Clancy impresses in replacing Kuechly

NEWTON, Mass. -- Never one to over-praise, Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani risked doing the opposite when asked to review one player's performance in the Eagles' opener.

"Clancy was OK," he said. "We've had worse in there."

Clancy is Nick Clancy, a fifth-year senior who until this season was mostly a reserve. He already has his communications degree, and decided to come back for a fifth year with no guarantee that he'd play a major role on the field for the Eagles.

Then he showed up this spring and summer, jumped into the competition for the middle linebacker spot vacated by Luke Kuechly and impressed the coaching staff.

"Nick was a pleasant surprise," Spaziani said, "and he has been all preseason. I think he'll be fine."

Clancy manned the middle against Miami, finishing tied for third on the roster with eight tackles. And according to his teammates, there was little drop-off from last season.

"Nick is a fifth-year senior, so it was nothing really different," Kasim Edebali said. "He used to play with the twos [on defense], I been on the field with him for a long time. All the guys on the defense know him really well. So it wasn't much different.

"We feel comfortable with what he's saying, we trust him. We've got his back, he's got our back."

The 6-foot-3, 232-pound Plainfield, Ill., native said he worked hard this offseason to improve his football IQ. He wanted to be ready if he got the mike linebacker spot.

"When it's all said and done, you're the guy that sets everybody up, you communicate the defense for everybody," he said. "That's kinda what I tried to do this offseason, prepare myself mentally to make those kind of calls, be able to make adjustments when the offense audibles and stuff like that."

Consider his first game as the mike a sort of baptism by fire.

"That was definitely a challenge, that being my first game, facing an offense that went hurry-up," Clancy said of facing Miami's offense. "They were kinda just getting the signals from the sidelines and going from there, they weren't huddling up."

Said Spaziani: "That's not easy. Even though he's a five-year senior, been around, to go in the first game in a new position, starting, have a lot of responsibility … But that's why we put him there. He did a reasonably good job."

Edebali said Clancy really knows his stuff, and is determined to make sure that everyone else on the defense does, too.

"Clancy's a really smart guy," the defensive lineman said. "Even after practice he comes up to me, 'Kasim, did you get the call?' Just communicates with us on and off the field so we understand what we have to do and we're always on the same page."

Since he doesn't have the benefit of a radio in his helmet to communicate with his coaches, Clancy needs to know the calls defensive coordinator Bill McGovern relays from the sideline cold.

"I've always maybe thought a wristband or something would help with all the plays and stuff," he said with a smile, "but on defense Coach McGovern trusts us to make all the calls and he relies on everybody to know their stuff. Once you hear that signal called something flicks on in your brain and you know what you've gotta do.

"That's your job and you gotta go do it."

Which is really all Clancy is trying to do for the Eagles this season.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.