Football Readies For Spring Practice
March 14, 2000
Defensive LineReturning Lettermen (2):
Notebook: The front seven is arguably the biggest area of concern for Coach Tom O'Brien and his staff entering spring drills...O'Brien must replace both his defensive ends and a tackle following the departure of seniors Chris Hovan (a first-team All-America and All-BIG EAST selection), Mike Willetts and Adam Newman. Those three accounted for 168 tackles last season.
But two juniors - end Sean Guthrie and tackle Antonio Garay - were consistent starters along the line and are ready for prime time. Kevin Crane is another junior who could get a starting nod, the rest of the line is talented, but extremely young. O'Brien and his staff recruited to address this area the past two years and could play one or more true freshmen to shore up this area.
O'Brien says: "Our concern on defense is with the line. We have a lot of work to do along the defensive line. Any time you lose guys like Adam Newman, Chris Hovan and Mike Willetts, you have a lot of work to do. But we look forward to watching Antonio Garay. It's his turn to step up along the defensive line. He has tremendous physical ability. If he has the same type of motor and desire to play as Hovan had, he could be as good.
"It's also Kevin Crane's time to step up and play. He got some playing time last year in a backup role for us, and made some plays for us. He's going to have first shot at playing inside. We'll give Keith Leavitt and Jim Connor first shot to back up on defense. This is probably a position where some of our incoming freshmen will need to step up and help us.
"Sean Guthrie is back and played a lot of defensive end last year. He's similar to Garay in that he has a lot of the physical tools. He just has to go out and prove that he can do it. This will be a key spring for him to see if he can step up and be the type of defensive end we need here. Derric Rossy backed up some last year, and he'll have the first shot at the other end. He's a guy who came in as a linebacker, and he's still learning the position. Backing those two guys up will be Frank Misurelli, who played some as a freshman, and Tom Martin, who we redshirted. Both of those guys are excellent prospects. Whether they end up outside or inside, we need to decide, but we think they're both excellent football players. We look forward to coaching them this spring to see where they can fit into the mix on the defensive line."
LinebackersReturning Lettermen (4):
Notebook: The most glaring absence at this position - and perhaps on the whole team - is that of middle linebacker Frank Chamberlin, the 1999 winner of BC's Scanlan Award (the highest honor on the football team) and a second-team All-BIG EAST selection. To help fill the void, O'Brien has moved senior Ryan Burch, who started every game last season at fullback, to middle linebacker. Burch is big, strong and mature and has played the position before. O'Brien is looking for a quick transition there. Beyond Burch's physical skills, O'Brien could get the type of emotional spark Chamberlin provided.
For the first time in O'Brien's tenure at BC, he could post a two-deep at linebacker consisting entirely of scholarship players. At the outside spots, junior Scott Bradley has gained two years of experience and has been a consistent starter. Talented sophomores Jerome Ledbetter and Marco Williams, both of whom have started, should comprise one of the most solid two-deep positions on the team.
The linebacker corps will be adjusting to a new position coach, Bill McGovern, who joined the Eagles from the University of Pittsburgh this spring.
O'Brien says: "We have a lot of guys coming back at linebacker who have some experience. We should be much better at this position, if we can find ourselves a middle linebacker to play (replacing graduated Frank Chamberlin).
"We have moved Ryan Burch to middle linebacker. It worked before, when we moved Chamberlin. He was playing linebacker his first year, and we moved him to fullback because of our needs there. With some of the depth problems we have at middle linebacker, we want to take a look at him and give him the opportunity to play there. He will be a starter on this football team somewhere, be it middle linebacker or fullback, when we finish spring practice and head into the fall.
"Scott Bradley returns at the field linebacker position. He's another guy who has played for two years. In some cases, he's been over his head, but now is his time to step up. He has plenty of experience, he's been around enough, and now, his third year in the program, it's time for him to step up and make some plays for us. He'll be challenged by Steve Martin, who has played some, and Curtis Bolden. Both have a lot of physical ability, and hopefully they will push Bradley for that job.
"Andy Romanowsky will be back in the middle, to fight it out with Burch. He played some last year in a backup role. Then J.D. Schmidt, a redshirt freshman, will get some work at the middle linebacker spot.
"At the other linebacker spot, Jerome Ledbetter and Marco Williams are both back, both with experience. They will be fighting it out, and it should be a great competition there. Josh Ott, a redshirt freshman who we think will be an excellent player, will work in there or at one of the other spots. He's a guy we definitely want to get a good look at in the spring, because he made a lot of good plays as a freshman on the scout team."
