Many are projecting a sharp drop in the rankings for BC this season, due in large part to the loss of quarterback Matt Ryan, the third overall pick in the NFL Draft. But the 2007 team's success wasn't all Ryan's doing - they played a little defense too.

Matt Ryan never looked like the great quarterback everyone claimed he was so I'm not sure replacing his 19 interceptions ad sub-60% completion percentage will be all that difficult. Call me crazy if you must, but I bet the 2008 offense with Chris Crane at quarterback matches the 28 points per game it posted under Ryan's direction in '07. The bigger blow to the offense is the loss of offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus. The first round NFL Draft pick was yet another in a long line of excellent BC O-Linemen. Who is going to step up and fill his shoes in '08? Anthony Castonzo started at tackle as a true freshman last year, so he has the potential to pick up the slack alongside two other returning starters.

The biggest question facing the offense is at running back. Gone are Andre Callender (969 rushing yards, 76 receptions[!], 13 total tds) and L.V. Whitworth (355 rushing yards, 4 total tds) who have shouldered the load for the past three seasons. Incoming freshman Josh Haden was BC's top recruit, but he better be ready to play right away because he's practically the only option.

The best call head coach Jeff Jagodzinski made in his first year on the job in '07 was retaining defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani from the Tom O'Brien staff. When you look at last season closely, you'll see that the defense - not Matt Ryan - played the biggest role in BC's 11-win campaign. The front seven that led the way for the nation's #2 ranked rush defense (75.6 rushing yards per game) and the ACC's #3 ranked overall defense (327 total yards per game) returns 9 of its top 12 tacklers, including LB Mark Herzlich (97 tackles) and DE Alex Albright (8.5 sacks). It doesn't end there though. BC's front seven also benefits from the return of two All-League candidates that missed the 2007 season with injuries. B.J. Raji was a second team All-ACC defensive tackle in 2006, and linebacker Brian Toal is a special talent who will make a significant impact if he can stay healthy.

However, the secondary is a concern due to the loss of leaders Jamie Silva (125 tackles, 8 interceptions) and DeJuan Tribble (4 interceptions, 8 passes broken up). DeLeon Gause started the last four games as a true freshman last season and appears to have one cornerback spot locked up. Can Paul Anderson, Roderick Rollins, and Marty Bowman fill out the lineup effectively? And will any younger players step up to add depth? Luckily the front seven is strong enough that the secondary will have time to develop as the season goes along, especially since there aren't exactly any game-breaking quarterbacks in the ACC right now.

Keep An Eye On:
Freshman RB Josh Haden and the running game. BC will need the running game to lend at least a little balance to the offense - how long will it take to develop?

Rising Star
Offensive guard Thomas Claiborne. The sophomore played defensive tackle as a freshman in 2007, but was moved to the offensive line in the spring to be a mauler up front.

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