Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Guest Blogger: James Quintong

To kick off a new season and get a better feel for Northwestern, I've asked my friend and ESPN writer James Quintong a few questions about his Wildcats. The added benefit of picking JQ's brain is that he is pretty familiar with BC since his brother is an Eagle. Below are my questions and his answers.

1. If Persa is less than 100% do you think Northwestern can be as prolific on offense? What sort of schemes give the Wildcats the biggest problems?

JQ: I still have a few questions about Persa's health, so I'm curious to see how the offense will operate early on. While Persa's running ability is one of the more obvious things that had put him on the map, his ability to avoid bad mistakes last year was a bit underrated (and was exposed in a big way when Evan Watkins and Kain Colter took turns replacing Persa at QB). So even at less than 100%, Persa should at least make a bunch of plays from the pocket, although how many compared to last year is a big question. Thankfully, most of his receiving corps from last year is still around.

I'm also wondering how the running backs will fare, as that has been a spotty part of the offense the past couple of years. Sophomore Mike Trumpy had his moments last year and looks to be the guy worth watching heading into this season.

2. Last year teams ran all over the Northwestern defense. Have there been any adjustments this year? Do you think it will remain the Achilles heel?

JQ: Somehow, when Persa tore his Achilles last year, the defense seemingly did too, as their worst games of the season came after Persa's injury. I think the run defense can still be an issue this year, with a number of youngsters picking up more of the slack, especially at the linebacker position. As a whole, though, there is some optimism with this unit, given the experienced starters on the d-line and in the secondary.

3. BC fans often feel slighted by the Boston media. How would you rank Northwestern on the Chicago sports landscape? Do NU fans even care about respect and perception? Has Northwestern done anything to try to change that perception?

JQ: BC and Northwestern are very similar in the context of their cities' sports landscapes. They're both smallish private schools (at least in comparison to their conference mates) with high academic reputations in big cities dominated by major league sports, and thus they both lag way back in the pecking order. In Northwestern's case, the school definitely lags behind the five major league sports teams, but it also has to battle with Illinois and Notre Dame for attention among the local college teams. (Actually, the Northwestern blog Lake the Posts does a good job in showing how similar BC and Northwestern are in terms of citywide perception.)

I think there is a good segment of fans, especially the more diehard ones, that want a bit more respect, especially with regards to bringing more Northwestern fans into the stadium. When it comes to home games, the size of the crowds can depend on who's playing, because despite Northwestern's recent success, there are still huge swaths of fans from the other teams (especially during conference season).

Recently, the school has been marketing itself as "Chicago's Big Ten Team" (as seen on the Dan Persa billboards and on the new basketball court) to try to draw in more of the local Chicago audience. We'll see if it actually works, but at least it's a start. The recent "Persa Strong" Heisman campaign (complete with billboards in both Chicago and Bristol, Conn.), the new Pat Fitzgerald banner outside Ryan Field, and even the Facebook campaign to help choose a new basketball floor (with one of the choices being a Boise State-inspired purple court) are all ways to get the Northwestern name out there even more.

4. What is your prediction for the game?

JQ: I think whether or not Persa plays, this will be a bit of a slog of a game. If Persa plays, I see a Northwestern winning 20-17. If not, it's BC winning 17-14.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Season Prediction Part III: what will happen

Could BC go 14-0 this year? Sure. I am the guy who will pick them to win each week in my game previews. But when I remove the maroon glasses, I still see plenty of questions combined with plenty of positives. But let's look at this somewhat objectively. If I told you Team A had a sophomore QB, a rebuilt offensive line, a some dinged up running backs and a new offensive coordinator, would you expect that offense to be better than it was a year ago? I think the changes and young talent will make improvements, but this will be more in line with one of BC's average years and not one of the great ones. But don't think I am lowering expectations. We should be a bowl team and be competitive with every team on our schedule.[Eds note: the following serves as my official prediction for the season.]

What will happen

Northwestern. Win. This might be the perfect opponent to start the season. They have decent talent and are one dimensional. If we win, we will get respect and we'll have a good barometer of the our team's capabilities. If we can score in the 20s, I think we can win. Throw in Persa at less than 100% and I think we can win with ease.

at Central Florida. Win. Playing Week 2 at night in Central Florida is not a gimme. In fact, this out of conference schedule is probably the most challenging we've had since joining the ACC. I think we will win down there, but it will be close and low scoring.

Duke. Win. Duke gave us a scare last year, but I think we will handle them this year at home. Especially with more playmakers on our offense.

UMass. Win. One day we will lose to a FCS team, but I don't see it this year. BC wins by a comfortable margin.

Wake Forest. Loss. There is going to be a fluky game. It's going to come when the whole team, fanbase and nation thinks we are riding high. I think it comes here. Despite Wake's backslide Grobe is a good coach and will have the team competitive this year.

at Clemson. Win. I don't know what to expect from Clemson. I don't like Dabo, but think they hired a good offensive coordinator. When in doubt lean towards the head coach screwing things up. I think we win this game and move into the Top 25.

at Virginia Tech. Loss. Spaz's first game in Lane was a bloodbath. I think this will be less embarrassing, but still a loss. Rettig struggles a bit and we make some special teams errors. The "L" knocks us out of the Top 25 again.

at Maryland. Win. Maybe it's Edsall or maybe it's Gary Crowton trying to get Friedgen's guys to buy into his new system, but I think this will be a rough year for Maryland. I think BC wins this one and hold Maryland to under 13 points.

Florida State. Loss. This will be another indicator game. Can this team step up with the whole college football world watching? Does Rettig excel at the highest level? Will Spaz have the team ready? I think it will be a close game, but don't see us winning.

NC State. Win. I think BC benefits from the extra time and wins. The seventh win guarantees another winning season.

at Notre Dame. Loss. I think we will play them tough, but come up short. This is a big letdown for all of our fans who only pay attention to this game.

at Miami. Loss. This has the feel of our last game in Miami as BC wastes opportunities and loses to a team they shouldn't. Because it is another spotlight game, the season starts to feel a lot like the last two.

