No need to rebuild for BC's new boss

Jeff Jagodzinski's task at Boston College is simple.

Make a good thing better.

While most schools go looking for a head coach following a bad season, the prospects in Chestnut Hill, Mass., have never been better.

Sixteen starters return from a team that became only the third in BC history -- and the first since Doug Flutie's 1984 crew -- to register at least 10 wins in a single season. The Eagles (10-3, 5-3 ACC) also advanced to the postseason for the eighth consecutive year and won their seventh straight bowl game, the nation's longest active streak.

None of that was enough to keep Tom O'Brien from jumping inside the ACC's Atlantic Division to accept North Carolina State's coaching offer in December.

BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo quickly settled on Jagodzinski, 43, as O'Brien's replacement. Jagodzinski edged Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple and New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.

Jagodzinski, BC's offensive coordinator in 1997 and 1998 during O'Brien's first two seasons at the school, spent the past eight years in the NFL, including last season as offensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers.

"As far as the pressures and having to win, that's no different from what I've experienced [in the NFL]," Jagodzinski said. "I would much rather be in a position of taking over a program on solid ground rather than have to build it from scratch because it gives you a chance to compete right away and that's what we'll be able to do."

Despite the recent run of success at Boston College, Jagodzinski has been left room for improvement. The Eagles never have played in a BCS game or won an outright conference championship.

BC might have done it last season, but the Eagles sustained their three losses by 2, 3 and 7 points.

"They've been very consistent," said Jagodzinski, who goes by the moniker "Jags." "What we need to do is win one more. That line between winning or losing is so fine. It comes down to guys making plays at the right time and coaches making the calls at the right time. We are close and these guys realize that."

The Eagles arguably have as good a shot as anyone in the ACC to win an expected wide-open conference race.

BC has plenty going for it, including the return of first-team, All-ACC quarterback Matt Ryan.

Ryan led the ACC in passing average (245.2 yards per game) and total offense (242.2 ypg) in 2006 while also registering a 61.6 completion percentage and throwing 15 touchdown passes despite playing virtually all season on one good leg.

The 6-foot-5, 218-pound native of Exton, Pa., sustained a high left ankle sprain in BC's season opener and then broke his left foot against Virginia Tech on Oct. 12. He missed only one game, but practiced sparingly.

On Jan. 5, Ryan underwent surgery to insert a screw in his foot. He is taking part in spring practice, which began at BC on March 24, and has declared himself "healthy again."

Ryan, a senior, said he wants to make the 2007 season memorable.

"While we did win 10 games for the first time in a long time last year, it's still a little bittersweet because we didn't accomplish what we set out to accomplish," Ryan said. "It was a good season, but not a great season. The expectations coming into this year are to make it a great season … take care of our business and win the ACC."

Ryan is one of seven starters on offense who return for BC, although there will be new wrinkles in the Eagles' attack. Steve Logan, the former East Carolina coach who developed quarterbacks Jeff Blake and David Garrard with the Pirates, was hired by Jagodzinski as offensive coordinator.

Jagodzinski said he and Logan will tweak BC's offensive system with the aim of producing 150 rushing yards and 250 passing yards on a per-game basis.

Ryan said that he's not worried about the new coaching staff upsetting what the Eagles had going last season when they ranked second in the ACC in total offense (355.6 ypg) and third in scoring offense (26.0 ppg).

"That's a concern that a lot of people outside of the team would buy into, but everybody on the team knows we have a great coaching staff coming in," Ryan said. "While we had a great time with Tom O'Brien and we really appreciate all he did, I don't think there is going to be any letdown from this team next year."

That should certainly be the case on defense where nine starters are back. The most important return is that of defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani, who could have followed O'Brien to NC State but chose to return for an 11th season -- 10th as the defensive boss -- at BC.

Spaziani and linebackers coach Bill McGovern are the only holdovers from O'Brien's staff.

"Retaining Frank was critical," Jagodzinski said. "Instead of changing terminology and changing the way things were done on defense, we were able to maintain that stability."

Stability is fine at BC, where the football team's run of eight consecutive winning seasons is the longest at the school since the Eagles finished above .500 for 11 straight years from 1916 through '26.

But a winning record is not all Jagodzinski is looking for, which makes him glad BC opens the season on Sept. 1 against defending ACC champion Wake Forest.

"They're the ACC champion and if you aspire to be the champion, you have to beat the champion," Jagodzinski said.

At BC, winning a conference championship definitely would make a good thing better.

Jorge Milian covers the ACC for The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post.