The Eagles must replace starting quarterback Paul Peterson this season. Head coach Tom O’Brien redshirted Quinton Porter a year ago, so he would have an experienced quarterback when they entered the ACC. The offense will be slightly different under Porter than with Peterson. Porter does not possess the mobility Peterson did, but Porter probably has the stronger arm. Porter was the starter two years ago before being overtaken by Peterson. Last season, Matt Ryan stepped in for the injured Peterson. Ryan struggled in his only start versus Syracuse going 24 of 51 with 3 interceptions.
Boston College returns its top three rushers from a year ago. For the first time in seven seasons, the Eagles did not have a 1,000-yard rusher in 2004. Sophomore Andre Callender may hold the inside track for the starting job. Callender rushed for 174 yards in the bowl game versus North Carolina. L.V. Whitworth is right behind Callender. Whitworth was the starter for the final six games last season. Callender is the bigger home run threat, but Whitworth is very effective running in between the tackles. Jeff Ross, who started at running back last year, will see more action at fullback this season. Ross will play behind the bigger Mark Palmer. Palmer is a bruiser at 245 pounds and will be playing in his first season with the Eagles after transferring from Utah.
Senior Will Blackmon moved to wide receiver in the spring to add some much needed depth. Blackmon and Larry Lester will be the top targets for Porter this season. Blackmon is an explosive runner in the open field and made a smooth transition in the spring. Lester is also a converted defensive back. At 5-8, Lester has been plagued by injuries, but when healthy, he has been very effective for the Eagles. He had 35 receptions in six games a year ago. Chris Miller adds experience at tight end. Miller is a solid blocker, but he has shown he has good hands catching 20 balls last season. This is not a deep position for the Eagles. Redshirt freshman Brandon Robinson may be the most talented of the backups at wide receiver, but at 5-10, he does not add any size to a small receiving core. In fact, junior Jason Lily is the tallest receiver at 6-2, but he only has 25 catches in his career with the Eagles. If Blackmon or Lester goes down with an injury, the Eagles will have very little at wide receiver to scare the opposition.
Boston College brings a big and talented offensive line into the ACC. All five starters and all five backups return. Left tackle Jeremy Trueblood is simply nasty at 6-9 330 pounds. Trueblood was second team Big East in 2004. The Eagles will look to run behind Trueblood early and often in 2005. Gosder Cherilus holds a slight edge over Ty Hall at right tackle. Cherilus (6-7, 310 lbs) started all 12 games last year, and he should improve in 2005. Juniors Josh Beekman and James Marten will hold down the guard spots. Beekman may be the Eagles best lineman, as at 320 pounds, he clears the way for the Eagles’ running game. Senior Patrick Ross provides stability and intelligence at center.
Mathias Kiwanuka is the best player on Boston College’s team, and he may very well be the best pro prospect in college football. Kiwanuka has the ability to completely disrupt a team’s game plan. He had 24 ½ tackles and 11 ½ sacks last season. Virtually everyone expected Kiwanuka to make the leap to the NFL, but he returned citing he wanted to play in the ACC. Sophomore Nick Larkin and junior Jeff Burns will battle for the end spot opposite Kiwanuka. Redshirt freshman Keith Willis is in the wings, and the Eagles coaching staff has high hopes he will be the next standout pass rusher for them.
The Eagles have a solid rotation at defensive tackle. Junior Justin Bell, sophomore BJ Raji, and redshirt freshman Ron Brace give the Eagles a trio of 300-pounders to plug the middle. Raji has a chance to emerge as a real force for the Eagles this year. Senior Al Washington will make his case for playing time as well.
For the first time under O’Brien, Boston College returns three starters at linebacker. Brian Toal was the Big East rookie of the year, and he expects to make a big splash as a sophomore in the ACC. Senior Ricky Brown was the team’s leading tackler a year ago, and fellow senior Ray Henderson returns after leading the Eagles with six interceptions in 2004. This trio will anchor O’Brien’s 4-3 defense. They have good speed and athleticism, which makes them very strong against the run and pass.
Obviously the staff felt confident about the secondary in the spring, as they made the move with Blackmon to receiver. Sophomore DeJuan Tribble is a big reason they felt comfortable making the move. Tribble played well as redshirt freshman 3 pass break ups and two interceptions. Senior Jazzmen Williams will play opposite of Tribble. Williams is solid at 5-8 as he had 10 pass break ups last season. They would like to see him improve his interceptions as he only picked off one pass a year ago. The Eagles have little in the area of depth at corner, but Brad Mueller is the faster player on the team and could step up as a dependable backup this season. The Eagles must find a replacement for free safety TJ Stancil. Larry Anam is slated as the starter, but he will be challenged by Jamie Silva, who was the second string strong safety last season. Ryan Glasper returns as the starting strong safety. Glasper posted 57 tackles a year ago, and he must be the anchor of the Eagles’ secondary in 2005
Placekicker Ryan Ohliger and punter Johnny Ayers returning after having strong seasons as freshmen. Ayers nearly averaged 40 yards a punt, and he did not have a punt blocked. He was able to land 21 punts inside the opposing team’s 20-yard line. Ohliger hit 13-19 field goals with a long of 47 yards. The return game is set with Blackmon handling kickoffs and Tribble handling punt returns. The two combined to return four kicks for touchdowns in 2004
Boston College enters the ACC on stable ground. The talent they have up front on both sides of the ball will allow them to compete in virtually every game on the schedule. The Eagles open ACC play at home against the preseason favorite in the Atlantic Division, Florida State. Teams are going to stack up to defend the Eagles running game, and Porter must show teams he can beat them with his arm. This team will not make many mistakes and there playing style will remind many of Virginia.