By Steve Conroy
February 20, 2007
CHESTNUT HILL Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski could be forgiven if he didn't consider the group he announced on 2007 national signing day his first, true recruiting class with the Eagles.
He wasn't officially introduced as the BC coach until Dec. 20, 11 days after his predecessor Tom O'Brien had his introductory press conference at N.C. State. And Jagodzinski couldn't start working full-time for his new employer until his season with the Green Bay Packers ended on New Year's Eve.
But even though Jagodzinski and his new staff jumped into the recruiting cycle in mid-grind, the former Packers offensive coordinator was not about to distance himself from the 18 recruits who signed on the dotted line on Feb. 7.
"Well," said the perpetually upbeat Jagodzinski, "they're my guys now."
Truth be told, the BC coach did in fact have a chance to put his fingerprints on the incoming class, especially after a half-dozen kids de-committed in the wake of O'Brien's departure. Two of them, Pennsylvania defensive tackle Wayne Crawford and Ohio defensive end Jeff Rieskamp, ended up following O'Brien and six BC assistant coaches to the Wolfpack.
Obviously, Jagodzinski had to beat the bushes for more players.
A few of those he was able to land marked a deviation in a couple of areas that have been strong suits for the Eagles for years: quarterback and offensive line. In both cases, there was a distinct trend toward athleticism and mobility.
After the coaching transition, the Eagles picked up two quarterbacks: Dominique Davis from Lakeland, Fla., and Chris Johnson from Paterson, N.J. Both are considered dual threats, rather than pure pocket passers.
Returning BC starter Matt Ryan, a darkhorse candidate for the Heisman Trophy next season, is hardly a Drew Bledsoe-like statue, but he's definitely much more of a polished passer than a running threat. Junior-to-be and next-in-line Chris Crane has a similar style.
While athletic high school quarterbacks often find themselves at other positions by the time they play their first college games, Jagodzinski said unequivocally that he projects Davis and Johnson as QBs. Only time will tell if BC has found more hidden gems. Before the Eagles' late involvement, Davis and Johnson were bound for Middle Tennessee State and Buffalo, respectively.
The philosophical shift at quarterback is a direct reflection of the preferred approach of both Jagodzinski and new offensive coordinator Steve Logan.
A former East Carolina head coach who once served as Jagodzinski's boss with the Pirates, Logan built lots of high-scoring offenses at ECU on the shoulders of athletic signal-callers such as Jeff Blake, Marcus Crandell and David Garrard. Blake and Garrard later became starters in the NFL, Crandell in the CFL.
"When we had a real mobile guy here before, the guy's name was Doug Flutie, and he was pretty darn good, and I just walked by a trophy (the Heisman) that he got a few years ago," Jagodzinski said. "We feel that having a mobile quarterback will give us a chance to make plays when the play's not there, or the play breaks down. It's been proven over and over again that defenses, especially at the back end, can't hold up that long."
In regard to the offensive line, which has been the bread and butter for BC over the years, Jagodzinski will be introducing a zone-blocking scheme that puts agility at a premium. Thus, the staff went after a few smaller linemen, the 6-7, 340-pound Kenny Plue from Rensselaer, N.Y., notwithstanding.
The best example of the new BC linemen may be Mark Spinney, who at 6-4 and 270 pounds was not a fit in the old system and did not receive a scholarship offer during the O'Brien era. After Jagodzinski got on board, Spinney (see sidebar) de-committed from Syracuse and signed with the Eagles.
"What we're going to be able to do is go ahead and put weight on these guys, and do it the right way. We don't have a lot of guys that are real heavy that we're going to have to bring back (with their weight)," said Jagodzinski, who was O'Brien's offensive coordinator at BC in 1997-98. "It's a lot easier to have a guy that's a little smaller and be able to develop him. He won't lose his quickness, and he won't lose his agility when he puts weight on the right way."
Whenever there's a coaching change, of course, a school is susceptible to some negative recruiting. Jagodzinski said that one thing that was being put out there by rival recruiters was that the zone-blocking scheme won't help a player get to the NFL, an assertion he found "laughable."
"If you're going to do negative recruiting, you're in the wrong park," Jagodzinski said. "You don't have enough to sell about yourself."
Jagodzinski's recruiting coordinator is Mike Siravo, a former BC walk-on who was most recently at Temple, and he'll have his hands full.
Siravo is taking over for Jerry Petercuskie, whom recruiting guru Tom Lemming named as one of his top recruiters after the 2005 season for his ability to identify potential recruits early and get to them quickly. Petercuskie followed O'Brien to N.C. State, as did the Eagles' entire offensive staff.
Helping in the just-completed recruiting season was the fact that there was some continuity among the assistants, with defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani and linebackers coach Bill McGovern remaining.
McGovern, one of O'Brien's top recruiters, covers the fertile ground of New Jersey. Three years ago, he landed linebacker Brian Toal, one of the most coveted recruits in BC history. This year, McGovern nailed down 6-4, 280-pound John Elliott, a top offensive line prospect from East Meadow, N.Y.
