the open field and likely will be the starter August 30th at Kent State. Look for freshman Eric Reynolds to be the primary competition for Haden. Reynolds comes to BC as an underrated back that put up incredible numbers in high school.

A possible position switch may be in order for either sophomore WR Ryan Lindsey or sophomore S Dan Mulrooney to provide depth at the position, though if anyone moves it's likely to be Mulrooney. Also, keep an eye on freshman Jerry Kelly, his size and speed combination may make him a very intriguing red zone and short yardage back.

Sophomore James McCluskey returns as the starting fullback. Towards the end of last season, McCluskey emerged as a solid red zone/short yardage threat. He is a load, runs hard, and appeared very comfortable with the ball in his hands so expect to see some more touches for him in short yardage situations. The fullback position was not really involved in the passing game last season and with a new QB this year, it may be more heavily utilized as a safety valve. Both McCluskey and sophomore Brad Newman showed signs of being physical lead blockers but both need to improve their physicality leading the way for a young starting running back.

Offensive Line: Once a staple of BC teams the offensive line play in recent years has declined significantly. The injury to underrated LG Ryan Poles really hurt the offensive line last season, resulting in myriad struggles during the latter stages of the season. Junior C Matt Tennant, sophomore RT Anthony Castonzo and senior RG Clif Ramsey return as starters along the line.

Tennant had a nice first season at C but needs to work on his consistency. Castonzo was a pleasant surprise at RT and improved throughout the season (see difference between 1st VTech game and ACC Championship Game) and could develop into a star with added weight/strength. Ramsey was a force by the end of season---hopefully, that will carry over to this season.

Look for junior Pat Sheil and sophomore Richard Lapham to fill the remaining two spots along the line. Both kids were heavily recruited out of high school and need to start living up to their potential this season. It will be interesting to see who plays the all-important LT position; will Castonzo be moved or will BC take a look at Lapham at LT? Depth is an issue with this unit and BC desperately needs some younger players to emerge as solid backups; redshirt freshman Mark Spinney and John Elliott will need to contribute along with converted defensive lineman Thomas Claiborne.

Wide Receiver: The official "whipping boy" group of the team are last season's wide receivers who have been routinely described in the media as "poor supporting cast for Matt Ryan."

But upon further review much of that criticism is unwarranted. Clearly, BC does not have a stable of 6'4" 210 lb WR's that run 4.4's ala USC or Michigan. However, BC does have a nice blend of size and speed at the position. Junior Rich Gunnell proved to be the most consistent receiver of the group and improved tremendously. Gunnell has great hands, runs crisp routes, and is fast enough to stretch the field vertically. Senior Brandon Robinson got off to a terrific start last season but was slowed by injuries as the season progressed.

When healthy, Robinson is great after the catch and is the one BC wideout who has shown the ability to go up and get the football at its highest point. Juniors Clarence Megwa and Justin Jarvis both had some nice moments in 2007 but also struggled with dropped balls. Two wildcards for 2008 are sophomore Ifeanyi Momah and true freshman Colin Larmond.

Momah is huge at 6'6" 220 lbs but was not strong enough to contribute last season-hopefully an off-season of added strength will prove to be beneficial for him because he is an intriguing prospect. Larmond committed early to BC last season and proceeded to have a monster senior season in New Jersey. With a solid summer showing, he may be in the running to see some game action in 2008. As a whole this group needs to get better at catching the ball over the middle while absorbing contact.

Tight End: Last season Ryan Purvis emerged into an All-ACC performer. Purvis had 54 catches for 553 yards on the season. He is very fluid in his routes and smooth catching the football. Expect to see another big season for Purvis who is reliable in the red zone and on third down. With the departure of John Loyte, BC will need to settle on a back-up to Purvis. Jordon McMichael came to BC with huge expectations and his career, thus far, has been completely derailed by injuries. At this point he is complete question mark. With the uncertain status of McMichael RSF Lars Anderson has an opportunity to seize the back-up position. Freshman Chris Pantale should be a good one down the road.

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