2009 Boston College Preview - Offense
Boston College C Matt Tennant
Boston College C Matt Tennant
Posted Jun 13, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Boston College Eagle Offense

Boston College Eagles

Preview 2009 - Offense

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2008 CFN BC Preview | 2007 CFN BC Preview |
2006 CFN BC Preview 

What you need to know: Everyone wants to know what new coordinator Gary Tranquill’s offense is going to look like. Considering the Eagles’ gaping hole at quarterback, figure it to be conservative and heavily reliant on the running game. If you want to have early success, why not play to your strengths? In the case of Boston College that means backs Montel Harris and Josh Haden, and a physical offensive line that welcomes back four starters. The situation behind center is dire. In two years, the program has lost its three best quarterbacks, Matt Ryan to the Atlanta Falcons, Chris Crane to graduation, and Dominique Davis to suspension. The result? A mad scramble, with no good options. If the Eagles can’t throw, it’ll make it that much easier for defenses to stack the box to stop Harris and Haden.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Billy Flutie
1-2, 9 ydds, 1 TD
Rushing: Montel Harris
179 carries, 900 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Rich Gunnell
49 catches, 551 yds, 4 TD

Star of the offense: Junior LT Anthony Castonzo
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Codi Boek or redshirt freshman Justin Tuggle
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman WR Clyde Lee
Best pro prospect: Castonzo
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Castonzo, 2) Senior C Matt Tennant, 3) Junior G Thomas Claiborne
Strength of the offense: The offensive line, running back
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback, the passing game, third-down efficiency


Projected Starter: Gulp. Has it really been just two years since Matt Ryan was under center in Chestnut Hill? It feels a whole lot longer. Since the end of last year, starter Chris Crane ran out of eligibility and likely successor Dominique Davis decided to transfer after being suspended for academics. The result? Junior Codi Boek, who was playing fullback last fall, left spring atop the depth chart. A heralded dual-threat transfer from American River (Calif.) College, he was slow to pick up the offense and was moved to another position. A 6-3, 221-pounder, with good feet, he remains a mystery as a pure passer, having thrown just a handful of passes since leaving high school four years ago.

Projected Top Reserve: The departure of Davis has elevated 6-3, 208-pound redshirt freshman Justin Tuggle into the No. 2 hole. The son of former Atlanta Falcon Jessie Tuggle, he possesses the best combination of size, arm strength, and athleticism at the position. A pass-first quarterback, he’ll need to get a better grasp of the system and improve his consistency in order to move up the next rung of the ladder this summer.

How precarious is the situation at quarterback? True freshman Michael Marscovetra hasn’t set foot on campus, yet has already been installed as the third-string quarterback. A 6-3, 183-pound pocket passer, he’s likely to get a longer look this summer than the typical rookie behind center.

Watch Out For
... David Shinskie. One of the more interesting offseason stories and a sign of the times on the Heights, the 25-year-old Shinskie is resuming his football career after spending the last six years playing minor league baseball. He has plenty of rust to shake, but he’s also very mature and more advanced physically than the kids surrounding him. He could have a role in this situation at some point in the fall.  
Strength: Athleticism. The Eagles may be running a pro-style, but Boek and Tuggle may give them reason to expand the playbook. Both are terrific athletes, who can escape pressure and pick up first downs on designed plays.
Weakness: Inexperience. You’d be hard-pressed to find a collection of quarterbacks with less experience at this level than Boston College. No one on the roster has even attempted a pass in the ACC, which is sure to be a roadblock to success shortly after the season kicks off.
Outlook: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. An area of stability for years, Boston College might find itself pining for Crane, and he was miserable last fall. The competition figures to get interesting in the summer, but it’s unlikely that this situation is going to improve between now and September, especially with a new system being installed.
: 5

Running Back

Projected Starters: Sophomore Montel Harris capitalized on an obvious need in the backfield and went on to become the most prolific true freshman runner in school history. A reserve when the season began, he slowly worked his way into the lineup, finishing with 900 yards and five scores on 179 carries, and 20 receptions for 160 yards and a score. A 5-10, 192-pound downhill runner, he got bigger and stronger in the offseason, which will improve his ability to work between the tackles.