This would leave us with a 7-5 (4-4) record. People are high about Rettig, but still unsure of if Spaz can ever break through the ceiling. We are selected for the Independence Bowl and take on Air Force. It is a sloppy game but finish the season 8-5 and we all feel like we are back in TOB mode.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Depth chart released and other links

BC released its depth chart today. All the injuries and roster shakeups made this somewhat predictable. Of note, BC is listing 3 WRs as the base offense. Spinney will start at LG. He and his replacement at Center Andy Gallick will be watched closely. If the line doesn't perform well, moving Spinney back to Center will be suggested frequently. Connor Wujciak also made the two deep which means he is probably not scheduled to redshirt. Al Louis-Jean has long been expected to play as a true freshman.

Jason Swepson is leaning on TOB as he begins his career as a head coach. Depending on how he performs and when Spaz retires, Swepson will probably get a look or at least an interview for the BC head job. checked in with Sean Sylvia and one time BC recruit Arthur Lynch.

SI's Stewart Mandel predicts we will be in Sun Bowl Military Bowl. [FIXED]

Men's Soccer defeated Fairfield 2-1. This complimented a nice article on BC's latest soccer transfer Steve Rose.

The Colts cut Josh Beekman. I am sure he will try to catch on with someone this season.

Former Eagle Josh Haden is MIA at Toledo.

Season Prediction Part II: best case scenario

I don't know how much of it has come through in my writing, but I really think Chase Rettig is on a path to be a great QB. My optimism in him has me still believing we can win the ACC. But even if he is great. And even if Montel and Andre recover quickly. And even if the OLine starts playing like "Oline U" I still can't see us winning it all with Spaz calling the shots. Take all the petty things I might gripe about Spaz aside, I still see a game manager in the TOB mold. With both, I always felt the way they approached the season or the schedule was with a "win three out of four" games mentality. That will be good for some nice seasons but won't win a division or conference. To do that you need to go for broke. Until I see Spaz display that sort of tactics, I think the following is our most realistic "best case scenario."

Best Case Scenario

Northwestern. Win. We pick off Persa a few times and contain their running game. Rettig looks good and BC wins comfortably.

at Central Florida. Win. BC wins in a tough, low scoring game. Win two respectable out of conference wins, BC nears the Top 25 and people are feeling pretty good about the season.

Duke. Win. A big coming out party for Rettig against a bad Duke defense. The game has somewhat of a back and forth feel, but BC grinds the clock in the fourth quarter to seal the deal.

UMass. Win. BC smashes UMass. The defense creates multiple turnovers. With the win, BC enters the polls for the first time in the Spaz era.

Wake Forest. Win. A closer game than expected but BC holds on. It is also the first sell out of the season. The hype is starting to build.

at Clemson. Win. Another "big stage" game as ESPN picks up the game and puts it in prime time. BC handles Clemson's new uptempo scheme. The team is getting national respect and approaches the Top 10. They are also eligible for a bowl. Spaz critics (like me) are getting a lot of "I told you so"s.

at Virginia Tech. Loss. This is a bubble burster. BC plays their worst game of the season. Rettig and the offensive line get rattled. VT's special teams make a few big plays. Huge letdown all around.

at Maryland. Win. I think Randy Edsall will be a decent coach at Maryland, but I think his first year will be a bit of a messy transition. BC has no problem in this game.

Florida State. Loss. BC loses a close game. This loss really stings as it puts us behind FSU in the division race.

NC State. Win. BC's defense really controls this game. They shutdown their run and force Glennon into some mistakes.

at Notre Dame. Loss. BC comes up short in a shoot out. Another sting as we fall out of the rankings and lose any chance of going to a second tier bowl.

at Miami. Win. At this point Florida State has already finished their ACC slate, so we know we cannot win the division. Regardless, BC plays well and concludes the conference record 6-2.

With a 9-3 (6-2) record, most BC fans feel very good about the regular season. That enthusiasm carries over to the the folks at the Sun Bowl. They select BC to face Oregon State. We win a close game to conclude the season 10-3 and ranked. There is a great feeling around the program, especially with Rettig returning.

Now splash some water on your face. As I said, I think this is in the realm of possibility but not what will actually happen. Tuesday I will post my actual predictions.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Preseason Blogpoll Ballot

I hate college football's polls but I love being a member of the blogpoll. I enjoy doing it because it shows how absurd the whole concept of polling is. On any given week, I will see portions of at least six games. Sometimes as many as 10. Yet I am asked to rank teams that I have never seen or evaluated. I also like doing the poll as a snapshot of the season. So this I what I think before any games are played.

As you can see, I am high on the Pac 12. I also think Boise State and Stanford are overrated. I didn't rank BC. I predict we be just on the outside of the top 25 for most of the season.

I tend to switch up my voting philosophy. For this ballot I ranked teams by how I think they will finish. We'll see how long that last. As always, feel free to share your opinions.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Season Prediction Part I: worst case scenario

Once again it's time for one of the staples of the preseason: my predictions. As in the past, it will be three parts. The first is what I could envision as a worst case. The second will be the best case. The final will stand as my official prediction of what will actually happen. This season I am very torn. I have real optimism that the Rettig-Rogers combination will make a huge difference. I believe that Chase has a chance to be a special QB. However, I still am not at the point where I can trust our OLine and I have no idea who will be healthy in the backfield. Plus there is my distrust of Spaz as a game manager and motivator. So what follow is the BC's version of the season from Hell.

Worst Case Scenario

Northwestern. Loss. Despite a gimpy Persa BC cannot keep up with the Wildcats' prolific offense. The Eagle offense looks like a slightly better Tranq squad. The BC thin defensive backfield gets lit up.

at Central Florida. Loss. UCF out BC's BC. They win an ugly game with a tough defense and a serviceable offense. The BC bandwagon is empty.

