March 20, 2001
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. - Head coach Tom O'Brien and his 2001 Boston College football team head into spring practice, which begins on March 20, with experience returning on the defensive side of the ball, as there are eight starting positions back for the Eagles, while the offense will provide the question marks.
The 2000 season was a successful one for the Eagles as Boston College posted a 7-5 record and defeated Arizona State in the Jeep Aloha Bowl on Christmas Day by a 31-17 count. The trip to Hawaii marked the second-consecutive bowl appearance for the Eagles and 2000 was the second-straight winning season on the Heights.
BC had not been to back-to-back bowl games since the 1993-94 seasons and the two-straight winning campaigns marks just the second time since 1982-84 that the Eagles had consecutive winning seasons (joining 1993-95).
"Spring practice is a time for individual improvement," says Boston College head coach Tom O'Brien, who enters his fifth year in charge of the BC program. "That's what we look for in spring practice. As individuals improve, we believe we'll improve as a football team. You don't have a whole lot of time to do a tremendous amount of 'x and o' work during the spring. We've always taken it as a time to improve fundamentally as an individual. It is a time to work hard and that will make you better and the player on the other side of the ball better. We feel if we can come out of football as better individuals by the end of spring, then in August, we can work on a lot of 'x and o' items."
The Eagles have 40 lettermen returning from last season's teams, while 21 are lost. In terms of starting, six are back on offense, including sophomore Sean Ryan, who was a starter at defensive end last year, but moves over to tight end for 2001. On defense, eight starting spots are back, including senior Scott Bradley and junior Marco Williams at linebacker - a duo that shared a starting spot in 2000. In terms of special teams, junior punter Kevin McMyler returns.
"Right now, we have more experience on both sides of the ball for spring practice since I've been here," says O'Brien. "We are a deep football team this spring and we have kids who have played. Some of are players are still somewhat young, but they are in the years where they have to step up and should be ready to make a major contribution to the football team. We will have great competition in the spring and competition is always goods - it makes individuals better."
The strength of the Boston College football team on offense is the experienced corps of receivers. Both starting wide receivers are back from last year in senior Dedrick Dewalt and junior Jamal Burke. Dewalt led the Eagles in receptions last year with 38 catches for 676 yards and eight touchdowns while Burke was second with 26 for 386 and three TDs.Seniors Ryan Read, who played his first season last year for the Eagles after transferring from Navy, and DuJuan Daniels bolster the receiving attack. Daniels made 15 receptions a year ago for 161 yards while Read pulled in 13 catches for 204 yards. In the Aloha Bowl win, Read made a pair of catches for 42 yards - including a 42-yard touchdown.
Adding to the depth at receiver is junior Keith Hemmings (eight receptions for 116 yards and one TD in '00) plus sophomore Chris Barnes, who missed last year after undergoing knee surgery, and redshirt freshmen Grant Adams and Joel Hazard.
"We have a very strong group back in our receivers," says O'Brien. "The top four have played a lot of football and we have younger players in the program that will really push them."
One of the biggest losses the Eagles will look to replace this season is at quarterback, where two-year starter Tim Hasselebeck has graduated. Hasselbeck left BC ranked sixth in career passing yards (3,980) and fifth in passing touchdowns (29).
Boston College does have a replacement in line with some experience in junior Brian St. Pierre. St. Pierre has started two games in his career ('99 vs. Pittsburgh and '00 vs. Notre Dame). In addition, O'Brien usually uses his backup quarterback in the first possession of the second quarter in each game. Last year, St. Pierre was 47 of 77 in the air for 543 yards and four touchdowns.St. Pierre enters spring practice as the firm starter for the 2001 season as sophomore Kevin Kiley and redshirt freshman Eric Boatwright will battle for the No. 2 spot.
"We've given St. Pierre a good amount of experience," says O'Brien. "He's been in a number of football games and he has a leg up on the other quarterbacks in the program. It's key for Brian to get more experience and there is good competition for the backup spot."
Running back and fullback are two other positions where the Eagles return experience - despite the graduation of running back Cedric Washington - the 13th-leading rusher in school history with 1,982 yards.
Washington started nine games last year and rushed for 676 yards, but the leading rusher from last year's team returns this year in junior William Green.