Assuming he’s healthy, 6-2, 246-pound junior
James McCluskey will reprise his role as the starting fullback. He started the first nine games of 2008 before breaking his leg, and then injured his Achilles’ tendon in the spring. More than your garden variety fullback, he had 23 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown, adding 19 receptions for 123 yards.

Projected Top Reserves: The all-purpose complement to Harris will be 5-8, 182-pound sophomore Josh Haden, who debuted with 120 carries for 479 yards and a touchdown. The big-play option out of the backfield, he’s capable of making defenders whiff and turning a short toss into a long gainer. While not built to be an every-down back, he does run hard and will break free from sloppy tackling.

Depth and a veteran presence will be provided by 5-9, 198-pound senior Jeff Smith. Although injuries have kept him from reaching his full potential, he still possesses great speed and is a regular contributor on offense and special teams. Along with being the primary kick returner in 2008, he also carried 37 times for 192 yards and two scores.

Watch Out For
... everyone’s workload to increase. Considering the state of the passing game and the uncertainty behind center, the Eagles will lean heavily on the running game this fall. Harris will shoulder the load, but Haden and Smith are going to get their share of touches as well.
Strength: Diversity. In stark contrast to this time last year, Boston College believes it has a nice blend of skills in the backfield. Harris is a tough, durable runner, who can wear down defenses late in the game. Haden and Smith, on the other hand, are potential game-breakers, needing just a sliver of room to bust a long play.
Weakness: Explosiveness. Although gets the label of a homerun hitter, he’s only shown warning track power, delivering just one play of more than 20 yards in 2008. And while Harris is a terrific young player, he’s more of a meat-and-potatoes kind of a runner, who won’t frighten defenses with his straight-line speed.

Outlook: Thanks to last year’s true freshmen, the backfield has recovered nicely—and quickly—from recent uncertainty. Harris has a nose for a 1,000-yard season, while getting plenty of help from Haden, Smith, and McCluskey. As the far more stable half of the offense, this group needs to deliver in a big way this fall.
: 7.5


Projected Starters: While it’ll be tough replacing Brandon Robinson, the return of 5-11, 196-pound senior  Rich Gunnell softens the blow. The steady hand and best route-runner among the wide receivers, he had a team-high 49 catches for 551 yards and four touchdowns. However, when Matt Ryan was his battery mate, he had 64 grabs for 931 yards and seven touchdowns, showing big-play potential with proper support from the quarterback.

Gunnell’s new partner at “X” receiver will be 6-5, 196-pound senior Justin Jarvis, a two-time letterwinner and mostly a spare part up to this point. While not especially flashy, he has the size to play above defenders and the experience to handle this promotion. Last year’s third-leading receiver, he caught 25 passes for 274 yards and three scores.

Now that Ryan Purvis has graduated, the Eagles will be searching for a new pass-catching tight end. Standing at the front of the line will be 6-3, 249-pound sophomore Lars Anderson. While he’s yet to padlock the job, he has soft hands and shows potential as a pass-catcher, making nine grabs for 84 yards and a score in his first year.

Projected Top Reserves: Junior Ifeanyi Momah is itching for an expanded role and more playing time. As a key reserve a year ago, he began building a foundation for the future, making 11 catches for 149 yards and three touchdowns. At 6-6 and 225 pounds, he has the huge hands and long frame to be unique weapon, especially near the goal line and on jump balls.

The biggest surprise of the offseason has been 6-0, 178-pound redshirt freshman Clyde Lee, who has soared up the depth chart and pretty much secured a spot in the rotation. A little bigger and a little quicker than when he first arrived, he floored his coaches and teammates with his jets and his ability to pick up yards after the catch.

Is this the year that 6-6, 262-pound junior TE Jordon McMichael begins to fulfill all of his potential? Currently the backup to Anderson, he’s been quiet since arriving in 2006 from Minnesota as a heralded recruit. He has the size and quickness to be more than just a spare part, but needs to put it all together on the field. 

