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Nineteen eighty-five is 1 A.D. (After Doug) in Chestnut Hill, Mass. The least that coach Jack Bicknell could do, you would think, is wail some, wax mournful, maybe gnash his teeth. But cowboys—even the New England armchair variety—don't like to show their emotions. Bicknell, a horseman by hobby and BC's foremost authority on Louis L'Amour, says he hasn't lost any sleep over No. 22's departure. "I'm a lot less concerned about our quarterback situation than you think," says Cowboy Jack. Don't worry, men. It's only a flesh wound.
The reason Bicknell isn't worried is Shawn Halloran, a senior who must feel like Harry Truman just after the Roosevelt years. Halloran's name surfaced atop a talented quarterback depth chart after spring drills. He is 6'4", 212 pounds, strong of arm, cool of head and almost as slow as Doug Flutie is short.
Season-ticket holders and deep thinkers all over New England are wondering anxiously: Without Flutie, last year's Heisman winner, will the Eagle offense lose its flexibility and flavor, like chewing gum on the bedpost overnight? Not if the '85 Maroon-White game, spangled as it was with flip laterals, shovel passes, reverses and flea-flickers, is any portent. Said White team ringmaster Halloran afterward, "Of course I learned from Doug. I sure watched him long enough."
Improvisational skills aside, Halloran will best avoid a letdown—the Eagles were 10-2 last year—by getting the ball to senior tailback Troy Stradford, who in Bicknell's eyes is "our most talented player." Although he missed almost three games last year with a pulled hamstring, Stradford still ran for 666 yards on 146 carries for a 4.7-yard average. He also has the best hands on the team and will be the focal point of the offense. Halloran would also be wise to establish a Doug Flutie-Gerard Phelan-type wavelength with junior flanker Kelvin Martin, who caught 10 TD passes in '84—seven more than "Doug's roommate"—and returned punts for two other scores.
Stradford will share the backfield with fullback-in-name-only Kenny Bell who, at 5'10", 189 pounds, runs like a halfback. Unfortunately, Bell blocks like a halfback, too. "We've got a problem there," says Bicknell. To wit, without a licensed magician calling signals, BC's foes are going to dust off the blitz, pin their ears back and come hard. Look for the Eagles to throw 10 fewer passes per game than the 36 they threw last fall.
Bicknell's other problem is a callow, if promising, secondary that's missing three 1984 starters, including Tony Thurman, who led the nation in interceptions with 12. Former quarterback Rorery Perryman has a lock on one corner. Another potentially talented D-back, walk-on Stu Primus, started for the BC basketball team last year. With an Aug. 29 date against the Robbie Bosco-led BYU Cougars, defensive back coach Pete Carmichael had all of three weeks to set his house in order. Bosco's is the most dangerous arm BC will see this fall.
But exclamation points overshadow the question marks on defense. "This is, without a doubt, the best unit we've had since I got here [in 1979]," says Bicknell. Linebacker Bill Romanowski, defensive MVP in the Cotton Bowl, and fellow soph Eric Lindstrom, a fierce pass rusher with two brothers who are pro defensive linemen (David with the Kansas City Chiefs and Chris with the Chicago Blitz), are future stars. For now, the most feared Eagle on defense is senior tricaptain Mike Ruth, a bearded 6'2", 249-pounder with 4.8 speed in the 40. Among the country's best nosetackles, Ruth is considering studying for the priesthood after college. He has increased his bench lift by 15 pounds, to 545.
Boston College's schedule is a fearsome gauntlet, bristling with toughies like defending national champion BYU, Penn State, Maryland, Miami and West Virginia. Predictably, Bicknell is respectful but unfazed. "I can't very well sit here and tell you we're no good," says Cowboy Jack, from whom seldom is heard a discouraging word. "Hell, I think we're loaded."