Green was a first team all-BIG EAST pick last year with 1,164 yards on 187 carries for 14 touchdowns. He was the second-leading rusher in the BIG EAST and 20th in the country. His 1,164 yards last year were the sixth-highest in school history and the Eagles have now had a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the past three seasons.
Green rushed for over 200 yards in two games and over 100 yards in four contests.Providing depth at running back for Green is sophomore Derrick Knight, who rushed for 235 yards last year on 52 carries - including a 110-yard performance against Connecticut. Sophomore Greg Toal will also see time at runningback.
Senior Ryan Utzler returns at fullback as the starter and made 11 receptions last year for 76 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore J.P. Comella (four receptions for 96 yards in '00) should push Utzler at this spot. Redshirt freshman Haven Perkins will also work at fullback.
"We lose Washington and he was a key performer for us," says O'Brien. "But, we have Green back and he is among the best in the league. Knight actually had more carries in his first year of playing than Green did so we have some experience there. Both fullbacks are back from last year, which is good."
Boston College loses three starters on the offensive line from last year in guards Paul Zukauskas (a first team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association and second team by the Walter Camp Foundation and a first team all-BIG EAST pick) and Paul LaQuerre (a second team all-BIG EAST pick) and tackle Michael Cook (another second team all-BIG EAST pick).
The good news on the offensive line is that two experienced starters are back in junior center Dan Koppen and senior tackle Marc Colombo. Koppen started all 11 games last year and the bowl contest and was a second-team all-BIG EAST selection. Colombo, who plays on the right side, also started all 11 games and the Aloha Bowl. The duo and their graduated teammates allowed just six sacks last year during the regular season and helped BC rank 21st in the country in rushing offense at 201.0 yards per game.
Five players look to be in contention to fill the guard spots: senior John Richardson, who started two games last year plus the Aloha Bowl, sophomore Augie Hoffmann, who started one game, junior Mark Parenteau, redshirt freshman Chris Snee, and sophomore walk-on Leonard Bennett, who moves over from linebacker.
The other starting tackle spot should be filled by either sophomores Leo Bell, Dan Murphy, Rudy Dipietro and Frank Wilpert or redshirt freshman Jordan Stockwell, another player who has moved over from the defense.
Junior Todd McKniff and sophomore Jim Connor will look to provide depth at center.
"We have some experience on the offensive line, but not enough," says O'Brien. "We lost three quality player there and really have some work to do."
Boston College graduates all three of its performers that saw the majority of time at tight end last season in Josh Cervi, Robert Ellis and Mike Guazzo.
Sophomore Sean Ryan started six games last year on the defensive line, in addition to the bowl game, and will move over to tight end this season. Junior Frank Misurelli, who also played defense last year, will move over to tight end as well. Additional depth will come from a pair of redshirt freshmen in David Kashetta and Joe Tyburczy.
"Obviously, we have a concern at tight end," says O'Brien. "It is an area we will need to concentrate and work on."
Kickers and Punters
Mike Sutphin handled most of the kicking duties last year for Boston College and he has graduated. Sophomore Sandro Sciortino was a backup last season and will look to take over the starting role this year. Sciortino did gain experience last year as he took care of the kickoffs and was also the top kicker in spring drills of last year.
"It's Sandro's turn to step up," says O'Brien. "He has the ability to do it. He has to feel more comfortable and gain more confidence in his field goal kicking."
Punting is a solid position for the Eagles as junior Kevin McMyler returns for his third year as a starter. McMyler was fourth in the BIG EAST last year at 34.7 yards per punt.
Like the rest of the Boston College defense, the returning tackles feature a number of players who have experience, but are still young.
p>Four players will fight for playing time at the inside defensive tackle spots. Sophomore Doug Goodwin started five games last season and the Aloha Bowl game and registered 29 tackles with seven for a loss and two sacks. Sophomore Keith Leavitt
started 10 regular season games and the bowl game and made 49 tackles (sixth on the team and fourth among returnees) with five for a loss.
Sophomore Tom Martin started five games in 2000 and made 28 tackles, four for a loss, while sophomore Justin Hinds played in seven games as a true freshman and made 11 tackles.
Redshirt freshman Anthony Crosson will also be in the mix for playing time.
"We have a lot of experience on the defensive line, but the players are young," says O'Brien. "We have four key players who played as freshmen and redshirt freshmen last year."