Watch Out For
... the health of 6-1, 216-pound senior Clarence Megwa. A starter in the early stages of 2008, he suffered a horrifying leg injury versus Clemson that threatened to end his playing career. He missed the spring, but is still working toward a return to the team in the fall.
Strength: Experience at wide receiver. Provided Megwa can make it all the back in his rehab, the Eagles will have three reliable seniors providing support for an inexperienced quarterback. Gunnell and Jarvis don’t make many mistakes, running tight routes and catching what’s thrown their way.
Weakness: A legit gamebreaker. Gunnell has shown glimpses and Lee is headed in that direction, but the Eagles don’t have any legitimate deep threats, who can stretch a secondary and force it to respect the deep ball. Last year’s longest receptions actually came courtesy of the backs, not the receivers.
Outlook: The receivers and tight ends aren’t going to hurt the quarterbacks this fall. They probably won’t elevate them either. Led by Gunnell, it’s a pedestrian collection of talent that isn’t likely to produce a future all-star or NFL player.
Rating: 6

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: True to its personality, the Boston College offense will be built around a formidable front wall. Four starters and five lettermen return to a unit that’ll look to set the tone for the entire program. The star is 6-7, 287-pound junior Anthony Castonzo, who is on the fast track to being a high NFL draft choice when he leaves the Heights. A third-year starter, he made a seamless transition from right tackle to left tackle, displaying the long arms and light feet of an All-ACC second-teamer.

Forming a bookend with Castonzo at right tackle is 6-8, 322-pound junior Rich Lapham, who enters his second season as a starter. He dramatically improved his conditioning prior to 2008 and became a physical force as a run blocker. However, he still needs a lot of work as a pass protector, bowing too often to smaller, quicker edge rushers, who can beat him off the snap.

The rock in the middle of the line is 6-4, 294-pound senior Matt Tennant, a versatile third-year starter and one of the better centers in America. Mentally and physically, he’s extremely quick, and has the toughness needed to compete in small areas. He’ll be an underrated asset to whichever quarterback gets the ball from the coaching staff.

The guards are led by massive junior Thomas Claiborne, a 6-3, 323-pound pile-driver, who earned All-ACC honorable mention in his first year since moving from defensive tackle. An anchor on the right side of the line, he plays with a nasty streak and has the size and power to simply and neutralize his man. If he keeps learning and honing his technique, a career at the next level will be waiting.

One of the key newcomers up front is 6-7, 267-pound redshirt freshman Emmett Cleary, who began the spring as a backup left tackle and ended it as a starting left guard. A quick learner and quality all-around athlete, his value and effectiveness will soar once he adds some more muscle and gets more comfortable in this new role.      

Projected Top Reserves: It’s a troubling sign that 6-6, 284-pound sophomore Nathan Richman is the veteran of the second unit. He’s not just young, but he’s also inexperienced, playing sparingly in his first season. A backup tackle when the spring session kicked off, he’s currently at left guard, providing insurance for Cleary.

Climbing to No. 2 at right guard is 6-6, 265-pound redshirt freshman Nick Halloran, a quality recruit from the 2008 class. He has the right frame to continue adding more girth as he moves closer to the top of the depth chart. An agile athlete, who also played some basketball and lacrosse in high school, he still has growing to do with his technique and fundamentals.

At tackle, redshirt freshman Mike Goodman has begun to make a name for himself with the coaching staff. A gigantic 6-6, 328-pounder, he plays with a wide base and has better footwork than his size might indicate. Boston College beat out the local schools for this Miami (Fla.) native, and could start reaping the rewards as early as this fall.    

Watch Out For
... less use of the zone blocking scheme favored by former coaches Jeff Jagodzinski and Steve Logan. It was an odd fit anyway for the type of recruits Boston College attracted, so don’t be shocked if new coordinator Gary Tranquill shifts gears to a more traditional style of blocking.
Strength: The first unit. Cleary is unproven, but he’s the exception in a talented, veteran starting lineup that could once again produce three All-ACC performers. Tennant is a rock at the pivot and Castonzo and Claiborne give the Eagles a pillar on each side of the line.
: Proven depth. From the first unit to the second, the drop-off in talent and experience is precipitous. The Eagle reserves are extremely young and particularly dependent on freshmen. If one of the regulars sneezes, the entire line is liable to catch a cold.   
Outlook: In a sea of uncertainty and change, this offensive line shines through as the Eagles’ most reliable unit heading into the 2009 season. Castonzo is about to take his brand outside the borders of the ACC, and the supporting cast is long on talent and upside potential.
: 8.5