July 31, 2007
CHESTNUT HILL Boston College scored its first "victory" over former coach Tom O'Brien at the ACC Kickoff in Pinehurst, N.C.
N.C. State and O'Brien were tabbed to finish last in the Atlantic Division by the league's media. The Eagles, the team O'Brien left behind, were selected to finish second. BC even earned 25 first-place votes while finishing second in the Atlantic projections to Florida State, which pulled down 37.
Obviously, this means nothing compared to what happens between the Eagles and the Wolfpack in the second game of the season, on Sept. 8, when O'Brien will bring his team to Alumni Stadium to face his former charges.
Before leaving The Heights, O'Brien told people he thought this would have been his best BC team. Indeed, the Eagles figure to be strong, even with the expected announcement that ace linebacker Brian Toal will redshirt this season, while still recovering from shoulder surgery.
Two of the guys who starred for O'Brien quarterback Matt Ryan and linebacker Jolonn Dunbar ran into their old coach in the lobby of the hotel at the ACC Kickoff event, as folks from around the league were arriving.
"We talked for about 20 minutes, and it was good to see him," Dunbar told the Boston Herald, "though I still think Matt and I did most of the talking."
When the coaches got together to meet the media, there was O'Brien in his red State garb, while new BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski again downplayed the significance of the two teams meeting so soon after O'Brien's departure.
"Everyone's making a big deal out of it, but I don't think it really is a big deal," Jagodzinski said. "Because, once it's kicked off, it's really not going to matter, anyway."
The new coach, who was hired by O'Brien as an assistant back at the beginning of the O'Brien era at BC, did allow for the magnitude of the game for the players. He didn't get into the fans.
"I'm sure it's going to be an emotional game for some people," Jagodzinski said, "but for me, not really. I'm sure the kids will be emotional about it."
Jagodzinski made a point of saying that he found a note from O'Brien on his desk after he arrived at BC, the note wishing him well. Jagodzinski returned the favor. The N.C. State game is in the middle of an important stretch that has the Eagles playing three straight conference games to open the schedule.
"I think, playing three conference games in a row, I'm going to find out what kind of football team I'm going to have real fast," Jagodzinski said. "But you're going to have to beat those teams eventually to get where we want to get to, and wherever they fall on the schedule, they fall."
BC will open the season with home games against Wake Forest and State before going to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech. The Eagles are 1-3 against Wake in the past four years, 1-1 in the ACC. The Demon Deacons beat BC 21-14 in Winston-Salem last year, while State stunned the Eagles 17-15 in Raleigh. BC has yet to meet Georgia Tech in conference play.
"We're 1-3 against Wake Forest since I've been here," Ryan said. "Last year, they just outplayed us."
AUDIBLES UP, WEIGHTS DOWN
Of all the things Ryan, the preseason ACC player of the year, likes about Jagodzinski and the new offensive staff, none is more important to the quarterback than being given the ability to audible at the line of scrimmage.
There wasn't much of that when Dana Bible ran the offense, but new coordinator Steve Logan, who has been impressed with Ryan's talent and smarts since the first day the two met, will let it happen.
"I think that's one of the biggest differences," Ryan said. "Coach Logan is of the belief that when you get out there and see something you don't like, then put yourself in something you're more comfortable with. And Coach Bible's philosophy was different."
Ryan remained excited about his new head coach, too.
"(Jagodzinski) coached Brett Favre, and that's exciting for me as a quarterback," Ryan said. "He's very energetic, very positive. He's high-energy. He likes to get in people's faces. It gets you excited."
On the other side of the ball, there is continuity with the coaching staff, with the returns of coordinator Frank Spaziani and linebackers coach Bill McGovern. There's also a load of talent, even with the expected absence of Toal, who plans to return for his senior year in 2008.
"We're going to be a lot better than we were last year," Dunbar said.
The linebacker noted the loss of weight by tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, something that also has pleased Jagodzinski.
"I think we'll be a lot faster than we were last year," Dunbar said. "I think we'll be a lot faster, and a lot stronger with our new strength and conditioning coach (Jason Loscalzo)."
In other news, two players being counted on heavily by BC this season offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus and cornerback DeJuan Tribble were questioned about their possible roles in a Boston bar brawl over the summer. No charges were filed against either player (both of legal age), and there were indications that they were more peacekeepers than anything else.
BASKETBALL: SUMMER ODDS, ENDS
BC's basketball meeting with Providence on Dec. 1 at the TD Banknorth Garden will be the nightcap of a doubleheader that opens with Connecticut and Gonzaga. As it turned out, the Eagles almost played Memphis and former Massachusetts coach John Calipari in that game.
"They wanted us to play Memphis, and then we'd have to go back and play them down there next year," BC assistant coach Mo Cassara said. "Now we'll play Providence (which beat BC last season), and then they'll come here (to Conte Forum), and then we'll play them down there the fourth year."
The Eagles also have a Dec. 4 home date set with Saint Louis and new coach Rick Majerus.
In other news, sources said the BC coaches have been thrilled with what they've seen of Joe Trapani, who will sit out 2007-08 after transferring from Vermont. The coaches think the year off will allow Trapani, a 6-7 forward, to develop into an impact player.
Another tidbit: Sean Williams (17, New Jersey) and Jared Dudley (22, Charlotte) became the first BC teammates ever taken in the first round of the same NBA draft. They were the seventh and eighth BC players ever taken in the first round, and the second and third under coach Al Skinner. The other, Troy Bell, plans to ply his trade with Angelica Biella in Italy's top league next season.
Finally, BC became a full-share member of the ACC on July 1, meaning that the Eagles now will be entitled to a full portion of the league's shared revenues. A full portion was worth more than $10 million this year.