As spring football season draws to a close across the country, BlueandGold.com will be providing a breakdown of how things wrapped up for each of Notre Dame’s 2012 opponents courtesy of the reporters that cover them on a regular basis.
Nov 10, 2012 — TBA
Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Head coach: Frank Spaziani (19-19 record entering his 4th full season)
2011 record: 4-8
Boston College’s program has been in a steady decline since longtime defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani took over as head coach in 2009. The Eagles won three of their last four games in 2011 to salvage a disastrous start. This year Spaziani brought in two new coaches to take over the offense and try to right the ship.
Doug Martin, formerly from New Mexico State and Kent State where he mentored Irish assistant Scott Booker, is the team’s new offensive coordinator. He’ll be working side-by-side with former Ohio State assistant Jim Bollman, who was replaced by former Irish assistant Ed Warriner when Urban Meyer took over for the Buckeyes. They will try to resurrect an offense that finished ranked in the triple digits in all but one NCAA category.
Junior quarterback Chase Rettig has never had the supporting cast to shine, and he will likely be without a deep threat receiver again this year. Boston College is expected to run a nickel-and-dime attack this season and rely on the defense to keep scores low, according to the Boston Herald’s Rich Thompson.
“They’re going to try to be a chain-moving offense,” Thompson said. “They’re not just going to go out and march down the field in seven plays and score. They’re going to have to rely on killing a lot of clock with sustained drives and try to keep their defense as fresh as possible.”
The defense returns the majority of its starters, but has one gaping hole in the middle without two-time All-American Luke Kuechly on the roster. Kuechly would have demolished the NCAA record for career tackles if he returned for his final season. Instead, he was a top ten NFL Draft pick and the Eagles have to find out just how much he helped their defense.
Spaziani will dedicate most of his time this season to building the defense and finding a way to replace Kuechly’s productivity. His job likely depends on it.
Biggest Strength After Spring: Offensive Line
The Eagles have churned out as much NFL offensive linemen talent as any team in the country during the past decade. This year is no different. Four starters return, but three will be in new places. Tackles Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel (both roughly 6-foot-8, 300 pounds) will flip-flop as Clearly takes over at left tackle. Junior Ian White slides from guard to center to replace senior Mark Spinney.
“White is a real beast,” Thompson said. “They’ll be able to open up some holes. They’re known as O. Line U. and there’s no question that’s the strength of the team this year.”
Biggest Question Mark After Spring: Middle Linebacker
Replacing Kuechly and his eye-popping 191 tackles is impossible to do with a single player. The Eagles will need to find answers along their defensive line and contributions covering the width of the field from talented outside linebackers like juniors Kevin Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto.
“They want to stay with the 4-3 defense, which is what Kuechly allowed them to do because he could cover so much ground, his lateral movement was off the charts,” Thompson said.
Divitto and Pierre-Louis should help, but it remains to be seen how big of an impact Kuechly really had. They didn’t go far to find his actual replacement at middle linebacker. Sophomore Sean Duggan and incoming freshman Steven Daniels, who are expected to compete for the spot in August, both graduated from the same high school as Kuechly, Saint Xavier in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Biggest Surprise of the Spring: RB Montel Harris
Harris was not a good surprise for Boston College. The school’s all-time leading rusher was dismissed for breaking team rules shortly after the spring season ended. Harris ran for 3,735 career yards while dogged by a series of knee injuries.
“I think more or less it was really just a divorce. It just wasn’t going to work out,” Thompson said. “I don’t think they thought they were going to get anything out of him. The knee is too damaged.”
Without Harris, Boston College will enter August searching for a sure thing at running back. Junior Rolandan Finch might become that guy if he can cure his fumbling problems.
Summer Storyline: Finding Firepower
Martin and Bollman have their work cut of for them with Boston College’s offense. Harris’s absence is one more obstacle in finding some electricity among the Eagles skill positions.
Rettig has underperformed at quarterback in his first two season, but that’s not entirely his fault. Leading receivers Bobby Swigert and Colin Lamond had three touchdowns each last season. Neither seems to have big-play ability. The Eagles are hoping sophomore Spiffy Evans can fill that role.
Evans is small (6-0, 173 pounds) but showed some flash as a returner late in his freshman season. Thompson said he also expects tight end Chris Pantale to be a bigger part of the offense this year. Even one dynamic source of offense this season could go a long way in helping the Eagles’ chances to get back above. 500.