1.) So let's start this thing off right. What's the deal with this #FireSpaz stuff?
The #FireSpaz stuff is the Twitter manifestation of the growing frustrations of a fan base that’s really not used to losing. I’ve followed the Eagles for 10 seasons now and I’ve never witnessed a losing season or a season that didn’t result in a trip to college football’s oversubscribed postseason. So there’s that.
The other thing is that the offensive has been miserable. Spaziani is a great defensive mind and a good person, but the fan base has grown frustrated with the Eagles ineptitude on offense to the point where many feel Spaz isn’t the long-term answer for this program.
Personally, I think Spaz has had several miscalculations over the past few years. The most egregious misstep was bringing 70-year old Gary Tranquill out of retirement to serve as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator. BC’s offense wasn’t spectacular by any stretch of the imagination post-Matt Ryan, but it was at least serviceable under OC Steve Logan. Logan was even able to adapt his system to fit his personnel and get a team quarterbacked by Chris Crane to the ACC Championship Game (read: a heavy dose of zone-reads). Under Tranquill, both sophomore QBs Dave Shinskie and Mike Marscovetra have regressed, the playcalling has been poor and the usually reliable offensive line has struggled.
This is probably the biggest reason the Eagles went on a five-game losing streak this year, their longest since the 1998 season. When your team gets shutout at home by your permanent ACC Coastal Division rivals, gets waxed by your Catholic rivals (again, at home) and is pounded by your former coach on the road (a team that you beat 52-20 the season before), all of that adds up to some pretty big frustrations with the state of the football program.
2.) I really believe that your running game is an underrated gem in the ACC. What is it that makes your ground game so effective?
Why, thank you. So nice of you to say.
Over the past few years, a bruising offensive line has been able to open up some big holes in the running game for Montel Harris to run through (see: Harris’ 2009 performance against N.C. State). This season, while the offensive line has struggled and been very inconsistent, Harris is still quietly leading the ACC in rushing yards. I think the combination of very tall offensive linemen and a small, shifty running back has been very successful for BC. By the time opposing linebackers spot Montel, he’s usually already broken through the defensive line, allowing him to gain 4-5 yards a run. Harris has good football instincts and can find the gaps in the line, though BC has been less effective spreading the field and running around the corner and much more effective running north-south.
I think Harris is a very underrated running back and I hope he decides to stay for his senior year, as he’s poised to break all sorts of Eagles’ rushing records if he stays next season.
3.) Your QB play has been almost as absurdly bad as ours has been. How do you explain it and what would you do to rectify the situation?
The explanation is simple, really. BC started a true freshman quarterback for the first time four games into the season. The failure to recognize that Chase Rettig -- and not Dave Shinskie or Mike Marscovetra -- was the future of the Eagles program under center at the beginning of the season set this program back a bit this year. The coaching staff thought Shinskie and/or Marscovetra could be serviceable this season and they could redshirt Rettig, but that became crystal clear after the 19-0 loss to Virginia Tech that neither was a long-term solution.
I think if Rettig had had the fall camp and the first three games to develop chemistry with his receivers and get some much-needed game experience under his belt, I think things could have been a bit different this season (maybe a swing of 1-2 games). As it turned out, BC had to suffer an embarrassing early-season loss to figure out that Rettig is the most talented of the bunch.
As to how to rectify the situation, what is done is done. Now it just takes getting Rettig more and more in-game experience and allowing him to develop with the offensive line and a very young, inexperienced receiving corps. He’s shown some progress and glimpses of brilliance at QB, but other times he’s certainly played like a kid who was playing high school ball last fall.
4.) What's the secret to your defensive success, and would you guys be willing to give us some of it? We could really use it.
Consistency, for one thing. As I mentioned above, Spaziani is a great defensive mind and has been on the Heights for 13 seasons now. While he’s now HC, he still very much has his hands on the defensive side of the ball, and our new defensive coordinator Billy McGovern has been afforded the opportunity to work with Spaz for many seasons now. Spaz has been able to build up one of the best defenses in the country over the past decade and I think that brand equity has been huge on the recruiting trail. I don’t have to tell you guys that there are clearly some inherent disadvantages to college football recruiting at a school like BC or Wake Forest, and I think the fact that Spaz has established BC as a very strong defensive team has been huge for the program in recruiting.
The other thing I would point to is BC’s recruiting pipelines. Like I said, a BC or a Wake isn’t going to recruit the best athletes on the defensive side of the ball, but BC has been able to establish some very nice pipelines that continue to bring in very good defensive players. The Cincinnati / Ohio pipeline is one that Tom O’Brien worked to establish in the early 2000s that is still paying off to this day. (That’s where BC found tackling machine and sophomore LB Luke Kuechly). I think BC’s annual game against a MAC opponent and the ties to Catholic high schools in the area have helped develop this pipeline, too.
I have no interest in propping up a fellow Atlantic Division members’ defense, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t further divulge BC’s recipe for success on the defensive side of the ball.
5.) Do you guys think you have a chance to be bowl-bound?
Absolutely. The Eagles have the easiest month of November of any ACC school and need to win three of their last four to become bowl-eligible. A schedule of at Wake Forest, at Duke, Virginia and at Syracuse has to be music to Spaz’s ears.
While BC has struggled to move the ball on offense, I think they can do just enough, and with a huge assist from the defense, either win our remaining games or take three of four to become bowl-eligible for the twelfth straight season.
Military Bowl neé EagleBank Bowl, anyone?
6.) Which leads into the natural question...will this be an Eagles' win? How do you see it all shaking out? What's your prediction?
If Tranquill and Spaz are smart, they’ll go ultra-conservative on offense and basically ask Rettig not to give the game away (a la the Florida State game plan). The offensive line was just starting to get its bearings but it looks like Rich Lapham won’t play Saturday at RT, resulting in yet another shakeup of the offensive line. Even with said shakeup, I think Montel Harris will have another big day against an anemic Wake Forest defense.
The matchup between the Eagles defense and the Wake Forest offense also seems to lean BC, even with some key defensive starters – Alex Albright, DeLeon Gause, Wes Davis – out for the Eagles.
The one area of concern I have is on special teams. BC has really struggled in the kick and punt return game, and we know that Jim Grobe likes to open up the playbook with all sorts of gimmick plays and trickeration.
At the end of the day, I think BC is a better team than their record and Wake might be just as good as their record indicates (or worse, I mean, wins over Duke and Elon?), though you guys know this Wake team better than I do. I don’t want to disrespect you guys, because I actually like Wake Forest much more than some of our other Atlantic Division friends (go small schools!), but I think the BC running game has a big, big day and the defense probably gets in the end zone too. I’ve got the Eagles winning as comfortably as you can with just a 17 point margin of victory, 27-10.