CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- It remains one of the unsung feats of 2009. Boston College began the season with a quarterback who had never taken a snap in a game, a 25-year-old former Double-A reliever named Dave Shinskie, and finished with an 8-5 record. Smoke, meet mirrors.
It is logical to assume that now that Shinskie has earned a letter, all is well and good with the Eagles. Shinskie believes so.
“I have come a long ways on the football field from when I came here last summer,” he said.
His coaches are waiting to be convinced that Shinskie understands the work it takes to be a good quarterback in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They understand why Shinskie may not have figured it out. When you ride buses for seven summers, and your biggest intellectual challenge is a scouting report and which fast-food place the bus may stop at, it’s tough to dive into a daily diet of pass-coverage video.
“You have a game every day,” Shinskie said, “but as a relief pitcher, I wasn’t pitching every day. Here, you have practice or you lift, you’re running or you’re rushing out to make classes in between. You’re rushing out every day somewhere, two meetings a day. It’s the mental part of football that’s time-consuming. That’s the thing that people outside of football don’t understand.”
Shinskie, of course, was outside of football until he came to Boston College. When he describes the difference in him this spring from last season, he sounds as if the light bulb above his helmet may have gone on.
“I can do this,” he said, “if I just know what coverage they are playing before the ball is snapped.”
Veteran coach Gary Tranquill reaffirmed his stature as a master teacher by transforming Shinskie into a serviceable quarterback last season. Shinskie threw for 2,049 yards last season. He threw 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Tranquill spoke in automotive terms. Last year, he said, the offense under Shinskie was “maybe first gear. We’re a little ahead of that; maybe second gear now.”
Shinskie, Tranquill said, “sees things better. He has a little bit better understanding of what’s going on. He throws the ball well. He’s pretty accurate. ... I still think he doesn’t totally understand that one of the things, if the goal is to do better, is spend a little bit more time studying the football part of it, not come over here and forget it until you come back over here.”
Boston College wants more. The analogy that Eagles head coach Frank Spaziani uses indicates how far he believes Shinskie has to go.
“We were admitted to the emergency room last year, with the quarterback situation,” Spaziani said. “We were in dire straits. We came out of the emergency room and we lived. We’re still in intensive care.”
Tranquill has seen more leadership this spring from Shinskie, a guy who lives his life in a low key. And it’s hard to lead when you don’t know Cover 2 from, well, third base.
“You learn that if you might not know what you’re doing, you have to act like you know what you’re doing,” Shinskie said.
Behind Shinskie is sophomore Mike Marscovetra and two January enrollees. No one has put away the smoke and mirrors just yet.