THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

BC opens camp with questions

Rebuilding Eagles seek improvement

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / August 8, 2011

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Summer is over for the Boston College football team, which begins training camp today in preparation for its season opener against Northwestern Sept. 3.

Coach Frank Spaziani has maintained that he is not only building for this season, he’s building a program. But he also has as many questions as he does answers.

Here are the five biggest questions the Eagles have entering the 2011 season:

1. Will the offense show progress with sophomore quarterback Chase Rettig and new offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers?

It’s likely. Rettig didn’t put up great numbers last season, but he appeared to be more in control each game, showing greater field awareness than any other QB on the roster. Former offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill, as well as Rogers, called it “swagger’’, something every QB needs.

There should be a solid receiving corps in Colin Larmond Jr., Ifeanyi Momah, and Bobby Swigert, and Montel Harris and Andre Williams form one of the best backfields in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The offensive line needs to be restructured, but BC is always strong in that department.

The Eagles ranked last in the ACC last season in points (18.5 per game) and total offense (299.1 yards per game).

2. Will linebacker Luke Kuechly have a better season than last year, and if so, how much better can he get?

If you listen to Spaziani and Kuechly, the best is yet to come. Kuechly was the leading tackler in college football last season as a sophomore, but that doesn’t mean as much when the tackles come in losses. The linebackers will be the strength of the defense, with Kuechly in the middle and Steele Divitto, Nick Clancy, and Kevin Pierre-Louis on the outside. “Kuechly is the eraser,’’ said Spaziani. “He just makes mistakes disappear.’’

What happens in front of and behind the LBs will be key. Kuechly can’t be everywhere - although sometimes he seems to be.

If you’re wondering whether Kuechly will stick around for his senior season, he hasn’t thought that far ahead. “I’m not even going to worry about that,’’ he said last week. “I’m happy where I am at right now and that’s all I’m going to worry about.’’

3. What will be the coaches’ biggest concern during training camp?

Besides avoiding serious injuries, the main focus will be on the offensive line. Without protection or production, Rettig and the running game can be neutralized.

And there is concern. You can’t lose multiple starters - including first-round draft pick Anthony Castonzo at tackle - and not be a little worried. Who will emerge from a projected starting group of tackles John Wetzel and Emmett Cleary, guards Nate Richman and Ian White, and center Mark Spinney? It should be noted that the backups are all underclassmen, which supports Spaziani’s goal of building long term.

4. Will any true freshmen make an immediate impact?

The Eagles don’t have any five-star skill players. The two-deep depth chart prior to training camp listed only two freshmen, Al Louis-Jean, a 6-foot-2-inch, 183-pound cornerback from Brockton, and Mehdi Abdesmad, a 6-6, 264-pound defensive end from Montreal.

5. Will the Eagles be better than last season?

They could be a better team and still not improve on their 7-6 record from 2010.

The schedule is far from easy. Opening with Northwestern and Central Florida (in Orlando) will be a tough way to start the season. Both are more highly regarded than the Eagles in preseason polls.

The middle of the season features a three-game road trip to Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Maryland. BC closes the regular season at Notre Dame and Miami.

Getting to six wins, and a potential 13th consecutive bowl game, might be as tough as it was last season, when the Eagles needed a five-game winning streak to become bowl eligible.

If BC can get through its first five games unbeaten - after Northwestern and Central Florida there are home games against Duke, UMass, and Wake Forest - they could ride that momentum into the teeth of their conference schedule and become a factor in the Atlantic Division.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at blaudschun@globe.com.