Duke. Loss. A game that is reminiscent of Northwestern means BC opens the season 0-3. The defense is playing well enough but the offense is not scoring enough points. Montel has yet to see the field and Rettig is looking like a sophomore.

UMass. Win. BC wins! The offense finally shows a spark against an overmatched UMass team. Rettig is sharp and a glimmer of hope returns.

Wake Forest. Win. Like all BC-Wake games, this is a back and forth affair. BC's D forces a few key turnovers. Momentum has returned.

at Clemson. Loss. BC faces another dynamic offense with Clemson's new uptempo scheme. We contain them somewhat but can't keep up the scoring pace. BC loses but this has a twinge of a moral victory.

at Virginia Tech. Loss. This is one of those games in Lane Stadium where the game gets away from us quickly. It becomes a lopsided demoralizing loss.

at Maryland. Win. BC's defense makes O'Brien miserable. They force some turnovers and are in his face all day. The offense looks good too.

Florida State. Loss. Going into the game everyone will be talking about BC's short week and the powerful 'Noles. BC will keep it close but still lose.

NC State. Win. This is a circle the calender game for Spaz and Gene. Despite their overall improvement last year, I think TOB and NC State are going to miss Russell Wilson.

at Notre Dame. Loss. Like last year, I think the Irish will get up early and BC will try to play catch up all day. This loss will be a real backbreaker as it means no bowl game for the first time in 14 years.

at Miami. Loss. Another team with a good defense and fledgling offense. I think BC's "no bowl" hangover, the short week and the trip to Miami are too much. We lose another close game.

This would leave BC at 4-8 (3-5) and out of the postseason. It would also raise numerous questions about the direction of the program. As I said, I don't think this will happen, but it is in the realm of possibility.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Our secondary is now like a Country song...and other links

I am not a Country Music fan, but the guys on the team seemed to enjoy Kenny Chesney's surprise visit. Chesney is playing at Foxboro, so Gene was able to coordinate a visit while Kenny was around. If anything, the visit hopefully took the team's mind off our shrinking depth at Defensive Back. The latest to leave is SR Safety Dominick LeGrande. Because he played a variety of position during his time at BC, I don't think the majority appreciate his play. I always liked LeGrande, yet I don't think it kills us. As I've said, playing in BC's defensive secondary, you need to be able to tackle and read the opposing QB. Siravo seems to coach the position well too, so don't lose sleep over this year's DBS. The bigger issue though remains why is LeGrande leaving now? We won't get a straight answer and it is never that simple.

In soccer, BC beat George Mason 3-2. The next men's game was postponed due to Hurricane Irene. The women's team beat Rutgers 1-0.

NFL Scouts already know which BC players they should target.

BC likes recruit Dayvon Williams, but has yet to offer him as a QB.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Groupon fallout and other links

BC released a ticket offering through Groupon and it set off the blogosphere and twitterverse. While there are multiple factors in the slow ticket sales, I still hold to my theory that the main issues are secondary ticket markets and a malaise around the program. But I am torn on the Groupon model as a solution. Other schools have done it, so imagine there is decent redemption rates. However, I also think it hurts BC in the long run because you are conditioning the market to wait on purchasing and conditioning the market to buy at a discount. I asked former Patriots Marketing VP and current BC professor Lou Imbriano his take and he made the point that it all depends on the end goal. I think the end goal is filling seats until the team improves, so Groupon makes sense for now. The Groupon stuff also sparked more BC to the Big East posts and tweets. Brian took that argument apart. Let me make this point clear, the Big East will not attract any current BCS teams to their conference. Legally and financially it will always make sense for the Big East football schools to leave the Big East and join another conference. That way they can split from the basketball schools cleanly. Even some ACC-Big East hybrid conference would carry the ACC's legacy and heritage just to avoid the Big East basketball schools.

Nate Richman thinks he will be ready by the Northwestern game.

Here is Chase Rettig talking to Heather Dinich. What I find interesting is that all the offensive players are saying the same things about Rogers: "disguising plays," "teaching players" and "being less predictable." These are things we'll all noticed long ago, yet it took two seasons to make a change.

Thomas Claiborne is hoping to make Tampa's roster.

Final scrimmage feedback and other links

The BC scrimmage pattern fulfilled itself Wednesday. As always, the unit that was ahead in the early scrimmages was brought down to earth. This year that meant the defense finally looked strong in scrimmage 4. There is usually some design to this. I imagine Spaz added new wrinkles this week to keep the offense off balance and give the D a mental boost. We won't know anything until Northwestern. I am not concerned about the INTs. Rettig won't face a defense as tough as ours until October.

Hampton Hughes's move to the defensive backfield seems promising.

Alex Amidon has made big improvements from last season.

Brian St. Pierre embraced the chance to join BC's broadcast team.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A look at BC's official basketball schedule

BC released its basketball. Most of the opponents were known already. This clarifies the dates for conference games. I am very optimistic about the season, but the untested talent means that we really have no idea how they react to the ebbs and flows of the schedule. Here are some thoughts...

Thanksgiving Hangover
This is an annual issue as we almost always follow our holiday tournament with our Big Ten game. We follow that with BU and Providence. In normal years I wouldn't worry about BU or PC, but I think Joe Jones's familiarity with the scheme and roster will make that game tough. I also think Ed Cooley will also have extra motivation to beat BC.

Even ACC schedule
This is the first year as an ACC member where we don't have a killer stretch of games. We seemingly always have Duke and UNC near each other or a long stretch of away games. Right now I would say at VT, at MD and hosting Duke will be the most challenging week.

Only two Sunday night games
ESPN took over the FOX's old Sunday night ACC package. BC will only be feature twice this year. I guess it is too be expected given how young the team is. Let's hope the team is featured more in the coming seasons.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Picture Day and other links

BC provided a look behind the scenes of the annual Picture Day. Am I just weird or would other people like to hear the audio of the events instead of the soundtrack? What are they saying to Montel when he poses or does Spaz have anything to say? Is someone making a joke? The best news from the day was to see Harris and Williams moving around.

