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Difficult Toal Saga Finds Silver Lining

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

June 27, 2007

CHESTNUT HILL – Boston College appears set to face the 2007 season without star linebacker Brian Toal.

The oft-injured Toal, who also carries the ball in short-yardage situations for the Eagles, had shoulder surgery in January and is expected to take a redshirt year when BC officially begins the Jeff Jagodzinski Era in August.

The door is still open for a possible return, but the new coach is thinking that he'll get Toal back for the 2008 season.

"I don't think he's going to (play). Unless he is 100 percent, I'm not going to have him out there," Jagodzinski said. "There's no reason to. Our linebacker position is so strong. It's the strongest on our team, the depth and the talent we have there.

"Brian has not been able to really hit it hard in the weight room, because he's been injured all the time. He's never been redshirted, and I think that extra year, or extra year in the weight room with Jason (strength coach Loscalzo), is going to do nothing but benefit him. And then the following year, I still have a guy that's a real-deal linebacker. I'm going to be losing a bunch of the seniors – (Jolonn) Dunbar and (Tyronne) Pruitt, a lot of those guys. That really makes me feel a lot better."

Jagodzinski said Toal feels "good" about what's being proposed for him, although the final decision won't come until August.

"I asked him. I tell these guys, you have to be truthful with me," the new coach said. "I said, ‘If you can go, you need to go, and if you can't, you can't.' Those guys know. I mean, especially him. He's not going to try to bow out of anything. Not him. And if he's that good not 100 percent, imagine what he could be when he's really got it going on. He's a good football player. Good kid, too."

Toal is a player whose future plans on the gridiron extend well beyond BC. He has a shot at the NFL, one that likely would be compromised by trying to play at less than full strength in 2007.

"The extra year of maturing, physically, especially being in the weight room and then having that fifth year, is good," Jagodzinski said. "There's not a lot of guys who can come in and play as a true freshman, and then to have a fifth year. How much better could it be?"


Jagodzinski and his assistants continued to marvel at senior quarterback Matt Ryan.

"He's as good as there is out there. I really believe that," Jagodzinski said. "He's a top-five quarterback in the country.

"He's smart, unbelievably smart. He's a smart kid, but he's really football smart, too. He gets it. When you watch film with him, he sees things. And the real good ones see the big picture. They see the whole field. He knows where to go with it. I'm real excited. I tell ya, I'm sure glad I've got him. You gotta have that position. I don't care if you're in Pop Warner, you gotta have a QB."

Offensive coordinator Steve Logan, like Jagodzinski, is amazed at Ryan's talent in the film room and his ability to take it out to the field.

"I've been able to really just hit the ground running with him," Logan said. "If I can get the rest of the offense to catch up with him, that's the issue. He's just going 1,000 miles an hour with all of it. He and I both are coaching as fast as we can, trying to get everybody else to grasp this."

The early football publications mentioned Ryan, Toal and cornerback DeJuan Tribble among the nation's best players. Street & Smith's had Tribble as a first-team All-American and Toal on the third team, while naming all three BC stars to its preseason All-ACC unit.

Meanwhile, Jagodzinski said he's looking forward to the kicking situation in August camp. Folk hero Steve Aponavicius, now on scholarship, will be tested by incoming recruit Billy Bennett, who was ranked the No. 1 prep kicker in the country last year by Rivals.com.

"There's going to be some competition there," Jagodzinski said. "We've got one coming in that feels pretty good. He'll be in there battling it out."

Jagodzinski said he advised offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus to stay in school for a fifth year and not leave early for the NFL draft.

"I told him, ‘You'll be a second-day guy, probably a fourth-round pick, coming out, and if you stay, have a good senior year, you'll be a first-day guy,'" Jagodzinski said. "Just go ahead and put a bunch of zeroes on top of what you were going to make.

"He's one of our captains next year and a very, very good football player. But he wasn't, in my opinion, he wasn't ready, yet, to do (the NFL). Now he's going to have another year to be in the weight room, another year to mature, another year to get a bunch of snaps. And he's also going to be at left tackle now, which is the premier deal. Right tackles are easy to find. That's why you pay those guys on the left side so much more."


One of the reasons cited by Boston College officials for leaving the Big East for the ACC concerned the ability to make more money in the new league. As it's turned out, that was more than mere wishful thinking.

According to recent media reports, the three teams that made the switch are doing quite well. As ACC revenue continues to rise to record highs, Big East revenues have declined significantly.

BC, which won't get a full share (again expected to be $10 million-plus) of ACC distributions until next June, now stands to make almost twice as much in the ACC as it would have received in the Big East. Of course, it's not clear what the difference would have been had BC, Miami and Virginia Tech remained in the Big East, a league that still doesn't have a football championship game.


BC assistant basketball coach Mo Cassara recently said he was close to completing the Eagles' non-conference slate for the 2007-08 season, adding, "If I don't get it done by the end of (June), I'm going to burn down my office."

Cassara said BC still was looking for the "right fit" for two more games. Among the dates already set, the Eagles will visit Michigan on Nov. 28 in the ACC-Big East Challenge, and they will play Providence (part of a doubleheader that also will include Connecticut-Gonzaga) at the TD Banknorth Garden on Dec. 1. Kansas will come to The Heights on Jan. 5 for a national TV game.