What Boston College coach Frank Spaziani managed to do in his first season as the Eagles' leader was difficult to imagine at this point a year ago.
To have won eight games with a new starting quarterback, a new coaching staff, and their best player sidelined by cancer, it's an understatement to say the Eagles exceeded expectations in 2009. Boston College was picked by the media to finish last in Atlantic Division.
But that's what BC does -- better than you think.
Since the 2005 season, its first in the conference, Boston College has won 44 games, the most during that span with the exception of Virginia Tech, which has won 47.
So it's time to give BC a little more credit from the start. Sure, Boston College has questions to answer. Everyone does. But here are three good reasons why the Eagles should be considered a contender to win their division right from the start. After all, that's where they left off last November.
The running game. With four starting offensive linemen returning, Montel Harris should repeat as one of the most successful running backs in the country. He finished No. 18 in the FBS last year with 112.08 yards per game. After just two seasons, Harris leads all active ACC runners with 13 100-yard rushing performances. (Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams in second place with 10 after just one season.) Harris rushed for 1,457 yards and 14 touchdowns last fall. He'll have a formidable front blocking for him, led by offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo, who has started 41 straight games, the most of any player in the ACC. (Castonzo is out this spring with a broken foot.)
The return of Herzlich. He's not doing any hitting this spring, but the impact of having Herzlich back on the field after a long but successful fight against Ewing's Sarcoma is immeasurable. Herzlich is invaluable not only from a leadership and inspirational standpoint, but also because he was the ACC's top defender in 2008. That season, Herzlich tied for the national lead among all linebackers for pass interceptions (six), returning two for touchdowns. Herzlich and Luke Kuechly could prove to be one of the nation's best combinations of linebackers.
Second season under new staff. There was a smooth transition defensively last year, since Spaziani was formerly the defensive coordinator, but quarterback Dave Shinskie and offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill have had a year to get to know each other. Whether or not Shinskie remains the starter through August is yet to be determined, but improvement in the passing game should be expected in Year 2. This staff has now had a chance to go out and recruit together, and assess their personnel and start to rebuild the depth. They had less to work with last year and won eight games.