Williams expects to be back, but Spaz isn't as optimistic.

The Jets cut Brian Toal. He had been trying to make the team as a Fullback. Not sure what his next move is.

What is it about BC grads and reality TV shows? Mike Mamula will be part of a new Bravo show. It's not part of the "Real Housewives" franchise, but in the same genre. Let's hope he acquits himself well.

Other teams deal with injuries too

While some still feel a bit of "woe is me" regarding our injuries, it is important to remember that our future opponents are dealing with the issue too. Case in point: Dan Persa is still limping. Now I respect Persa and we saw Matt Ryan have a great year on one good leg in 2006, but this has to help BC's cause.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pass the Kool-Aid, as I am not worried about our DBs

The big news Monday was the unexpected dismissal of Junior Safety Okechukwu Okoroha. I may be getting lost in preseason excitement, but I don't think this is a big deal. Okoraha was serviceable, but not a game changer. Although he started some games last year, he was often sharing snaps with Jim Noel. Plus, as much as I often question his results as a Recruiting Coordinator, Mike Siravo has done a good job getting our DBs ready. Given our scheme, speed and man coverage ability is not as important as tackling or reading the offense. I predict we will be okay.

My only concern about the incident is the timing. You have to expect attrition, but the timing -- just like the timing of Shakim Phillips leaving -- is curious. What is going on around the program that guys are leaving inexplicably like this so close to the season? I want to make sure Spaz and his staff have a good feel for the team moods and behavior. The behavior balance around any team is always tenuous. Off the field stuff can undermine on the field success and conversely a poor season can spill over into off the field behavior. Spaz needs to make sure he has things under control.

I really don't trust Spaz, but there are many, many things that have me thinking BC will surprise people. At this point, losing one middling DB won't change that. As long as one of the young guys steps up we will be fine.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Three bigger issues than Running Back depth

Andre Williams hurt his ankle in BC's third scrimmage. Combined with Montel Harris's knee, BC's once deep backfield now becomes a major question mark. Most fans are trying to stave off panic. I remain worried about the season, but not about running back. We still have capable RBs in Finch and Boyd and Williams and Harris could both return in September. However, these three things still have me more worried as we prepare for the season.

1. The offensive line
It doesn't matter who runs the ball if no one can block for them. Nate Richman is hurting and now we are moving Spinney from Center to LG to replace him. I think this is a bad idea. I would rather see Spinney stay at Center -- where he's been solid. Given how bad our OLine has looked to start the past two seasons, I don't know who I can tru

2. Kevin Rogers running the offense.
Hard to believe but Rogers hasn't called plays since 2001. In that regard Tranquill was more relevant. I think Rogers will be an improvement but I do wonder how he will manage the offense and manage the clock. The season really depends on him and Rettig.

3. The defensive backfield
Injuries are forcing Spaz to mix things around. You also have to wonder how the offense is able to move the ball with such ease. If the defense is vulnerable in the passing game, this could hurt BC once the games count and we face go passers.

I want Williams and Harris back as soon as possible. But still (stupidly?) think we can still compete without either. The issue now is will these other units step up.

Criticism of ACC misguided

Since it started College Football's current shakeup in 2003, the ACC has been battling backlash from the media and the college football landscape. I imagine it was driven in part by the media narrative at the time that the "ACC was going to challenge the SEC" for college dominance. It hasn't happened obviously. But because of that, there is a general defensiveness among ACC fans, teams and ACC media. There is a recurring theme about "what the ACC can do" which I just don't understand. It talks about a second BCS team or Heisman hype, but none of that really matters. All that does matter is the primary point -- the ACC needs to produce a National Champion. Everything else is fluff.

The ACC hasn't produced a champion for a variety of reasons. Most point to parity. I would also point out bad coaching at the programs most positioned to compete on a national level (FSU, Miami, Clemson). Virginia Tech has carried the torch for the conference, but usually have mediocre offense -- which hurts their overall record and the ability to deliver in the BCS. But there is nothing the conference "can do" to help things. Even if the middle of the pack rolled over against the big boys, the non-conference foes won't comply. It is now just a matter of someone stepping up and the ACC ignoring the criticism. No one seems to mention the Pac 12, Big 12 nor Big Ten hasn't produced a national champion in six years. Why should we be so thin skinned?

The ACC will produce a champion again. But to do so, we have to stop thinking like a conference and hope that the individual teams step up.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Harris's timetable uncertain and other links

Things are not looking good for Montel, per Dan Duggan's blog:
What was found was another lateral tear of the meniscus, the same injury that he suffered last November 20 in the game against Virginia, and there was also some debris that needed to be cleaned out. Dr. Thomas Gill – the orthopedist for the Bruins, Patriots and Red Sox – performed the surgery at Brigham and Women’s/Mass. General Health Care Center in Foxboro.

Harris conceded that redshirting is an option, but it’s not one he’s looking at closely right now. He hopes to be able to play by the third game of the season against Duke on Sept. 17.

Good job by Duggan to first report the news. I am not a knee or medical expert, but it is troubling that it look this long to diagnose. I think this knee will be an ongoing issue. Regardless of what Montel hopes, I am mentally preparing for a season without him. Let's hope Williams has worked on his reading of holes.

Kuechly and the linebackers are going to carry this year's defense.

This guy has a BC offer and he hasn't even started a game in high school yet.

Lesson to all you high schoolers courtesy of Chris Snee: don't get a tattoo until you are really sure you like it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Louis Hinnant speaks the truth!

Louis Hinnant via twitter regarding Georgetown's fight on their tour of China:
Say what u want about Coach Skinner, but he woulda had no problems with us whoopin ass if a brawl broke out #WeAreBC

Not much else needs to be said.

I still wish he had punched Paulus.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Harris's knee is bigger issue for him than BC

Because the offense seems leaps ahead of last year and because we have decent depth at Running Back, I think BC can survive without Harris. My bigger concern at this point is Montel and his future.

