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More moving pieces for BC

Coaching changes a lot to deal with

BC coach Frank Spaziani will have to adjust on the fly after offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers took a leave of absence. BC coach Frank Spaziani will have to adjust on the fly after offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers took a leave of absence. (Associated Press)
By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / September 14, 2011

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The announcement Monday that Boston College offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers was taking a leave of absence for health reasons was the latest in a series of changes that have been part of the BC football landscape for five years, or since former head coach Tom O’Brien went to North Carolina State.

Coach Frank Spaziani quickly elevated tight ends coach Dave Brock to the temporary post of offensive coordinator for the 0-2 Eagles, who have dropped their first two games of the season for the first time since 1994 and now prepare to play a Duke team that is also 0-2.

Whether Rogers comes back is uncertain, but the odds of the 59-year-old coach returning do not appear to be great.

BC has gone through a tumultuous period in which it has had three head coaches - O’Brien, Jeff Jagodzinski, and Spaziani - in a four-year span, and has had to adjust to new faces in new roles on both sides of the ball, which would be tough even for an elite program, much less one that is still striving to find Top 20 consistency.

Brock’s elevation makes him the Eagles’ fourth offensive coordinator in the five-year stretch. There also were three offensive line coaches in two years.

Defensively, the coaching staff has been stable, with coordinator Billy McGovern making things work no matter what players he has available. But he did lose two veteran defensive backs this year who were projected as starters. Okechukwu Okoroha was dismissed from the team and Dominick LeGrande decided to transfer.

Then in last week’s 30-3 loss to Central Florida, cornerback C.J. Jones went down with a knee injury that will sideline him for the season.

Yesterday, Brock said he would like to make as smooth a transition as possible, but smoothness has not been the operative word in the past five years.

“I’ve done it before and I’m looking forward to that, but it is pretty clearly defined,’’ Brock said. “We have to prepare the kids to play and, at the end of the day, you have to win the football game. From that standpoint, my job hasn’t changed. I will make the decision on play-calling and that is exciting.

“We have to take a workmanlike approach to this as coaches and so do the players. We all have a job to do. I love the guys I coach with. I’m excited.’’

When Jagodzinski was hired to replace O’Brien in December 2006, one of his first hires was former BC captain Jim Turner as offensive line coach. Turner and Jagodzinski soon clashed over coaching philosophy, and by spring of 2007, Turner had had enough. One night in April, he cleaned out his office and resigned the next day, citing “a difference in coaching philosophies.’’

Jagodzinski and BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo went into a quick search mode and focused on Jack Bicknell Jr., whose father was the BC coach during the Doug Flutie era.

Bicknell had left a head coaching job at Louisiana Tech to become offensive line coach at Texas Tech. He had been at Tech only a few months, but DeFilippo did a heavy recruiting job on him, and gave him the title of assistant head coach as well as offensive line coach. There also was a tacit understanding that if the head job opened, Bicknell would be high on the list.

But when Jagodzinski was gone two years later, Spaziani was hired as head coach, and Bicknell left to join the New York Giants.

Last winter, Gary Tranquill, a longtime friend of Spaziani’s, retired after two years as offensive coordinator. Spaziani sifted through a long list of candidates, including Brock and wide receivers coach Ryan Day. Both wanted the job, but neither got it. Rogers was hired in April, with Brock and Day working under him.

Rogers had potential developing stars in quarterback Chase Rettig and running back Andre Williams. But he also had to deal with assistant coaches in Day and Brock who had ambitions of their own.

When Mark Whipple, the former University of Massachusetts coach, was getting strong consideration as head coach to replace O’Brien in 2006, he was told by BC officials that he would have to keep Spaziani, who was then defensive coordinator but had applied for the head coaching job.

But Whipple said he couldn’t do that because it was bad business to keep someone on the staff who had applied for and been denied the job.

If BC had won its first two games, things might be calmer at The Heights. But the Eagles lost a close game they should have won against Northwestern, and they trailed only 9-3 going into the fourth quarter against Central Florida.

Rogers’s health issues are legitimate; back and leg problems hampered him throughout the summer. Losing the first two games just added to his angst.

“Expect the unexpected,’’ said Spaziani after making the announcement of Rogers’s leave of absence Monday.

That might be the theme for the week, and the season, as Brock and Rettig adjust to each other on the fly.

Senior tight end Lars Anderson, who has been at BC since the first day of Jagodzinski’s reign and has gone through the coaching carousel.

“Being able to adapt to change is definitely a strong quality to have,’’ he said. “I don’t think there will be much change from Coach Rogers to Coach Brock. We have the same personnel, and we have only a few days to get prepared for our next game.’’

Still, Anderson said, the switch was stunning.

“It was shocking to hear,’’ he said, “but the biggest thing we need to do as players is keep together. It’s definitely time for some leadership.’’

Rettig, who was recruited out of high school by Brock, says his comfort level with the new offensive coordinator is high.

“It’s a tough situation,’’ he said. “It’s just another challenge for us. But I’m comfortable with Coach Brock. He recruited me and we have a close relationship.’’

Running back Montel Harris (knee) did not practice yesterday, which makes his return for the Duke game more unlikely, especially if he is out of practice today.

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