Defensive BackfieldReturning Lettermen (6):
Notebook: Losing two players like Pedro Cirino and George White would be cause for concern to any coach. O'Brien and his staff, however, feel they have the right mix of experienced speed and young talent to mold a strong secondary unit.
To help fill the void, O'Brien has moved senior RaMon Johnson to free safety, replacing Cirino, where he will be backed up by some young talent. Two sophomores who saw significant playing time last season - Doug Bessette and Ralph Parent - will vie for the strong safety spot.
At corner, O'Brien feels that super-quick junior Jonathan Ordway has all-star potential. And he is pleased that senior D.J. Sutton, who was still recovering last season from anterior cruciate ligament surgery, should be back at full strength this year.
O'Brien says: "We have taken RaMon Johnson and moved him to safety, since we lost both our safeties. We'll give him the opportunity to play our free safety spot. We'll look at Jonathan Ordway and D.J. Sutton as having the first opportunities to play at the corner spots. Ordway, we think, can be one of the best corners in this conference. We've told him that in the next two years he could play himself into a top draft spot. He has excellent speed and good coverability. He came in as a tailback and bounced around for two years, and is still learning the position. But now, in his third year, he needs to step up. Sutton has finally recovered from his knee surgery. Now that he's totally healthy, hopefully he will get back to the form he showed his freshman and sophomore years before he got hurt.
"Those guys will be backed up by Willie Poole and Trevor White. Trevor played as a freshman and will back up the one corner, and Poole, who we think has good ability, may back up the other. Emmerson Phillips and K.J. Turkson are also two kids who could get a shot at those corner.
"We'll have two redshirt freshmen, Paul Cook and Brian Flores, right behind Johnson at safety, pushing him for the job. RaMon started off inside, because of some of the strength we had at corner, but when D.J. was injured, we had to move him back to corner. But I think that, with today's offenses the way they are, you need a safety who can be a cover guy. So, in essence, we may be playing with three corners in the game. Cook and Flores are both excellent prospects. Hopefully they will challenge for a job and be part of the two-deep.
"We took both Ralph Parent and Doug Bessette and moved them to the strong safety position to try to get some competition there. With some great competition there in spring practice, we think we'll come out with a starting strong safety after spring."
QuarterbacksReturning Lettermen (2):
Lettermen Lost (1): Dave Robbins
Notebook: The big story is that senior quarterback Tim Hasselbeck, who started 11 games for the Eagles last season and matured into a team leader by the end of the season, will be sidelined for most (if not all) of spring practice after undergoing groin/abdominal surgery. As Hasselbeck watches from the sidelines this spring, sophomore Brian St. Pierre and redshirt freshman Kevin Kiley will gain experience.
O'Brien says: "Tim Hasselbeck will probably be out most of the spring, if not all of it. We will need to be very guarded with him, because of his surgery. This will be a detriment to the offense, but it will give Brian St. Pierre a great opportunity to play a lot. Kevin Kiley, who is our redshirt freshman quarterback, will also get lots of work. Brian will gain the benefits of Tim not being at spring practice, and will have the opportunity to get a lot of coaching time this spring."
Running BacksReturning Lettermen (2):
Lettermen Lost (1): Carlton Rowe
Notebook: Tom O'Brien always seems to have a talented tailback on the roster, and this year is no exception. O'Brien, in fact, has much more than one talented tailback on the roster.
Senior Cedric Washington returns after a brilliant junior season in which he rushed for more than 1,000 yards and was a first-team All-BIG EAST selection. Washington is the 10th-leading returning rusher in the nation. He will, however, get some healthy competition from sophomore extraordinaire William Green, who concentrated primarily on kickoff returns and short yardage situations last year but is a solid number two tailback now with the departure of senior Carlton Rowe. A third young talent, redshirt freshman Derrick Knight, could work his way into the mix.
Now that O'Brien has moved Ryan Burch to fullback, and with the injury to Ryan Utzler, look for a pair talented and highly touted redshirt freshmen - J.P. Comella and Greg Toal - to battle it out for that spot.
O'Brien says: "At running back, we look to have a great competition between Cedric Washington and William Green. Obviously, Cedric had a great year last season. The bowl helped William a lot. The practice in the month of December was of great benefit to him. I look forward to that competition in the spring and I look forward to Derrick Knight, one of our redshirt freshmen, to work in at the third tailback spot.
