BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES Head coach: Jeff Jagodzinski Last season: 11-3 overall, 6-2 in the ACC; won 24-21 over Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl. Spring practice: March 25-April 26.
Led by quarterback Matt Ryan, Boston College was one of the nation's biggest surprises last season. The Eagles were contenders for the national title for much of the season and played for the ACC title. Now, though, Ryan's gone. Replacing him obviously is the most important task this spring for the Eagles.
Find new offensive playmakers is the first order of business for Coach Jeff Jagodzinski.
Brace and Smith give Boston College two returning starters at defensive tackle who helped the Eagles rank second in the nation in run defense last season. The Eagles also welcome back B.J. Raji, who recorded 16.5 tackles for loss two years ago before being redshirted last season for academic reasons. Purvis gives the Eagles a legitimate all-ACC candidate at tight end.
HELP IS NEEDED
Boston College faces the unenviable task of replacing quarterback Matt Ryan, the potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. The Eagles don't have any experienced candidates to take over at that spot. Boston College doesn't have any experienced tailbacks on their roster. The Eagles also must break in two first-year starters at cornerback.
KEEP AN EYE ON
QB Chris Crane: He has thrown just 40 passes in his college career, but Crane - a senior - is the most experienced of the contenders to replace Ryan. Crane will be competing with redshirt freshman Dominique Davis and early enrollee Codi Boek this spring.
RB Josh Haden: Boston College has such a severe lack of experience at tailback that this early enrollee could find himself opening his college career in the starting lineup. Haden is a four-star prospect whose brother, Joe, enrolled early at Florida last year and became a starting cornerback.
OT Rich Lapham: This sophomore has a good chance of moving into the starting lineup now that the Eagles must replace Gosder Cherilus at offensive tackle.
HIS TIME IS NOW
LB Brian Toal, a former five-star prospect, has spent much of his college career battling neck and shoulder injuries. He sat out the 2007 season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Toal can be a dominant player when he's healthy. His anticipated return gives Toal a chance to boost his NFL stock and help the Eagles overcome the loss of departed linebacker Jolonn Dunbar.
Can the Eagles remain Atlantic Coast Conference title contenders without Ryan? Perhaps these next few weeks will help answer that question. The Eagles will spend much of spring practice searching for Ryan's successor at quarterback and trying to decide on a starting tailback.