Coach: Tom O'Brien (9th season, 56-39) 2004 record: 9-3 (Beat North Carolina in Continental Tire Bowl) Big East finish: 4-2 (t-1st) 2004 I-A offensive rankings:Rushing: 74th (140.1 ypg) Passing: 32nd (245.3 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 33rd (128.8 ypg) Passing: 47th (204.0 ypg)
at Virginia Tech
at North Carolina
Depth Chart: Offense
7 returning starters in red
Depth Chart: Defense
7 returning starters in red
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When Boston College joined the Atlantic Coast Conference as its 12th member, the Eagles were subjected to two seasons as a Big East lame duck and taunted at every conference precinct with chants of "ACC! ACC! ACC!"
As the final minute ticked away in BC's 37-24 victory over North Carolina in the 2004 Continental Tire Bowl, a contingent of some 6,000 BC fans, who were outnumbered 10-to-1 by the Tar Heel legion, rose up and filled the 73,000-seat Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., with the familiar refrain of "ACC! ACC! ACC!"
This time, however, the Eagles detected a more prideful tone. "Yeah, it definitely was," said defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who will return to BC for his senior year after capping his final season in the Big East by being named the league's Defensive Player of the Year. "It makes you proud, because we've heard it a lot of times in different Big East stadiums, where people were taunting us. So when we finally got a chance to throw one back out there, it makes you feel proud."
Now that they've flown the coop for the ACC, the Eagles are lame ducks no more. But will they become sitting ducks playing in same ACC Atlantic Division as Florida State, Clemson, Wake Forest, Maryland and North Carolina State?
After squandering an outright league title and a BCS berth in a 43-17 home loss against Syracuse in their final Big East contest, the Eagles hope their bowl victory over the Tar Heels -- BC's fifth consecutive bowl victory in six overall appearances under coach Tom O'Brien -- will serve as their ACC calling card.
Quarterback Quinton Porter will need to take steady control of BC's multiple offense after taking last year off as a redshirt on the scout squad. Porter will need to be sharper than a tack in BC's inaugural season in the ACC.
Porter will get protection from five experienced returning starters from last year's offensive line, led by seniors Jeremy Trueblood and Pat Ross. They will look to restore BC's "O-Line U" reputation, which took a hit last season after the Eagles failed to produce a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time in seven seasons.
A true starter in the backfield will have to emerge from a crowded field of sophomores that includes L.V. Whitworth, whose blend of speed and power the coaches like; Andre Callender, the team's leading rusher from a year ago with 637 yards; and A.J. Brooks, who started two games as a true freshman when Whitworth (knee) and Callender (groin) were injured.
Will Blackmon's conversion from cornerback to wideout will add a playmaker to a receiving corps that lost Grant Adams and Joel Hazard, who combined for 86 receptions, 1,158 yards and eight TDs last season. Larry Lester and Jason Lilly should help BC stretch opposing defenses.
The return of Kiwanuka and all three linebackers from last year's squad will fortify a front seven looking to replace end Phil Mettling and tackle Tim Bulman. Tackle Al Washington will help fill the void along with Justin Bell and promising youngsters B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, a pair of 300-pound run-stuffers.
Linebackers Ricky Brown, Brian Toal and Ray Henderson ranked, in order, as the top three tacklers last year. They form a nucleus that combines run-stopping toughness with athletic pass-coverage skills. They are regarded as the backbone of BC's 4-3 defense.
Corners Jazzmen Williams and DeJuan Tribble, who served as Blackmon's understudy in '04, could be left vulnerable by a lack of depth at the position. But there is experience in returning safeties Larry Anam, Jamie Silva and Ryan Glasper.
The steady hand of long-snapper Francois Brochu will be back to shepherd kicker Ryan Ohliger -- who ran for a 21-yard touchdown on a fake field goal in BC's Tire Bowl victory -- and punter Johnny Ayers through their sophomore seasons.
Blackmon, who recorded a combined 1,023 yards in kick and punt returns last season, should continue to dazzle after scoring on a 96-yard kick return and a 71-yard punt return.
Porter cannot afford to be rusty after a year's hiatus on the scout team. Porter's stewardship, along with that of Kiwanuka on BC's front seven, will be critical to helping the Eagles avoid a rocky start. BC hosts Florida State in its inaugural ACC contest on Sept. 17 before traveling to Clemson the following week. Welcome to the ACC.
If O'Brien hopes to guide the Eagles to their seventh consecutive bowl berth and extend their bowl winning streak to six games, BC cannot afford to be a middling team in its new division, let alone its new conference.