"McGovs really did a great job for us," Jagodzinski said.
The Eagles also fared well on their home turf, landing most of their targets in the New England region, a six-state area that produces only 15-20 signees (total) for BCS-level programs each year. Some at BC believe that among the team's most promising additions were locals such as Spinney, defensive end Corey Eason, safety Dan Mulrooney and linebacker Dan Williams.
With its stringent academic standards and expectations BC routinely graduated close to 100 percent of its football players under O'Brien Chestnut Hill definitely is not for everyone. Many BC fans believe that if one or two more playmakers could have gained approval from the admissions department, then the Eagles might have advanced to a BCS bowl by now.
On the flipside, the type of kids BC has landed in the past and the ones Jagodzinski wants to continue to get had certain qualities, especially smarts and toughness, that often lifted them beyond the limits that were projected by many talent evaluators.
"It's funny, but when you walk into a living room and you meet the kid, you know right away if they're going to light up here. That's what we mean when we talk about BC-type people," said Siravo, whose younger brother Mike is a walk-on running back for the Eagles. "If they're going to love all the great things about this place, you can tell right away. If somebody is more interested about the process of being recruited and the fanfare and all that stuff, they'll have some of the things that they like, but they'll be wishy-washy."
With the way Jagodzinski has been breathing enthusiasm around the BC campus, it doesn't appear that wishy-washy will fly in his program.
COACHING CHANGE CAUSED SPINNEY REVERSAL
When it comes to football pedigrees, Mark Spinney has an impressive one.
His father, Stephen Spinney, played center and linebacker at Syracuse. His grandfather, Art Spinney, was an offensive lineman at Boston College and went on to play for the Baltimore Colts in their glory years in the 1950s, making the Pro Bowl twice. His other grandfather, Frank Dancewicz, played quarterback at Notre Dame and was the NFL's first overall draft pick, taken by the Boston Yanks in 1946.
Growing up in Westford, Mass., a suburb of Boston, Mark gravitated to his paternal grandfather's school in Chestnut Hill. With season tickets in the family for as long as he can remember, he'd gone to countless BC games.
But until Jeff Jagodzinski took over for the departed Tom O'Brien in December, Spinney thought the only way he'd get to play at Alumni Stadium would be as a visiting player. His 6-4, 270-pound frame did not exactly fit the behemoth BC lineman prototype, and he made a commitment to go instead to his father's alma mater, Syracuse.
Then fate interceded on his behalf. O'Brien abruptly took the open job at N.C. State on Dec. 8, and less than two weeks later Jagodzinski was introduced as the new head man at the Heights. Jagodzinski, who will be installing a zone-blocking scheme that will rely more on athleticism than brute power, in turn hired former Delaware aide Jim Turner as his line coach, and it just so happened that Turner had recruited Spinney for the Blue Hens. Within a couple of days, Spinney was BC-bound.
"Throughout the whole thing, my dad and I were saying to everyone that we were talking to that we were going to make one decision and that's it," Spinney said. "Had it been any other school, we would have ruled (a switch) out right away. But since it was BC a place I always wanted to go to it was very appealing, and we knew we just couldn't pass up the opportunity."
BOSTON COLLEGE 2007 SIGNEES
Name Pos. Ht./Wt. Stars High School/Junior College
Lars Anderson TE 6-3/235 3/3 Winter Springs (FL) High
SP-95 FL; HM 6A all-state; over MAC, Mich.St., NCSU
Billy Bennett PK 6-1/180 3/3 San Diego (CA) Torrey Pines
SP-111 CA; guru C.Sailer's top PK; over ASU, KSU (!)
Anthony Castonzo OL 6-6/260 2/2 Fork Union (VA) Military
From Lake Zurich (IL) High; over Stan., Vandy, UVa (!)
Dominique Davis QB 6-4/185 2/2 Lakeland (FL) Kathleen
1st-team 3A all-state; 2732-31 as sr.; over MTSU, UNLV
Corey Eason DE 6-5/270 3/4 Mansfield (MA) High
SP-6 New England; all-area; over NCSU, Rut., Syr., UVa (?)
John Elliott* OL 6-4/280 4/4 East Meadow (NY) High
SP-12 OL; 1st-team 2A all-state; over Md., Rut., UVa (!)
DeLeon Gause DB 5-11/190 2/2 Miami (FL) Central
All-county; team captain; over BGU, FIU, UConn, Minn.
Chris Johnson QB 6-2/200 2/3 Paterson (NJ) Kennedy
RV-21 NJ; all-area; 4-year starter; Buffalo switch; also Cincy
Dominick Magazu WR 6-1/185 2/2 Charlotte (NC) Providence
All-area; dad (Dave) former BC/NFL aide; early over MAC
Ifeanyi Momah WR 6-6/210 2/3 Elwood (NY) Glenn
RV-9 NY; Class D state POY; late over UConn, Temple
Dan Mulrooney S 6-1/190 3/3 Waterbury (CT) Holy Cross
SP-3 New England; league MVP (RB/LB); early over UConn
Brad Newman FB 6-2/250 2/2 Manasquan (NY) High
1st-team all-state (2x); area POY (2x); over Ivy, I-AA (!)