Boston College struggled last year with losing players to injuries and the biggest loss might have been Antonio Garay, who injured his knee in the first defensive series of the year in the opener at West Virginia. Garay enters spring practice completely healthy and once again was a member of the BC wrestling team this past winter --- advancing to the quarterfinals of the heavyweight division in the NCAA Championship.
.Garay, who has 80 career tackles in two seasons and will be a senior this year, moves to defensive end in 2001 and is his joined there by another experienced veteran in senior Sean Guthrie. Guthrie started all 11 games and the bowl game last season and was ninth on the team with 37 tackles. He also led the team with eight tackles for a loss and six quarterback sacks.
Junior Derric Rossy, who had 31 tackles last year as a reserve in 11 games, provides backup. Also looking for playing time here will be three redshirt freshmen - Robert Bennett, Phillip Mettling and Myran Hunter.
Experience is plentiful at linebacker as O'Brien will look to a number of players. Senior Scott Bradley missed most of last season with a knee injury, but still managed to start five games and make 25 tackles. Bradley will look to hold one of the outside linebacker spots while junior Curtis Bolden, sophomore Josh Ott and junior Marco Williams also have considerable playing time.
Ott was fifth on the team last year with 50 tackles while Bolden started all 11 games plus the bowl contest and made 45 tackles - four for a loss. Williams started six games and made 22 tackles.
Also looking to make a run at outside linebacker is junior Jerome Ledbetter, who missed most of last season with a knee injury. Redshirt freshman Sydney Baskins also looks for playing time here.
The inside linebacker spot sees the graduation of Ryan Burch, who started eight games plus the bowl game last year. Candidates to fill this role include senior Andy Romanowsky (30 tackles in '00 and one start), sophomore J.D. Schmidt (10 tackles last year) and junior Vinny Ciurciu, a transfer from Clemson who sat out last season.
"We have a lot of players back at linebacker," says O'Brien. "Scott Bradley has to be a force for us. We need to get Jerome Ledbetter back in the swing and get more out of him."
The cornerback position will definitely be a strength of the Boston College football team this fall. Senior Lenny Walls returns after transferring from St. Mary's College in California and making an immediate impact on the BC team in the fall. Walls started seven games and the bowl contest for the Eagles and registered 42 tackles and led the team in interceptions with six and pass deflections with 11.
Sophomore Will Poole started nine games and the Aloha Bowl in 2001 and was the second-leading tackler on the team in stops with 75. He was also second on the team with eight pass deflections.
BC did lose Jonathan Ordway, who declared early for the National Football League Draft, but that should open up playing time for junior Trevor White. Redshirt freshman Peter Shean and junior K.J. Turkson will also fight for playing time at the corners.
Graduation hit the strong safety spot as Ramon Johnson, last year's leading tackler, is now gone. Junior Ralph Parent started all 11 games and the bowl contest at free safety last year while junior Doug Bessette (35 tackles last year) looks to be the other starting safety. O'Brien is still undecided on which players will take which safety spot.
Other candidates for playing time at safety are sophomores Paul Cook and Brian Flores and redshirt freshman T.J. Stancil.
"We have some excellent players coming back at cornerback," says O'Brien. "Willie Poole and Lenny Walls are probably the best corner tandem we've had here at BC in awhile."
THE 2001 SCHEDULE
The 2001 Boston College football team will play five teams that advanced to bowl games last season and has a schedule that features six home games at Alumni Stadium -- including matchups against Notre Dame and Miami (Fla.).
Boston College will open the 2001 season at home on Sept. 1 with a BIG EAST Conference matchup against West Virginia before heading to Stanford. After an off-week, the Eagles travel to Navy (Sept. 22) before returning home to face Army (Sept. 29) and Temple (Oct. 6).
A road game at Virginia Tech (Oct. 13) is followed by two more home games - Pittsburgh (Oct. 20) and the Irish (Oct. 27). Following another off-week the home schedule concludes against Miami (Nov. 10) and then the Eagles travel to Rutgers (Nov. 17) and Syracuse (Nov. 24).
The five bowl teams on the BC schedule are: West Virginia (winners of the Music City Bowl), Virginia Tech (winners of the Gator Bowl), Miami (winners of the Sugar Bowl), Pittsburgh (Insight.com Bowl participant) and Notre Dame (Fiesta Bowl participant).