"With the move of Burch to middle linebacker, it looks like we'll have two redshirt freshmen, J.P. Comella and Greg Toal, who will battle it out for the fullback spot. Ryan Utzler is going to have shoulder surgery, and will not participate in spring drills, but he will be back in the fall. That will give us a good look at those two redshirt freshmen to see where they would fit in, if Utzler is not able to come back, or if Burch stays on defense. "
Wide ReceiversReturning Lettermen (3):
Notebook: As a group of young talent has gained some maturity, O'Brien is optimistic about this position. Junior Dedrick Dewalt is coming off a very strong sophomore year in which he led the team in every receiving category and hauled in the longest touchdown catch in BC history - 97 yards from Tim Hasselbeck. He will likely be teamed with junior DuJuan Daniels, who was moved to wide receiver in last year's Navy game and responded by snagging a 64-yard pass for a touchdown on his first play ever at that position.
Sophomore Jamal Burke had an outstanding redshirt freshman year, playing in all 12 games for the Eagles and displaying flashes of brilliance (he caught two touchdown passes in BC's win at Notre Dame). Keith Hemmings also showed great promise before being sidelined for the last four games of the year with an injury. And the Eagles have an added bonus - Ryan Read, an outstanding receiver who transferred a year ago from the U.S. Naval Academy, will be eligible to suit up this spring.
O'Brien says: "We will be much better at this position, in terms of experience. Finally, we have created some depth. We are no longer young at that position. Dedrick Dewalt and DuJuan Daniels come back after having good years for us. That was a good move for us, moving Daniels to wide receiver. Ryan Read should be a great addition to that class. We look forward to him becoming part of the drills this spring. Jamal Burke played extremely well for us as a redshirt freshman last year. Keith Hemmings played as a true freshman but had a nagging hamstring injury. Hopefully he'll be 100 percent. With Kenney Gaskins thrown in, those six kids will fight it out.
"Chris Barnes is still recovering from ACL surgery, so I'm not sure if we'll get him on the field this spring, but from what we saw practice-wise last year, he looks like he could come in and help us, too. "
Tight EndsReturning Lettermen (3):
Lettermen Lost (1): *Bryan Arndt, Robert Ellis
Notebook: Graduated senior Bryan Arndt had an outstanding year for the Eagles and will leave big shoes to fill. O'Brien feels, however, that seniors Mike Guazzo and Robert Ellis are up for the task, with junior Josh Cervi also thrown into the mix.
O'Brien says: "We lose Bryan Arndt at this position, which is a big hole to fill. With Robert Ellis and Mike Guazzo back, they will certainly battle it out to see who will get the most playing time. We generally play two tight ends anyway, so those guys will get a lot of work. It's Cervi's time to step up and make some plays for us. He has been long-snapping for us, and this will be his third year in the program, so we look for some action out of him at tight end."
Offensive LineReturning Lettermen (8):
Notebook: This is definitely a good news-bad news scenario. The bad news is that first-team All-BIG EAST tackle Darnell Alford and reliable snapper Butch Palaza are gone. The good news is that BC also faced a good news-bad news scenario a year ago, with the departure of Doug Brzezinski, Dan Collins and Damien Woody, and guys like Paul LaQuerre, Mike Cook and Paul Zukauskas responded with outstanding years.
With those three seniors forming the nucleus, O'Brien is feeling good about his offensive line. Junior Marc Colombo also has gained valuable experience and could be a looming presence along the line.
Center will be the big hole to fill, and O'Brien will definitely be on the lookout to fill that slot this spring. Junior John Richardson and sophomores Dan Koppen and Todd McKniff are viable candidates.
O'Brien says: "With the return of Paul Zukauskas, Paul LaQuerre and Michael Cook, we have a good core on the offensive line. We need to find a center. John Richardson, Dan Koppen and Todd McKniff will have a chance this spring to compete for the starting center spot. Richardson and Mark Parenteau, who both played backup roles last year, are back. Augie Hoffmann is injured right now, so I'm not sure if he will make it for spring practice. Hopefully he'll be back by the last week. Frank Wilpert might get some playing time at tackle.
KickingReturning Lettermen (1):
Notebook: BC looks for improvement in this department. Sophomore punter Kevin McMyler improved throughout the course of his freshman season. O'Brien feels he could be one of the best punters in the conference by the end of his career.
Canadian kicker Sandro Sciortino has an extremely strong leg and could provide a needed boost in the placekicking department, both on kickoffs and field goals.
O'Brien says: "Kevin McMyler gained valuable experience last year. He has an excellent leg. I think he will get better and better and could be the premier punter in this conference in a couple of years.
"Look for Sandro Sciortino to take over the placekicking job. He has a very strong leg and had good accuracy. He'll get in a lot of field goal kicking this spring. That's one area where we need to improve. Our percentage was not very good last year. I know Sandro will help us in kickoffs, because he has such a strong leg and he'll put it in the endzone for us."