Eye View: Lots of people have BC second in this Division based on their nine win season
last year and big win over UNC in the Continental Tire Bowl. They can credibly
argue that without an injury to QB Paul Peterson, the Eagles would have won
their conference. Both VT and Miami seemed to transition to the ACC seamlessly,
so that means the Eagles should be in great shape, right? To that I say “Not
so fast my friend!” BC was actually outgained by nearly 29 yards per game last
year in the Big East – yes, the Big East – and had a slate that included
Ball State, Temple, UMass, Rutgers and Penn State. That’s not exactly murder’s
row. While the UNC win was big, I’d also note that the Eagles lost to Wake
Forest each of the last two years, and, as of now, Wake has to be considered the
worst team in this Division.
Areas of Strength (offense): BC had uncharacteristically poor offensive
line play last year, but the return of all five starters should ensure a much
higher level of play in 2005. Aircraft carrier Jeremy Trueblood is 6’9” and
can block out the sun (and pass rushers), while right guard Josh Beekman and
center Patrick Ross form a solid run tandem in the middle. Senior Quinton
Porter, a starter at quarterback for most of 2003 who redshirted in 2004, is an
above average ACC quarterback. Sophomore tailbacks L.V. Whitworth and Andre
Callender each bring something different to the table, Whitworth power and
Callender speed. The Eagles seem committed to playing former corner Will
Blackmon at wide receiver, and he will be dynamic if the spring results mean
anything. Watch former VT recruiting target Brian Toal, another stud defender,
take some short yardage snaps at fullback.
Areas of Concern (offense): The biggest concern with BC’s offense this year, as it always is, surrounds
the big play ability of the offense. Who on this team can take it 80 yards? It
isn’t a ringing endorsement that the leading returning receiver, Larry Lester,
is a 5’8” DB convert, and the other starter will be Blackmon (although I
love his big play ability).
Areas of Strength (defense): All three starting linebackers return and
they can play. Senior Ray Henderson is a tough, hard nosed competitor on the
inside. Brian Toal, a mega-recruit, earned Big East Rookie of the Year honors
last year on the outside, and he should be even better this season. He is going
to be what Jake Houseright would have been to the Hokies without knee injuries.
Mathias Kiwanuka is a 6’7” stalwart at defensive end who plays the run
better than his 265 lb. frame would suggest. He was the Big East Defensive
Player of the Year and is virtually unblockable one-on-one. He will see constant
double teams. The tackles are pretty good too, as three year starter Al
Washington is supported by “ginormous” B.J. Raji (322) and Ron Brace (361).
They occupy two gaps just by getting in their stance.
Areas of Concern (defense): The loss of Blackmon in the secondary (he may
play defense in third and long situations) creates some concern. Corner Jazzmen
Williams is a returning senior starter and sophomore DeJuan Tribble played well
this spring, but the ACC has a lot more speed out wide than the Big East did.
They also are 5’8” and 5’9” respectively, so don’t expect them to win
many jump balls.
Key Game: At Clemson. After opening conference play at home versus the
Noles, the Eagles go on the road to one of the most storied college football
environments, Death Valley, and play a team with the aerial game to beat them.
If the pass defense holds up, they could challenge in the Atlantic. A loss could
lead to a tailspin. There’s no Duke on the schedule and my projected last
place team in the Atlantic, Wake, has beaten them the last two years.
Fearless Predictions: More so than any other team in the Atlantic, the
fortunes of the Eagles rise and fall with their special teams. The potential is
there for them to be outstanding, but if they struggle given their ball control,
no mistake philosophy, they will be buried in the ACC. Kiwanuka will lead the
ACC in sacks and cement his spot in the top half of the NFL draft come April,
but he will not capture ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Blackmon will not only
play wide receiver, he’ll have a huge season and be first team all ACC. The
Eagles keep their bowl streak alive in ’05, but just barely with a 6-5 mark.