Looking for a team that can challenge Florida State for the ACC Atlantic Division title? Boston College is as reasonable a pick as anyone.
The Eagles won their final five regular-season games last season before falling 20-13 to Nevada in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. They led the nation in run defense. They get Florida State at home on a Thursday night. If they can add any kind of juice to an offense that ranked 109th nationally in points and yards last season, they could emerge as the Seminoles' chief competition in the Atlantic.
BC will have to be better because its schedule looks tougher. The Eagles should get off to a fast start, as they play four of their first five games at home. But their last seven games include five road contests against bowl teams from last season (Clemson, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Notre Dame and Miami).
Here's a look at where Boston College stands as it heads into spring practice.
BOSTON COLLEGE AT-A-GLANCE
Boston College LB Luke Kuechly led all FBS players in tackles last season.
Coach: Frank Spaziani Last season: 7-6 overall, 4-4 in the ACC Atlantic. Lost 20-13 to Nevada in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Spring dates: March 15-April 16.
RETURNING STARTERS (minimum seven starts last season)
Luke Kuechly and Kevin Pierre-Louis give Boston College a pair of linebackers who combined for 276 tackles last season. Kuechly led all FBS players with 183 tackles. When he's healthy, Montel Harris is one of the best running backs in the nation. Harris has rushed for 2,700 yards in the past two seasons. Andre Williams played well enough in place of an injured Harris late last season to show the Eagles have plenty of depth at tailback. Nate Freese and Ryan Quigley form arguably the ACC's best kicker/punter tandem.
Help is needed
Boston College lacks playmaking receivers. The Eagles return their top two receivers from last year in Bobby Swigert and TE Chris Pantale, but nobody on the team had more than 39 catches or 504 receiving yards last season. The departures of potential first-round pick Anthony Castonzo, Thomas Claiborne and Rich Lapham leave BC with plenty of holes to fill on the offensive line. Boston College also lacks experience on the defensive line and needs to find a pass rusher. The Eagles don't have anyone who recorded more than four sacks last season.
3 guys to watch
FS Okechukwu Okoroha: He stepped in for an injured Wes Davis at safety last season and did a solid job. Okoroha should emerge as the Eagles' full-time starter now that Davis has completed his career. Although he must improve his consistency, Okoroha has shown plenty of promise.
DT Dillon Quinn: Rated as the No. 2 prospect in Massachusetts and the No. 102 recruit nationwide in 2009, Quinn received plenty of playing time -- primarily in a reserve role -- as a redshirt freshman last season. He figures to inherit a featured role this season as BC attempts to replace departed DT Damik Scafe.
RB Andre Williams: After taking over for an injured Harris late in the season, Williams rushed for 185 yards against Syracuse and 70 yards in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl loss to Nevada. Harris obviously remains the Eagles' main running back and heads into his junior season as an All-America candidate, but he already has a school-record 756 carries. Don't be surprised if Williams gets a little more playing time this fall as the Eagles try to make sure Harris remains fresh and doesn't wear down.
The pressure is on
WR Colin Larmond: After catching 29 passes for 596 yards and five touchdowns in 2009, Larmond missed the 2010 season with a knee injury. If Larmond can pick up where he left off two years ago, he could add a spark to a passing attack that struggled to make big plays last season. His comeback should be one of the major stories of Boston College's preseason.
The major spring storyline for BC involves the change at offensive coordinator. Kevin Rogers steps in for Gary Quantrill, who retired at the end of the 2010 season. Rogers worked as the Minnesota Vikings' quarterbacks coach the past five seasons, but he also has worked as an offensive coordinator at Syracuse and Notre Dame and as a quarterbacks coach at Virginia Tech. From a college perspective, he perhaps is best known for his work with Donovan McNabb at Syracuse. BC fans are wondering if Rogers can open up an offense that has been rather conservative the past few seasons. BC understandably leaned heavily on its rushing attack last season because of its uncertain quarterback situation. Now that sophomore Chase Rettig has an entire spring to work as the Eagles' clear-cut No. 1 quarterback, perhaps the Eagles will take a few more chances with the passing game.