By far, the most interesting happenings in ACC Land this week occurred in New England, where presumptive Boston College starting quarterback Dominique Davis is transferring after being declared ineligible.
This would be a good time to point out that after a surprising November high (wrapping up an Atlantic Division title and a 9-3 regular season), absolutely nothing has gone right for the Eagles.
* Boston College was undeniably fortunate (and strong on defense). The Eagles’ offense didn’t generate more than 21 points in any of their final nine games, though defensive and special teams touchdowns made the difference in several crucial games down the stretch (Wake Forest and Florida State among them) to secure an improbable nine-win season.
* They got ripped by Virginia Tech in their final game before a bowl despite having every reason in the world to feel good about themselves going in.
* They inexplicably lost a bowl game they led with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
* There was substantial coaching turmoil in the offseason, with coach Jeff Jagodzinski (as well as offensive coordinator Steve Logan and key assistant Jack Bicknell) departing and defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani taking over.
* In the wake of those changes, a grizzled old hand with head coaching experience who hadn’t worked in more than a year (Gary Tranquill) was brought in as a coordinator.
* A crucial —- maybe the most crucial —- piece of the defense was lost in a completely unexpected way. Star linebacker Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma last month and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
* And now the starting quarterback has encountered academic issues. As such, he is no longer enrolled, let alone the starting quarterback.
That’s a whole lot that’s gone wrong, and it would seem pretty difficult to assess just how much that will hurt the Eagles this fall.
Except, really, it’s not. Because BC is working off a script quite similar to one unfurled last year in the conference.
You know, the one in Charlottesville, which tumbled from a 9-4 season a couple years ago to a December spent sitting at home.
While not everything is identical (clearly, there isn’t a completely fair comparison to Herzlich’s unfortunate situation), there sure are some things that look alike between the transition from 2007 Virginia to 2008 Virginia and the transition from 2008 BC to 2009 BC.
No, there wasn’t a head coaching change. But there were some tie-ins in all of those issues listed above.
Need a rundown? Glad you asked.
* The Cavaliers were absurdly fortunate in 2007, winning five games by a combined seven points. Toss in a five-point defeat of Georgia Tech, and Virginia collected six of its nine victories by less than a touchdown.
* They were handled by Virginia Tech (not quite as emphatically as ‘08 BC was) in their final game before a bowl. This came after one of the few performances in which the Cavaliers had every reason in the world to feel great about themselves; after all, Virginia had just demolished Miami 48-0 in the Hurricanes’ Orange Bowl finale two weeks earlier and had extra time to prepare for the Commonwealth Cup.
* They inexplicably lost a bowl game they led with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. As in, yielded a 28-14 edge and lost by a field goal in regulation to Texas Tech.
* While there wasn’t substantial coaching turmoil in the offseason (that would wait for a year later, when offensive coordinator Mike Groh was sent packing), Virginia did hire a grizzled old hand and former head coach who hadn’t worked as a coach in more than a year to be its defensive coordinator (Bob Pruett).
* A crucial —- and, if not for the presence of Clint Sintim, maybe the most crucial —- part of the defense was lost unexpectedly when defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald left school for academic reasons. Making matters worse was Fitzgerald was one of more than a dozen players with eligibility remaining who did not come back.
* Starting quarterback Jameel Sewell encountered academic issues and left school for a year. To compound matters, his most probable replacement, Peter Lalich, was booted from the program less than a month into last season.
All this zaniness, in turn, helped set the table for a 5-7 season that (in complete fairness) wasn’t going to be easy simply because of some serious losses absorbed when Chris Long and Branden Albert were coveted NFL draft picks.
Interestingly enough, Boston College lost a pair of vital defensive tackles (B.J. Raji and Ron Brace) who were coveted NFL draft picks.
If you want to develop linebackers, offensive linemen and tight ends, Virginia is a good program to emulate. But copying the Cavaliers’ serendipitous 2007 only to seemingly try to one-up the ensuing nightmare of an offseason is not a bright idea.
Maybe Boston College fares better than the Cavaliers did last year. But if the Eagles do, here’s guessing it won’t be by much.
- Patrick Stevens
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