Chestnut Hill, Mass., spring 2009: Of course there were questions about stability. Coach Jagodzinski had been fired only two months before, and a career assistant subsequently headed the Boston College program.
With the whirlwind surrounding the coaching situation as well as a serious offensive quarterback situation (Only four games of starting experience at the college level between three candidates) had yet to subside, but Boston College and new head coach Frank Spaziani felt that there was a least one constant in their football program; their defense.
As stars like Mike McLaughlin (Achilles) and Mark Herzlich (Cancer) started to fall out of starting positions, chaos ensued in and around Alumni Stadium.
2009 ended for the Eagles with an eight-win season. The fall was filled with multiple cases of surprising underclassmen who stepped into key leadership roles during the 2009 campaign. The Eagles head into 2010 with eight returning starters on both sides of the ball, and look to build off of what many analysts call a comeback season for the ages.
By March 15, the Eagles will begin their 2010 spring practices. As many would expect, the spotlight is on Mark Herzlich.
Mark is coming back from a seemingly impossible journey from a cancer patient, to a cancer survivor. If he is able to return to the form he possessed in 2008, the Eagles should have high expectations once again for their defense.
Mark provides strength to every player on Boston College and has given them motivation to work as hard as he has worked for the past year.
Ambition and courage are just two characteristics mark brings to the table, and as he hopes, out onto the field. If that occurs, Mark’s starting position at linebacker is all but secure.
But for many other players vying for a starting spot on the team, the battle has only just begun. Here are some position battles that I believe will make some waves with BC coaches and fans alike.
Quarterback: Dave Shinskie vs. Chase Rettig
The battle of the 26-year-old sophomore vs. the 18-year-old freshman. Landing the starting job after a strong performance against Wake Forest last year, Dave Shinskie had a season similar to the Superman rollercoaster at Six Flags.
Shinskie and the Eagle have soared in great performances against Florida State and Central Michigan, but had their wings clipped in games against Clemson and USC. The USC game left a bad taste in a BC fan’s mouth, and many are looking for change.
That change could very well come in the form of freshman Chase Rettig. Arriving here in January and having a great showing at the Under Armour All-American game catapulted Rettig from a contender to a favorite for the job as field general.
Strong Safety: Okechukwu Okoroha vs. Jim Noel
In the 2009 season, BC had a rock in their secondary named Marcellus Bowman. Marcellus delivered mind-blowing hits every single Saturday (including one on Kent State’s Eugene Jarvis). Bowman has now graduated, and it is time for another safety to step up in his place.
Jim Noel will be a true sophomore next season and received more playing time than Okoroha did. With Noel’s lanky yet athletic 6’5” frame, I believe he has the upper hand on Okoroha at this point.
Okechukwu did come to the Heights with what many thought to be a huge ceiling. It will be very interesting to see how these common interest stories and position battles shake out for the next few weeks.