Kiper: 2001 Big East football preview

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Friday, August 3

Boston College football preview

The Eagles, coming off a 7-5 campaign that included a victory over Arizona State in the Aloha Bowl, enter the 2001 season with a relatively young squad that will be counting on a host of sophomore and junior starters. Of the starting 22, the Eagles expect to have seven seniors, nine juniors and six sophomores.

OFFENSE
While junior QB Brian St. Pierre is technically considered a new starter, he gained a great deal of experience as a backup. In fact, he has seen action in 24 games, two of them as the starter. In head coach Tom O'Brien's system, the backup QB is inserted into the lineup on the first possession of the second quarter in each game.

Eagles at a glance
2001 schedule
Sept. 1 vs. West Virginia
Sept. 8 at Stanford
Sept. 22 at Navy
Sept. 29 vs. Army
Oct. 6 vs. Temple
Oct. 13 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 20 vs. Pittsburgh
Oct. 27 vs. Notre Dame
Nov. 10 vs. Miami (Fla.)
Nov. 17 at Rutgers
Nov. 24 at Syracuse

2000 results
(7-5, 3-4 Big East)

at West Virginia L 34-14
at Army W 55-17
Navy W 48-7
Virginia Tech L 48-34
Connecticut W 55-3
Syracuse W 20-13
at Pittsburgh L 42-26
Rutgers W 42-13
Temple W 31-3
at Notre Dame L 28-16
at Miami (Fla.) L 52-6
vs. Arizona St. W 31-17

Early this season, St. Pierre will rely heavily on the rushing of blue-chip junior William Green, who last season accounted for nearly 1,200 yards, averaging an impressive 6.2 yards per carry and scoring 14 TDs. At FB, sophomore J.P. Comella has the edge over incumbent Ryan Utzler going into the fall. His blocking skills are the key, since the Eagles rarely utilize the FB as a running option.

At WR, the Eagles have a pair of capable performers in junior Jamal Burke and senior Dedrick Dewalt, with Ryan Read and DuJuan Daniels providing depth. The problem area, however, could be tight end. The top three from last year have moved on, necessitating the shift of Sean Ryan and Frank Misurelli from the defensive line.

The offensive line will have three new starters but should be more than adequate. That's due to the presence of veteran OT Marc Colombo and junior center Dan Koppen. In the Big East, Colombo ranks as one of the elite bookends. As for the new starters, keep an eye on sophomore guard Augie Hoffman, a highly regarded prospect.

DEFENSE
The Eagles suffered a major blow with the suspension of talented sophomore CB Willie Poole. Last year, Poole was BC's second-leading tackler with 75. Now, junior Trevor White, who checks in at just 5-8 and 180 pounds, has to step in at CB. He'll work opposite senior Lenny Walls, who is arguably the Eagles' top defensive player and one of the Big East's elite CBs. The 6-3¼, 191-pounder is coming off a 2000 campaign that saw him pick off six passes, break up 11 and record four sacks.

As for the front seven, everything revolves around senior DEs Sean Guthrie and Antonio Garay. After leading the Eagles with six sacks and eight tackles for loss, Guthrie is primed for an outstanding final campaign in Chestnut Hill. Garay, a physically talented 6-4, 290-pounder, missed basically all of last season after suffering a knee injury against West Virginia in the opener. Fortunately for BC, he was back in the spring.

The key performer at LB figures to be MLB Vinny Ciurciu, a transfer from Clemson who sat out last year. In the spring, Ciurciu showed the ability to range sideline to sideline.

SPECIAL TEAMS
On the special teams, punter Kevin McMyler returns after averaging nearly 40 yards on 63 punts. The kicking situation, however, is a huge question mark. Entering fall, unproven sophomore Sandro Sciortino figures to be the top candidate.

Overview: The Eagles appear to be built more for 2002, with so many juniors and sophomores in the starting lineup, but St. Pierre at least has plenty of game experience at QB and Green is one of the top RBs in the country. BC also has a solid receiving corps. The offensive line, even with three new starters moving in, figures to be adequate. At TE, one of the two former DEs, Ryan or Misurelli, must be up to the task. The defense is keyed by Guthrie and Garay, both of whom have the ability to generate steady outside pass pressure on opposing QBs. After a strong spring performance, transfer Ciurciu could be the solution at MLB. The loss of Poole in the deep patrol was critical. Had he been part of the equation, the Eagles would have fielded quite a CB tandem. Still, CB Walls ranks with the top players at his position in college football.

One of the biggest concerns going into the fall is the kicking situation. With St. Pierre settling in at QB, the Eagles can't afford missed opportunities when drives stall inside the opponent's 25-yard line. As for the schedule, things will be interesting right away. The Eagles open at home against West Virginia, then travel to Palo Alto to face Stanford. And check out the latter portion of the schedule that includes Virginia Tech on the road, followed by home games against Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Miami (Fla.). For a young team with just seven senior starters, BC will face some major challenges.

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