Kenny Plue OL 6-7/340 3/3 Rensselaer (NY) High
RV-4 NY; SP-5 NY; small HS; early decision over Syr.
Nathan Richman OL 6-6/270 2/3 Braintree (MA) Thayer
SP-9 New England; all-league (3x); early Buffalo, I-AA (!)
Nick Schepis OL 6-4/280 3/3 Cuyahoga Falls (OH) Walsh Jesuit
SP-21 OH; 3-year starter; over NW, Stan., WF, WVU (!)
Mark Spinney OL 6-4/270 4/3 Nashua (NH) Bishop Guertin
SP-38 OL; state POY; BC legacy; Syr. switch; UConn, Rut.
Will Thompson* LB 6-1/230 4/3 Jersey City (NJ) St. Peter's
SP-7 LB; 2nd-team all-state; early over UConn, Md., UVa (!)
Dan Williams LB 6-2/230 3/3 Belmont (MA) Hill
SP-5 New England; all-region (4x); very early decision
*-All-American (top 250 by two/more services) ^-enrolled (!)-strong academics (?)-unconfirmed academics
STScout.com RVRivals.com SPSuperPrep STARS: By Scout/Rivals.
WHO GOT AWAY?
The following prospects had firm scholarship offers from Boston College and/or took official visits to Chestnut Hill but signed with other programs: Chestnut Hill (PA) Academy DT Wayne Crawford (NCSU), Belmont (MA) Hill WR Corey Gatewood (Stan.), Richmond (VA) Varina DE Jamar Jackson (FSU), Cleveland (OH) Glenville WR Kyle Jefferson (Wis.), Coatesville (PA) High DE Derrick Morgan (GT), Tampa (FL) Jesuit DB Michael Peterson (GT), Lawrenceville (NJ) School FB Devon Ramsay (UNC), Chicago (IL) Mt. Carmel OL Arthur Ray (Michigan State), Cincinnati (OH) Elder DE Jeff Rieskamp (NCSU), Somerville (NJ) High DB Mason Robinson (Rut.), Pittsburgh (PA) Central Catholic OL Stefen Wisniewski (PSU), Poway (CA) High DT Nick Wood (Wash.).
The following prospects also claimed scholarship offers from BC but eliminated the Eagles early in the recruiting process: Union City (NJ) Union Hall LB Manny Abreu (Rut.), Cincinnati (OH) Withrow DT Daryle Ballew (Ill.), Chicago (IL) Robeson WR Charles Brown (NW), Chicago (IL) Hubbard S Sean Cattouse (Cal), Birmingham (MI) Brother Rice LB Chris Colasanti (PSU), Snellville (GA) Brookwood LB Rennie Curran (Ga.), Mt. Lebanon (PA) High TE Andrew Devlin (UVa), Anaheim (CA) Servite LB Chris Galippo (Southern Cal), Tampa (FL) Jefferson QB Stephen Garcia (USC), Evanston (IL) Township DE Nickcaro Golding (Pur.), Norcross (GA) Atlanta Christian OL T-Bob Hebert (LSU), Eugene (OR) Marist RB Brandon Jackson (Ky.), Hoboken (NJ) High WR Duval Kamara (ND), Greensboro (NC) Page DE Kevion Latham (PSU), Garland (TX) South DT Demarcus Lattier (Hou.), Germantown (MD) Northwest S Joseph Lefeged (Rut.), Aliquippa (PA) High LB Brandon Lindsey (Pitt), Charlottesville (VA) St. Anne's TE Brian Linthicum (Clem.), Piscataway (NJ) High WR Tony Logan (Md.), Iola (TX) High DT Rex McDougald (Bay.), Rochester (PA) High WR Derek Moye (PSU), York (PA) Penn OL Richard Muldrow (Rut.), Lemont (IL) High LB Aaron Nagel (ND), Ashburn (VA) Stone Bridge OL Andrew Nuss (ND), Princeton (NJ) Hun DE Ernest Owusu (Cal), Trotwood (OH) Madison S C.J. Peake (Louis.), Glen Rock (PA) Susquehannock S Chaz Powell (PSU), Cherry Hill (NJ) Camden Catholic TE Mike Ragone (ND), Joliet (IL) Catholic LB Kevin Rouse (Wis.), Piqua (OH) High RB Brandon Saine (OSU), Ramsey (NJ) Bosco QB Matt Simms (Louis.), Knoxville (TN) Catholic DB Harrison Smith (ND), State College (PA) High LB Nathan Stupar (PSU), Chicago (IL) Morgan Park DB Marcus Thomas (Ill.), Nottingham (NJ) High DT Wayne Thomas (Rut.), Princeton (NJ) Hun OL Greg Tomczyk (Louis.), Ramsey (NJ) Bosco DE Justin Trattou (Fla.), Washington (DC) St. John's DE Tony Tucker (Pitt), Brooklyn (NY) Lincoln TE Lansford Watson (Md.).
Compiled by David Glenn