After a seemingly innocuous tackle, Harris, the coaches, nor the medical staff have had a good feel for his true recovery. Each scheduled return has been beset with setbacks. Wednesday he underwent another surgery on the troubled knee. Now the staff advised he should be back in three to four weeks. But can we trust this speculation given the history of this injury?

Montel and BC have two options:

1. Monitor his progress and get him out there as soon as he can play.
2. Shut him down for the year as a redshirt and let him recover completely.

Although Montel might not want to sit, it is probably a better long term option. He won't approach the ACC records on a short season and NFL teams are not going to draft him with a nagging injury. If he redshirts, he still has a chance to recover and have a strong, full season in 2012.

The redshirt benefits BC too. When someone is out for the full season, you are forced to adjust. You find new players. You adjust your scheme. You mentally move on too. If the staff waits on Montel, they may wait the entire season. He never may regain his form. You don't know what you have so you are hedging your plans. However, if Montel fully recovers and comes back strong in 2012, BC gets a new weapon and wrinkle to the offense.

We won't know Montel's status until after the season starts, so I will stick with what I tweeted earlier: if he is not 100% by UMass, Spaz should redshirt him.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vardaro showing maturity and other links

We need some young offensive linemen to emerge. Perhaps Bobby Vardaro will be one of those names. If Richman is out a while, the redshirt freshman could start this season.

Nice job by Dave Shook on this feature of Albert Louis-Jean.

KPL expects BC to win the conference.

Everyone is saying the right thing about Montel's return, but reading that he is still icing his knee multiple times a day worries me.

This ACC preview does not mention any BC-related storylines.

Ron Brace is missing key practices as he recovers from surgery. Hopefully he will have a big year with the Patriots.

Can Andre Williams get enough carries this year? I actually think it has less to do with Montel and more to do with our offensive line and WRs. If BC shows any improvement in the passing game, it will allow for longer drives and more possessions, which would mean more touches for Williams.

Phil Steele ranked BC in the middle of the ACC.

The usual BC guys were mentioned in this ACC capsule.

This is a bit older, but check out what CFN said about Spaz (no. 37). I don't think he is as secure as the state. He needs to win this year.

BC commitment Harrison Jackson got some attention from his local paper.

Existential recruiting

I've often wondered if BC's current coaches understand how to sell the school. Maybe I've been missing the point and their efforts. Instead of "selling the school" it looks like they are turning the tables on recruits and asking them challenging questions. In a world full of slicksters how often are these guys being asked about life beyond football and why are they here. Read BC target Faith Ekakitie's blog on Sean Devine's recruiting:
I’ve come to develop a pretty close and healthy relationship with many of the coaches from Boston College, especially Coach Devine (offensive line coach) and coach Comissiong (defensive line). At first I’ll have to admit i was a bit skeptical about BC because coach Devine approached and just started throwing question after question after question at me during our first phone calls. Some of his questions made me stop and think (actually all of his questions made me think), “what in the world does this question have to do with football?”

In fact, one of his most memorable questions to me was “If you could talk to any member of your family who has passed away already, who would it be and what would you talk about?” If you want to know the answer to that question, you can email/call/text me personally and I would be happy to tell you. But you could imagine what was going through my head at this point whenever BC got brought up in conversation.

Will this work? I don't know but at least it is something different.

Monday, August 15, 2011

2011 Football Poster

BC released its new poster this morning. My thoughts below the image.

I am really glad they ditched the cliched players posing theme that every college uses. I like the idea of the action shot. My only complaint though is that there is a lot going on in this image and you can't identify some of the players without their numbers. As for the slogan: "everyday is gameday"...not bad. Let's hope Spaz -- whose gameday acumen is in question -- shares that mentality as he preps and coaches the team this year.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rettig featured and other links

I am totally on board the Rettig bandwagon (and will have more on that later this week) but it seems like the media is starting to appreciate our sophomore QB. Right now it is only the local writers, but I think by the UCF game you will see more on Rettig's rise.

Everyone felt the offensive line was better, but Richman missed long portions of the scrimmage with back issues. We need him healthy if we expect any consistency upfront.

Clancy and Divitto are battling for the starting strongside LB spot. Although Kuechly never seems to come off the field, a few years ago we rotated LBs all day. I expect both Divitto and Clancy to play.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rettig impresses at 1st scrimmage

Regardless of the QB, BC's preseason scrimmages have a set pattern. The offense struggles and we assume that the defense is just really good again. So when the offense excels in their first scrimmage, I think it gets everyone's attention.

Everyone raved about Rettig. The feedback said he was accurate and seemed to have a good feel for the new playbook. The offensive line also showed improvement. Supposedly we used a lot of misdirection. If you want some good recaps, check out BCHysteria and Eric Hoffses.

The White Stripe

It's been a day since I saw the first picture of BC's new helmet. My initial reaction was was mild disappointment. I've progressed from there to full on hate.

How can a simple stripe (with stain glass effects) cause some much angst? Because it has no ties to our past, looks like another team, and finally just looks ugly.

When Tom Coughlin added the lone maroon stripe, there was similar head scratching. BC had always worn solid gold. Why change? I liked the first stripe. It was simple. Elegant. It also incorporated our two colors. Instead of complimenting the gold, the new three bar stripe distracts.

My second problem is how much the helmet looks like the 49ers. While that might seem hypocritical coming from someone who was advocating an Eagles-style helmet earlier this summer, there is a difference. My eagle wings idea was for a one-off occasion. This white stripe is permanent. And if we wore wings, we would still look different from the Eagles or Rice because of our color scheme. But our maroon looks enough like the 49ers red, that from a distance it will look very 49erish.

Finally, I just think it looks ugly. If you are going to take up that much space in the center of the helmet, I think you need a logo on the side. As it is, it looks like something is missing.

