This is the first part of my position by position breakdown of the 2008 roster.
Once again the strength of the defense will be the linebackers. Despite losing two starters to graduation, the unit should be our deepest and most talented.
The cliché regarding Spaz’s defenses is that he uses the same scheme regardless of personnel, opponent or game situation. That’s not true. Increasingly he’s used more variety in his front seven packages and sent blitzers from various positions. The old dog has been able to add new tricks due to the talented and diverse group of linebackers. This year is no exception. In fact, BC has one of the most experienced units in college football. Take a look:
Toal – 36 games played, 25 games started
Akins – 39 games played, 5 games started
Herzlich – 27 games played, 16 games started
Francois – 38 games played, 7 started
McLaughlin – 23 games played, 3 started
Those five are just the LBs who have started. We are also adding some younger players into the mix. The depth and talent should allow Spaz to continue to tinker and keep BC competitive as our offense transitions.
LB – Brian Toal, SR, 6’0, 252lbs
LB – Mark Herzlich, JR, 6’4, 238lbs
LB – Kevin Akins, SR, 6’2, 220lbs
LB – Robert Francois, SR, 6’2, 245lbs
LB – Mike McLaughlin, JR, 6’0, 250lbs
LB – Darius Bagan, SO, 6’2, 233lbs
LB – Dan Williams, FR, 6’2, 224lbs
LB – Will Thompson, FR, 6’1, 233lbs
LB – Mike Morrissey, SO, 6’2, 210lbs
LB – Nick Clancy, FR, 6’2, 215lbs
LB – Alex DiSanzo, FR, 6’2, 220lbs
I am hoping a healthy rejuvenated Toal comes back and has a huge year. When fit and focused he is probably our best linebacker in pass coverage and just as capable as running a QB down. Herzlich is a beast and also very savvy. I expect him to have an all ACC season. Akins struggled early last year but played very well down the stretch. His effectiveness as a late blitzer was somewhat neutered last season…teams just expected and protected against it. This year – with an even better front four – should allow Akins to run at QBs again. Francois is always a steady performer. At this point I don’t expect a leap in his performance, but his consistency will be an asset this season. McLaughlin is a decent tackler. In all his playing time, he has not yet had a game changing moment, but he is a serviceable player. Morrissey got on the field on a regular basis last season. I don’t know where he fits into the mix this year. The real unknowns are Williams, Bagan and Thompson. All were highly touted recruits. Hopefully they will all get regular playing time this season as they will be critical to filling voids in 2009. Clancy and DiSanzo are true freshmen. Because of the depth we don’t need to play them this year. If they are capable, one or both might play this season.
Even if you exclude the true freshmen, there is more than enough talent at linebacker this year. It is to the point where guys like Morrissey and McLaughlin might have fewer snaps than they played last year (a good problem to have).
Overlooked in all of this is that LB is one of our best coached positions. Credit goes to Bill McGovern for their performance.
The preseason magazines are filled with the “best this” and the “best that.” You won’t read much nationally about of our guys in the middle. That’s too bad as they will be what holds this team together in 2008.