Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Longtime Boston College assistant Bill McGovern is in the midst of his first year as the Eagles' defensive coordinator. The transition has been smooth, considering McGovern is entering his 10th season in Chestnut Hill, and he replaced former defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani, who is now the head coach. Spaz and McGovern have a great relationship, and the system stayed the same, so no major headaches there.
Finding linebackers, though, is a different story.
McGovern has coached BCs linebackers since 2000, and he's had the luxury of coaching talented players like Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Brian Toal, Mark Herzlich, Mike McLaughlin and Robert Francois.
This spring, Herzlich, the ACC's defensive player of the year, is the only name remaining ACC fans would recognize. McLaughlin is out this spring with a torn Achilles and the others have since graduated.
"Right now we're in the process of trying to find who the next best players are," McGovern said.
Among those auditioning for it are sophomores Will Thompson, Dominick LeGrande and redshirt sophomore Nick Clancy, along with a host of others.
"Right now the biggest issue for the new guys is the learning curve," McGovern said. "They've got to speed it up. Nothing substitutes for reps and playing experience. These guys don't have that luxury, and we don't have the luxury to wait for them to get it. They have to get it this spring."
Especially if the Eagles want to uphold their tradition as a strong defensive team. Boston College finished 2008 season fifth in the nation and first in the ACC in total defense, No. 1 in the ACC in pass efficiency defense, and No. 1 in the ACC in rushing defense.
"Spaz has set the bar high here, obviously, on defense, and everybody here, we've talked about it at every position," McGovern said. "We're trying to get the best group of guys we can on the field."
None of the young linebackers have any significant playing experience, which makes Herzlich's return that much more valuable.
"Mark obviously is an outstanding talent," McGovern said. "He's in that meeting room every day with the kids, and he's watching with them. He's taken a few guys under his wing, trying to get them to understand the importance of doing everything right every time."