The Under Armour relationship has been great. I like the new uniforms and appreciate the willingness to give BC a distinct look. But this helmet is the first misstep. And based on how long it took to get rid of the italics numbers, I think we are stuck with the white stripe for at least a decade.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Media Day roundup

I usually wince during Spaz's media sessions. This one I enjoyed. It's the most clear he's been about the team's objectives. There was no hedging. No deprecation. I don't know if there is growing confidence or if there is pressure to raise expectations with the fanbase. Who cares why he is finally changing his tune? The change is welcome.

BC Football's Twitter account did a great job covering the event. Check their timeline for links, quotes and pics.

The Herald had a good interview with Quigley.

Montel has a new haircut and is ready to perform at his pre-injury level.

Here are some select pictures from the day. BC also posted select player quotes.

The notes section of this post, mentioned Brian St. Pierre joining BC's radio broadcast team.

Should BC explore independence?

With another conference shuffle looming and BC's position totally up in the air, I started to wonder if BC should explore football independence. We spent the majority of our history as an independent and now -- with new media solutions and an influx of cash -- football independence is actually an option again. The issues as always are about money and perception. Could BC improve our football revenue as an independent and would independence make us more or less relevant? Keep those questions in mind as we look at all the considerations for independence.

Basketball and non-revenue sports
If BC were to go independent in football, we would still need a conference for all of our other sports. Fortunately we have a logical home -- the current basketball schools in the Big East. While not as lucrative as the ACC hoops schools, this would still be a relevant basketball conference. Plus we have a lot of history with all of them and they are all in our geographic footprint. This would be like playing in the original Big East.

Football scheduling
This might not be as bad as you might think. Assume the indies would all stick together, that means that Notre Dame, BYU, Army, Navy and Texas would be on the slate on an annual or near annual basis. Then assume we book long series with UMass and Syracuse. Then BC could lock in a mix of two elite BCS schools every year and a few middle of the pack BCS schools every year. It would obviously involve a lot more work and deal making than we currently need, but I think a home schedule of ND, UMass, Navy, Syracuse, Michigan, UNH and Wake Forest would sell as well as next year's schedule of Notre Dame, Rhode Island, Army, Clemson, Miami, Maryland, and Virginia Tech.

TV revenue
Huge unknown here. BC has produced consistently strong ratings and is in a major media market. On the flipside though, BC is not a national brand. Would ESPN or one of its competitors pay $15 million or more for BC's home games? I could see Comcast New England paying a big fee for the rights and sharing the distribution with Versus/NBC Cable for the bigger games. These conversations should be had, but BC should never make a serious move without some hard assurances on the value of the deal.

Postseason football
Losing access to the BCS or the ACC's bowl slots might be a big deal to other schools, but it shouldn't be for BC. We will never get prime bowls in any conference. If we were to go independent we could string together a series of invites to the San Franciscos and San Diegos of the world just like Army and Navy do now. Also, while in theory the ACC provides us a path to the BCS, being independent might be as viable. As an independent we could pad our schedule Boise State style and only win one or two games against top teams to earn respect and computer rankings.

This is where I think BC would take the biggest risk. BYU and Notre Dame have natural pipelines they can use to recruit. While BC has succeeded with the same type of kid for decades, I think not having a conference affiliation would hurt our sales pitch. Right now we sell top level football with a top level education. As in independent that pitch becomes a bit hollow unless we are really kicking ass.

If I knew BC was willing to employ an aggressive style of play and smart scheduling, I think independence could work. But the reality is that our current leadership wouldn't embrace this type of risk. There is a level of safety in a conference even if it means playing with a bunch of schools we left seven years ago. In the end our reputation and TV market will always keep us in the game. Let's hope we like how this iteration of musical chairs plays out.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 Position Previews: Defensive Line

New season. New format. Instead of a digestible combo of factoids and opinions, I am going to write in a more narrative, free style post. As always, feedback is appreciated.

When unremarkable players graduate the consensus is usually "we won't miss them." Yet the basic logic should raise the question: if the guys were so mediocre, why didn't the guys we have starting now, play last year? Will we miss Brad Newman, Alex Albright and Damik Scafe? Yes and no. In a way, we missed them last year when both Albright and Scafe missed time with injury. But we won't miss them because of what we ask the front four to do.

The DL at BC most stop the run. To do so they fill gaps and make tackles. Ordinary college players can do this if coached well. BC has sent out plenty of ordinary guys over the years who have performed well in the system. However, BC becomes special when we play the scheme with a great player or two. But a Kiwi or Raji on our DLine and watch the game change. Let's meet our potential game changers.

The guys expected to start are Kaleb Ramsey, Dillon Quinn, Kasim Edebali, and Max Holloway. Holloway has improved each year, Edebali looked good, Quinn was a highly rated prospect, yet I think Ramsey will set the tone. With him, it has always been about focus and desire. He's got the size and speed. I think he could be a great DT. Maybe now, as a senior, it will all click. The key for the Ends would be to increase pressure while still keeping contain.

The other guys in the mix will be Mehdi Abdesmad, C.J. Parsons, Dominic Appiah, Conor O'Neal, Bryan Murray, Jaryd Rudolph, and Dan Williams. Spaz might throw some of the true freshman out there, but I doubt it.

Of the second teamers I am going to follow a hunch and say Rudolph and Abdesmad will get the most playing time. Abdesmad has generated good buzz. When Rudolph saw the field last year, he looked like a high motor type.

So back to the original question: will we miss the departed? I don't think so. I think we will maintain their output and have the chance to be special if one or two guys play beyond their baseline.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New BC Media site and other links

Considering the inconsistent coverage BC receives from the Boston media, it makes sense for the school to cover the team themselves. The latest addition to the Media coverage is BC's media center. Most of this has been available in the past but the game highlights are new.

The team played in pads for the first time. Full contact comes Friday. The first scrimmage will be Saturday night.

BC commit Joël Zoungrana earned an award in Canada. I always like to hear what recruits say because it tells you what the coaches are saying to them. Here are some quotes from Joel with my bolds for emphasis.

There has been a lot of change in this program. Coach Spaziani has only been there for three years. They just need to find some stability and it’s going to be fine. I am not worried about the program at all.

