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Amid Controversies, New Coach Impressed

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff




May 1, 2007

CHESTNUT HILL – It may be the offseason, but all kinds of things were happening on the Boston College campus as April wound down.

The latest news (non-women's hockey-related, anyway) out of spring football camp was the hiring of an old friend. Jack Bicknell Jr. was wooed away from a new job at Texas Tech to become the assistant head coach and offensive line coach at his alma mater.

"Really good hire," new BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski said after hiring Bicknell, Doug Flutie's center during the glory years of the 1980s, while playing for his father Jack Sr. "He was back (here), with his dad, when they had all those great teams here. I'm really thrilled that he's going to be here. He brings a lot of experience, both as a head coach and as an offensive line coach, and I'm just thrilled to have him back here."

Jim Turner, one of the new hires on the reconstructed staff, reportedly banged heads with the head coach on the zone-blocking system the Eagles are installing. The pair apparently didn't get along from Day One, and Turner left. So did a young recruiting assistant, Nick Uhlenhopp, who became the head of football operations at Western Kentucky, and an administrative assistant.

Jagodzinski said he'd spoken to Bicknell before rounding out his staff. But things just worked out this time. The head coach himself took over the offensive line when Turner left.

Jagodzinski, hired after Tom O'Brien departed for N.C. State, liked what he saw from his football team as it got ready for the annual spring game. Before leaving, O'Brien said he thought the 2007 Eagles would have been his best team, and Jagodzinski has seen enough to know that his team can be really good.

"I tell you what impressed me is how they come up and hit, on defense in particular," Jagodzinski said. "I mean, those guys wrap up, and they will hit you, and they are tough. There's no question about the toughness that this team has. That's a good thing to have, and they're not afraid to come up and knock you in the mouth, which was good to see.

"Our run defense, I was really impressed with the way we fit gaps and the way that Frank (defensive coordinator Spaziani) had these guys coached up. The continuity was the best thing that I did for this program, with Frank running the defense and Billy (McGovern) doing the linebackers. That was a real positive for this program.

"They're a great group of kids, exactly what I thought I was getting when I walked into this place, the type of character kid that's here."

Jagodzinski said he expected that linebacker Brian Toal, who had shoulder surgery in January, will be back for the fall, even though there has been talk of Toal redshirting his senior year and coming back stronger in 2008.

The coach expects Toal back, but he loves the depth the team has at the position. He said linebacker still will be the strongest on the depth chart, with or without Toal. He added that if Toal does play, Kevin Akins could be shifted back to safety.

Among those the new coach said jumped out at him was offensive lineman Matt Tennant, a redshirt freshman last season. Tennant may earn the starting center spot, with last year's center, Kevin Sheridan, moving to guard.

Jagodzinski said the 2007 Eagles will throw the ball down the field more than its predecessors, using the talent of senior-to-be quarterback Matt Ryan and the speed of Jeff Smith. The latter returned kicks last year and provided huge excitement when he touched the ball, which didn't happen much on offense. It will this season.

Previously, Jagodzinski said he had no reaction to comments made by O'Brien after the N.C. State spring game. The former BC coach said, "At BC, nine or 10 wins a year was about as good as you could do. The sky is the limit here. We're not here to win nine or 10 a year. We're here to win more."

Jagodzinski insisted that he wasn't aware of what O'Brien said.

"I don't want to get into that," he said. "I'm not even going to comment on that, because it doesn't matter. It is what it is right now. I don't even know what was said so … I guess that really doesn't matter anymore, does it? You worry about those guys right here, so … that'll be it about that deal. I don't want to get into that deal with him. What's the point? Is there one? No, there's not."

Asked if this might spice up the BC-NCSU rivalry, Jags said, "I'm sure it will."

In another post-O'Brien note, safety Ryan Glasper, who returned from a hip injury in the fifth game last season after it was reported that he would sit out the season and come back for a fifth year, revealed on a national radio show that he was steamed at O'Brien for forcing him to play last year.

Glasper said that NFL people told him his draft status would have been higher with another year of college ball, and he said that O'Brien told him he had to play because a fifth year wouldn't be available to him.

But sources said O'Brien told him to play because doctors cleared Glasper and the coach felt he could help the team, which he did upon his return.

SKINNER DISCUSSES NBA, PLAYERS

BC basketball coach Al Skinner said he hasn't heard from the Charlotte Bobcats or any other NBA team about a coaching job. The former pro player added that he's not sure if he'd be excited about listening if a call did come.

"You can never say never. You always want to talk, but I really don't have any intent on going anywhere," he said. "I'm happy in the situation I'm in. I'm in a darn good spot. The money is good and has the potential to be very good."

Skinner said, and AD Gene DeFilippo confirmed, that talks are continuing about an extension at BC.

"We're working on it," Skinner said. "We talk every year. If I was unhappy, that would be a different situation. Hey, if I wanted to leave I could have been gone by now. There's no other college job I'd want and no other place I'd really want to live."

Friends of Skinner believe that he once wanted an NBA coaching job, but that desire has cooled.

Looking ahead to next year, Skinner said that swingman Rakim Sanders, rated as the plum of the incoming class, is now on track to qualify academically.

"I'm so happy for the kid," Skinner said.

Skinner said that center Sean Williams, booted from the team for violations of team rules during the second half of last season, has stayed in school and will be a full three years toward graduation come next month. Williams declared for the NBA draft in late April.

Skinner added that he didn't know the whereabouts of forward Akida McLain, who also was dismissed from the Eagles this season. The coach said the last thing he'd heard was that McLain planned to attend Youngstown State but hadn't shown up yet.