Talking Boston College at Florida State with

This week we are joined by our friends at BC Interruption.  I have to admit that I really enjoy doing these question and answer sessions with the other ACC writers as we are a tight-knit group. Brian and Jeff do a tremendous job and are the main reason I have more respect for Boston College now than I did before I started writing (that, and BC has whipped FSU three of the last four years).  Be sure to visit them and check out my answers to their questions as well.  Let's get to it and find out more about the Eagles...

Multi-part: Going into this season, many people thought BC had a legit chance at the division and a 10-win season. The defense has held up its end of the bargain, but the offense has not. What are the problems with the offense? Would it be easier to list what is not broken with this offense? How much does BC miss the offensive coaches who left with Tom O'Brien and Jags?

Where do you want to begin? It starts with the Eagles offensive line, who has severely underachieved. The line hasn’t gotten the push to establish the running game with Montel and hasn’t given the Eagles signal callers enough time to go through their progressions. Spaz keeps juggling around the starters on the offensive line hoping that something will click but so far, the line play has been pretty poor. It was a bit better in the game last weekend against N.C. State, but there’s still a long way to go. There’s way too much talent on the line for them to be underachieving the way they are (second most returning offensive line starts in the conference).

At quarterback, Dave Shinskie and Mike Marscovetra have proven that they aren’t the answer for BC. Their footwork is off and something isn’t right with Shinskie’s throwing motion. Neither is a long-term solution for BC. Chase Rettig showed promise in his limited time against Notre Dame, but again, if the offensive line doesn’t improve, Rettig will be limited by his line play.

The wide receivers are incredibly inexperienced. BC is starting one senior (Ifeanyi Momah) and three freshmen / redshirt freshmen on this week’s two-deep roster. The Eagles were dealt a pretty significant blow when Colin Larmond Jr. went down with an injury in fall camp. The WRs have shown some potential, but without a decent QB to get them the ball, this is one of the weaker units on the Eagles offense.

About the only thing that has gone right is the running game. Montel Harris has only managed 4 yards a carry, but is getting those yards largely despite the poor play of the line and opponents stacking the box, not respecting Shinskie’s arm.

As for the coaching, something isn’t right with the offensive line. I believe that goes back to coaching. Same with the quarterbacks, whose footwork is all sorts of awful. I didn’t really care much for Dana Bible’s offenses under Tom O’Brien, but I do miss Steve Logan. A lot of people say that Logan’s success at BC was all because of Matt Ryan. I disagree, as Logan proved that he could adapt his offensive game plan based on the personnel available. I mean, BC got back to the ACC Championship Game with Chris Crane under center.

Would you be alright with Spaz if he brought in some offensive minds who did not come out of retirement? How much pressure is he under from the BC community? Are there other things he must change aside from the offense?

Other than coaxing Mike Leach out of retirement, yes. I’d welcome some new coaching blood on the offensive side of the ball. If things continue to spiral out of control for BC, I think you’ll see one of two things – either the school simply cuts their losses and breaks ties with Spaziani, or BC gives Spaziani another year under the condition that he gets rid of Gary Tranquill and completely overhauls the coaching on offense.

Tranquill is under some fire from the BC community, though I think most fans have directed their ire towards Spaziani. After all, he was the one that pulled Tranq out of retirement and gave him another coaching go-around.

Having seen excellent defenses mixed with terrible offenses before when Jeff Bowden was around, 'Nole fans know that those defenses eventually start to take chances and play outside the scheme because they realize the offense just won't score. Have you seen this from BC's defense yet? If not, do you worry it might happen?

The BC defense isn’t absolved of all blame. While the linebacking play has been good-to-great, BC still can’t sustain pressure on opposing quarterbacks and the defensive backs have been playing soft coverage. Russell Wilson is an excellent QB and he had his way with the Eagles pass defense on Saturday.

The run defense has been very good statistically, but we’ve also played teams (Weber State, NC State) that don’t rely heavily on the run.

I don’t think we’ve seen the defense press just yet. It could easily happen, especially if they are on the field for 35+ minutes like they were against N.C. State.

How important is it for BC, whether it gets a new coach or not, to maintain its M.O. of tough, disciplined, physical football? Could you ever see BC going to the spread full time?

I think it’s important to maintain an identity distinct from other ACC programs. I really believe that part of the Eagles’ success in the conference has been because they are different from other ACC programs. Any sort of competitive advantage comes from BC’s identity as a northern Catholic school that plays tough, disciplined and physical football.

