2009 Boston College Preview - Offense
Boston College C Matt Tennant
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Boston College Eagle Offense
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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.
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:
Top three all-star candidates:
1) Castonzo, 2) Senior C Matt Tennant, 3) Junior G Thomas
Strength of the offense:
The offensive line, running back
Quarterback, the passing game, third-down efficiency
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Weakness: 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.