Given what they are telling a camper who they recruited, I think BC must be hearing about an uncertain future for Spaz. Let's hope Spaz blows the doors off of this season so that no one questions his future at BC.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Day 2 and other links

The second day of practice was uneventful. Unlike Monday, the weather cooperated. The team is still not in full pads yet.

Spaz and McGovern know the young players will have to step up and everything cannot be dependent on Kuechly.

HD called Rettig the most improved QB in the conference. I also think Rettig's stats from last season are somewhat misleading. While his percentages and TD to INT ratios weren't great, I think you have to look at them in relation to what he was asked to do. I think you'll see a big jump in efficiency this year.

Another day, another glowing Alex Albright story. I just wish that Rob Ryan didn't have to take a backhanded shot at Herzy while complimenting Albright.

Ryan Purvis is now one of Tampa's more experienced Tight Ends. He should make an even bigger impact this year.

The Colts signed Josh Beekman. I hope he sticks as it would be nice to see Beekman and Costanzo on the same line.

Abner Logan has a BC offer but he is determined to visit other schools.

BC opened as a seven point favorite over Northwestern. Now the line is to BC-3. It looks like the early smart money jumped on Northwestern.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Day 1 of training camp begins

The season officially started Monday! Aside from the work on the field, the biggest news of the day was voting on the new captains. The team elected Donnie Fletcher, Nathan Richman, Ifeanyi Momah, and Luke Kuechly. I am happy for all of them, especially someone like Momah who has done whatever the team has asked. Kuechly becomes one of the rare junior captains, which is an honor in itself.

Blaudschun made note of the minimal media turnout, but what's the point when BC covers the basics as well as the beat guys. I am glad BC does so much. What the other media need to realize is that there is plenty of BC stories to tell and news to break. They just need to dig deeper.

I don't know if you want to call it an omen but minutes into the practice, the skies opened and the team endured torrential downpours. Fortunately the weather cleared for the remainder of the day.

Here is Blaudschun's recap.

The best way to follow the team's progress might be via Gene's twitter account.

This writer sees us as the 4th best team in the division, with a pretty low upside.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Five Things we won't learn with the start of practice

BC begins their fall practice schedule Monday. It's a huge first day and a huge season for BC and Spaz. But for all the storylines in play, there are still some major unknowns that won't be revealed until BC takes the field against Northwestern.

1. Just how tough is the schedule? Everyone agrees that this year's schedule presents more of a change than last year, but no one knows how much more. Every team we face has some question marks. NC State, Clemson and FSU have new QBs. Miami has a new coach. Clemson's coach is on a hot seat. Is Notre Dame finally back? This schedule might be easier than we expect. But this is college football. Perceptions matter. So BC's record will constantly put in context of its "tough schedule." My prediction is that things will even out as they usually do. Two of the teams will surprise and two will probably disappoint. Let's just hope that BC catches them all on their off days.

2. What sort of impact will Kevin Rogers' have? We are already hearing mixed rumblings regarding Rogers's offense. Some say the players are taking to it, while others question the learning curve. Practice will help but we won't know what sort of game Rogers will call and how the players will adapt until the season starts. We are not extremely talented on O, but there are enough pieces that a competent Offensive Coordinator should be able to improve things.

3. How healthy are Harris and Larmond? Both are saying the right things this summer, but camp will be telling. Things get out and if the guys miss practices or look tentative, we will know. And if either are less than 100%, expectations will take a nose dive.

4. Which new players will emerge? This is always the internet fan and blogger's favorite game. We hear and read things and then anoint some young guy or second teamer, the new savior. Sometimes the scrimmages are proving grounds and other times they are red herrings. But the speculation is fun.

5. What is Spaz's future with BC? This clearly won't be answered in camp but after the season we should have a much better idea. I know it seems like I am rooting against Spaz at times. I promise you I am not. I root with passion every week for BC. I just don't think Spaz is the right guy and every season with him as head coach is a wasted opportunity. I hope I am wrong. This is his third season. This is his team. How we perform this year will be a pretty good indicator of how the remainder of the Spaz era plays out.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Larmond back and other links

Colin Larmond says he's healthy and poised for a big season. If he can stretch the field, I think it will make like easier for Rettig and the offense in general.

Incoming BC basketball winger Lonnie Jackson knows the adjustment to college will be overwhelming. Yet he's still excited to play Duke.

The Capital Region Football Hall of Fame enshrined Josh Beekman for his standout high school, college and pro career. Although the Bears cut him, Beekman is still trying to catch on with another team.

Alex Albright continues to make good impressions with the Cowboys. When he signed with Dallas, I questioned the fit...which reinforces how little I know.

It sounds like Kiwi is ready to have a big year and put his neck issues behind him.

BC soccer player Kevin Mejia spent some time this summer as counselor at a soccer training center.

The recently retired Damien Woody joined ESPN as an analyst. Bristol is getting pretty full of BC guys.

Friday, August 05, 2011

How the ACC can damper the Big East TV plans

The Big East is bluffing. They used their media meetings to make is sound like they are sitting on a potential windfall in TV money. Of course very few in the media questioned the logic nor the laughable idea that BC and Maryland might move for more money. But the Big East does have an impact on the ACC. We compete for TV timeslots and perception. If the ACC wants more money and to lock in the best time slots with ESPN (and hurt the Big East's leverage), they have an unplayed trump card -- a 9th regular season game.

The 9th ACC games provides ESPN with more valuable content. Plus, if I understand it correctly, it would allow the conference to reopen the current deal. In addition to the money a smart deal would require that a high percentage of the 9th games get carried on ESPN or ESPN 2. By doing that ESPN would have less room for any potential Big East games. And they certainly wouldn't go paying a premium for them. With fewer bidders, the Big East's deal with Versus/NBC Cable or Fox would be less lucrative.

Now the downside of the 9th game is tougher schedules. But the Pac 12 currently plays nine games and the Big Ten is moving that way. I think most ACC schools would be willing to take on the added conference game in exchange for more money. Plus it would help ticket sales and the struggle to find valid and profitable non-conference games.