Under Jags and Steve Logan, I could have seen BC going to the spread full time. Or at least a modified spread that fits the strengths of their offensive personnel. Spaz is much more old school (and Tranquill WAY old school) so I think that the guys that Spaz is bringing in will continue to play a brand of football that made BC successful in the early 2000s under Tom O’Brien. Whether that be under Spaz or someone else, I think the next few years will look much more like TOB football than Jags/Logan football.

How does BC keep finding these tackling machines? Luke Kuechly leads the nation in tackles and seems to get better and better.

Kuechly has been a welcome surprise and one of the few bright spots of the team through 5 games. He has great instincts and just seems to always find a way to the ball. He recorded 20 tackles last week and is averaging 14.2 a game, tops in the nation. It’s still early, but Kuechly has the chance to become one of the greatest BC linebackers of all time. The scariest part is he’s just a sophomore.

As for how BC keeps finding guys like Kuechly? No idea. Kuechly is a product of BC’s Cincinnati recruiting pipeline that Tom O’Brien established in the late 1990s and early 2000s. BC has had a lot of success recruiting guys from St. Xavier HS in Cincinnati – Tom O’Brien’s high school – and the greater Cincinnati area.

Given that BC is starting a freshman on the road, would you prefer BC use more of its big personnel (2 TE, FB, HB, 1 WR), protect the football, not turn it over, and run clock in order to protect Rettig, even if it meant the possibility of scoring points decreased?

I’m not sure it would be possible for point scoring to decrease, seeing as the offense has only managed less than 10 points a game in non-garbage time in their last 3 losses. BC needs to make an adjustment on offense. If that means using big personnel and opening the playbook to include some things we have yet to see this year, then I would welcome that (though we really haven’t seen one offensive play that BC has been consistently successful with, which is incredibly sobering).

I’m not too worried about BC’s young QB getting rattled or hurt on Saturday. The season is all but lost anyway at this point. A loss this Saturday all but eliminates BC from the Division title. Even with a win, BC would still need some help to get back to the Championship Game. Might as well start building for the future and develop Rettig by throwing him to the fire.

For BC, it didn’t have to come to this. The coaching staff could have decided that they would play the best guy under center (Rettig) and not tiptoe around the redshirting issue, and I think this season could have turned out much different. As it is though, the coaching staff went with the incumbent (Shinskie) and the wheels have pretty much fallen off BC’s season as a result.

Has FSU's resurgence within the division along with NC State's newfound success caused you to re-evaluate your multi-year goals for BC as a program?

I think it’s still too early to project out the Atlantic Division title race multiple years out based on the first half of the 2010 season. Florida State and N.C. State have both gotten off to fast starts, but I’m not ready to crown the Seminoles or the Wolfpack the Atlantic Division champ for the next 3-5 years. Other than the Miami game, which FSU clearly manhandled, most projected FSU at 4-2 or 5-1 at this point in the season anyway. NC State has been more of a surprise this year, but O’Brien’s crew still has games against Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina to knock them back down to earth a bit.

I will say this though. I firmly believe that 2010 will go down as one of the biggest wasted opportunities in program history. BC was handed a gift schedule in 2010. A schedule that included:

  • Duke and Virginia from the Coastal Division
  • Four straight home games to start the season
  • An extra week to prepare for Virginia Tech
  • Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Clemson at home – three teams that beat BC a year ago
  • No 2009 bowl teams in the month of November (Wake Forest, Duke, Virginia, Syracuse)
That schedule was cake (anytime a BC, FSU or Clemson draws Duke and Virginia from the other side, you have to capitalize). Combine that with some great storylines – Herzlich’s return, Johnathan Coleman’s "Blind Side"-esque story, Castonzo’s Rhodes Scholarship candidacy – and like you said, this season had all the makings of a division title and a 10-win season.

In the short term, next season doesn’t look promising. BC has just six home games and road trips to South Bend, Blacksburg, Clemson and Miami Gardens. Other than the game against FSU next season, the home schedule is largely uninteresting (Wake Forest, NC State and Duke come to Chestnut Hill, along with Northwestern to open the season and UMass). Ticket sales will be soft.

I’m not expecting the Eagles to make noise in the Atlantic Division race next season given a brutal road schedule. In general though, I don’t think the multi-year goals should be lowered or altered. BC has proven that they can compete in the ACC Atlantic and in most years, I think our football program will be competitive and have a shot at the division title going into October and November.

A big thanks to Brian and Jeff for the extremely thoughtful answers.  Be sure to visit their site to read what I had to say about Florida State and to view their analysis of the game as well.  

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