Boston College: Can the Eagles soar to new heights in 2021?

Since the November press conference where athletic director Pat Kraft and head coach Jeff Hafley announced the program was deciding not to play in a bowl game, Boston College alumni, fans and even some of the local media covering the team have been waiting impatiently for Saturday.

Alumni Stadium doesn’t have the reputation that other college stadiums around the country have in terms of noise obviously, but it may be the loudest the place has been in a long time when Colgate visits for the first game in front of fans in two years.

Expectations around this program haven’t been this high in over a decade and it’s not hyperbole to say that Hafley, defensive coordinator Tem Lukabu, offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, associate head coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim and the rest of the staff have quickly built this program into one that could replicate or surpass the success from the Matty Ice days.

Offensively, we’ve talked at great length about just how special the unit can be. Cignetti has had plenty of experience in NFL offenses and may be able to get ridiculously creative with some of the talent the Eagles have. With Phil Jurkovec slinging it and a wide receiver depth chart that includes Zay Flowers, Kobay White, Jalen Gill, CJ Lewis, Jaden Williams, Taji Johnson, Lewis Bond and Jehlani Galloway, the sky is the limit, If anything (god forbid) should happen to Jurkovec, Dennis Grosel is a more than capable backup as he showed late last season and the year before as well.

Tight end is a question mark with the departure of Hunter Long, but Trae Barry and Joey Luchetti should be able to make up for a good amount of that lost production. Barry is an incredibly intriguing weapon at 6’6, 244 lbs. The running game is the biggest question on that side of the ball. Travis Levy is the main guy to start, but don’t be surprised when Alec Sinkfield (West Virginia transfer) makes some noise. Pat Garwo and Xavier Coleman could play important roles too.

The heart and soul of that offense is of course the offensive line. This unit is legitimately a threat to be the best in the country with Alec Lindstrom, Tyler Vrabel, Ben Petrula, Zion Johnson and Christian Mahogany ready to show they’re elite. Don’t forget the names Kevin Cline, Ozzy Trapilo, Drew Kendall, Finn Dirstine and Jack Conley either. All of those young guys will have a chance to show something during the season as well, maybe as early as Saturday.

On to the defense, which isn’t getting nearly as much love nationally as the offense is and they know it. Coach Lukabu acknowledged it has irked his guys a bit, so what can we expect from that side of the ball?

Well, for starters the defensive line will need to do a better job getting pressure this season. Marcus Valdez is the leader of that group, but Shittah Sillah, Brandon Barlow, Izaiah Henderson, TJ Rayam, Cam Horsley, Khris Banks (transfer), Donnovan Ezeiruaku and Jake Byczko are all going to factor into the rotation and all will be relied on heavily in Lukabu’s system.

Replacing the production lost at linebacker with the departures of Isaiah McDuffie, Max Richardson and Max Roberts is imperative if BC is going to have a special season. Isaiah Graham-Mobley is the man in the middle with Kam Arnold and Vinny DePalma on the outside, but Nick DeNucci, Jaylen Blackwell, Joseph Sparaico, Bryce Steele and Huge Davis – like the defensive line group – are all going to need to contribute this season. At corner, Josh DeBerry and Brandon Sebastian are the leaders while Shawn Asbury,  Elijah Jones, freshman CJ Burton and Southern Illinois transfer JT Thompson will be key depth pieces too.

In the back end, transfer Jaiden Woodbey is poised to have a big year at strong safety. There is plenty of veteran depth at both strong and free safety too with Jahmin Muse, Jason Maitre and Mike Palmer all returning. That group in particular is going to be crucial in the leadership department this season with so much experience under their belt.

All your favorite special teamers are back as well with Aaron Boumerhi, Danny Longman returning with the addition of young Connor Lyton – who was impressive in the spring game – to the unit too. All of them will probably be kicking at some point or another. Grant Carlson was a huge weapon at times last year and is back as the punter with Longman backing him up.

John Tessitore may be the most famous holder in the NCAA after the play in Death Valley last year and both he and Grosel (if need be) will handle holding duties in 2021. As for the kickoff and punt returners, I’d love to see Sinkfield be the main guy for both, he reminds me a lot of JJ Taylor. Flowers could be a weapon in the punt return game, but I’d rather just not risk injury at all and leave him doing his thing at receiver.

If you take a quick look at BC’s schedule, it’s not crazy to think they can win 10 games, I even think they could hit 11 but that would mean everything, and I mean EVERYTHING would have to go right. I don’t think it’s that crazy though…

Colgate, UMass and Temple the first three weeks should leave BC at 3-0 when Missouri visits September 25th. This is the only other game aside from Clemson I’d have some trepidation about, but the fact it’s at home is huge and I think the Eagles get to 4-0 walking into Death Valley on October 2nd. We all know what happened last year, but for the sake of this discussion let’s say they drop that game. NC State at home and Louisville on the road follow. Tough games but if this team is as good as we think it is they should be wins.

6-1 heading to Syracuse and then 7-1 coming home for a Friday night matchup with Virginia Tech on November 5. That has the makings of a special night at Alumni so 8-1 it is. A trip to Georgia Tech and then home games against Florida State and Wake Forest close out the year, is there any reason to think the Eagles won’t be significantly better than those teams? The ACC title game would then soon be calling.

See, it’s not that far fetched. All kidding aside (and yes I’m serious about 11-1), the bottom line is that for the first time in a long time, the Boston College Eagles have a legitimate chance to make noise at the national level and the expectations are warranted.

Get In this year and get into Alumni early on Saturday Eagles fans, you might be in store for quite a special moment when BC takes the field to a roar of 44,500 for the first time in a long time.

It may be just the first of many special moments in 2021.