Look for the 9th game discussion to continue for the next 12 months as the ACC tries to figure out how to play catch up with the other conferences and not get bypassed by the Big East.

HD on Rettig and other links

HD thinks that Chase Rettig will be our "x factor." I agree with her and from what I hear, Rettig is showing great improvement. Let's hope the rest of the offense improves around him.

Steve Donahue promoted Woody Kampmann from operations to an assistant position. Aside from salary, the big difference with ops to assistant is in the amount of recruiting allowed.

BC will play St. Louis in the opener of the 76 Classic tournament. The first game is Thanksgiving Day, so make sure your relatives have ESPN U.

Here is Rivals overview of the ACC. They put our staff as the 10th best in the conference.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Coaches ignore BC in 1st Coaches Poll

The USA Today released the first coaches poll. BC did not earn one vote. Multiple coaches we play are voters, yet even they didn't throw us a bone. Note a good indicator. Future opponents Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Florida State all enter the season ranked.

BC NFL Alumni updates

With Jonathan Goodwin leaving via free agency, Matt Tennant is now the starting Center for the Saints.

Kiwi is hoping that one big year will pay off with a bigger contract next season.

This article shows Alex Albright getting hands on instructions from Rob Ryan.

Mark Herzlich is keeping pace with the other rookies at Giants camp.

Despite reports, Rich Lapham is not with the Bills. He's still recovering from his knee issues.

James McCluskey is already missing practices with injuries. Not a good sign.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

2011 Position Previews: Defensive Backs

New season. New format. Instead of a digestible combo of factoids and opinions, I am going to write in a more narrative, free style post. As always, feedback is appreciated.

I've read that NFL GMs don't like to draft Nick Saban's defensive backs because they never know if the guys are great or just so well coached that they appear great. BC suffers from a similar problem. Our DBs are so well coached and well schemed that no one really respects their individual talent.

It is a relatively simple formula. Our DBs have specific assignments. We play mostly zone coverage. They are drilled to keep their players infront of them. They read the QBs to make smart plays on the ball. And they all tend to be good tacklers. Spaz and McGovern deserve credit for this, but so does Mike Siravo. Under Siravo we've plugged in a series of players and rarely seen a dropoff in performance. [Criticism for Siravo's working as a recruiting coordinator is a different conversation for another time.]

For something so functional our fans tend to bemoan our defensive strategy. People kill the cushion that our DBs allow. It can be frustrating and against good QBs we get picked apart. I understand the frustration, but you cannot argue with the end results. We rarely allow big plays. We make bad QBs look really bad. We frustrate the other offense more often than we frustrate our own fans. But because we are not pressing coverage it often appears that our DBs are slow and not difference makers.

Even by BC standards, this year's crop of defensive backs is really lacking in star power. I expect that to change by season's end. Donnie Fletcher is our most experienced corner. He's played since day 1 and will play the field corner position this year. Fletcher tackles well and can make plays on bad passes. I expect an All-ACC season from him. CJ Jones and Jim Noel will fight for the other corner spot. Based on recent years, I think they will probably split snaps. True freshman Albert Louis-Jean is also expected to play as a freshman.

While the fundamental philosophies are shared, the BC safeties are asked to do some different things. They support the run and also have more freedom to leave their zones, either to help or pick off a pass. The Safeties are expected to be Okechukwu Okoroha and Dominick LeGrande. LeGrande has played all over at BC and been good in most spots. Okoroha came on late last year and was solid.

Other guys who could see time include Sean Sylvia, Dominique Williams, James McCaffrey, Ameer Richardson and Spenser Rositano. And don't expect the top guys to stay strictly in their corner or safety designation. Noel could move back to Safety and LeGrande has played corner in the past. My guess is that we'll play the best guys and interchange them.

As I write these previews I start wondering how the season will turn. In a way, I think the DBs capture the confusion. I think things will be very good. I think the talent is better than outsiders think. Yet I don't know if other factors (the schedule, the offense, Spaz) will undermine the DBs's (and team) end results.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Conference Shuffle 2011: Where is BC's best home?

With Texas and Texas A&M fighting over the new Longhorn Network, it looks like another conference reshuffle might happen soon. Add in the Pac 12's bold new TV plan and it makes sense for the SEC, Big Ten and Pac 12 to all expand to 16 teams. The question then becomes which 16 and how can BC position itself for the future. I foresee three scenarios. None are great, but let me know what you think.

1. Current ACC + 4 new members
This is my ideal setup. It keeps BC with enough like-minded schools. We wouldn't be overwhelmed by the competition and would probably result in a new ACC TV network. The downside is we would probably have to add schools we don't care for like UConn, Rutgers or West Virginia. But this future would provide the most continuity, stability and keep us where we belong academically and geographically.

2. BC joins the Big Ten
This might be the most far fetched, but I think it is much more realistic than people suspect. As I've said before the Big Ten would want TV markets, respectable sports and academics. BC provides all three. We would also add a boost to the fledgling Big Ten Hockey Conference. This would take a lot of political maneuvering and we would really have to sell the Big Ten on why BC makes more sense than some of their other candidates. But if the Big Ten added Notre Dame, Rutgers and Syracuse, BC would fit in well. That combination would also assure the Big Ten of the northeast TV markets.

3. BC joins the ACC and Big East leftovers.
This is my fear. In this scenario a few of the ACC's top football programs defect to the SEC and we are left to backfill with the Big East. Although if these dominoes fall, I think the Big East backfill could be teams like USF and UConn as opposed to Pitt or even a Rutgers. It would probably be a good basketball conference, but I don't think it would get much respect from the football media or our fanbase.

There are plenty of ifs in all of this. My focus is always on what is best for BC. Ultimately, I think the status quo. Unfortunately the status quo never lasts in college sports. We need a conference where we can compete, keep up with top revenue producers and stay relevant. I think aligning ourselves with Big Ten is the best bet. But will they want us?