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A rough patch for Eagles

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / October 7, 2011

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After a 1-4 start that included four home games, the Boston College football team turns into the heart of its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule. Tomorrow’s visit to Clemson marks the first of three straight road games.

But to project the future, you must examine the past and identify the maladies that have the Eagles on course for their first losing record since 1998, the last time BC missed out on a bowl game.

Athletic director Gene DeFilippo made it again clear this week that coach Frank Spaziani’s job is safe for this season.

“We’ve had so many injuries and are so young,’’ said DeFilippo. “I’m around Spaz every day. He’s a great coach.

“We are going through a rough stretch right now, but if you look at the ACC, every team other than Virginia Tech has had one sub-.500 season.’’

Fingers are being pointed in every direction.

A lack of stability at the top is obvious. Spaziani is in his third season, following two years of Jeff Jagodzinski, who replaced Tom O’Brien after the 2006 season.

Three head coaches in six seasons is not the way to succeed at the Bowl Subdivision level, and especially at BC, which puts more emphasis on academics than athletics. Having four offensive coordinators in the same period - including Dave Brock replacing Kevin Rogers (medical leave) last month - has also created uncertainty about styles and expectations.

But success is also predicated on talent. BC’s current state of inexperience dates to Jagodzinski’s first recruiting class in 2007, players who would be fifth-year seniors. Of that group of 18, only six remain, with three graduating and nine others leaving the program.

Center Mark Spinney, running back Montel Harris, and tight end Lars Anderson are the only starters among fifth-year seniors. Spinney has bounced around the offensive line. Harris is BC’s all-time leading rusher, but for the past 11 months, he has had a series of knee problems, the latest coming last week against Wake Forest. He is out of tomorrow’s game and his status for the remainder of the season is in question.

Anderson has been a steady performer. The same was said of guard Nathan Richman before the cocaptain suffered a series of back problems this season. Another fifth-year senior, Dan Williams, is a reserve fullback after starting out as a defensive lineman. The sixth is linebacker Will Thompson, who has played a utility role.

Jagodzinski’s second recruiting class produced 29 players who would be seniors or redshirt juniors. Only 12 remain. Quarterback Justin Tuggle and running back Josh Hayden, projected as potential starters, transferred. Others left for academic reasons. Others, such as defensive back Okechukwu Okoroha, are gone for disciplinary reasons.

The bottom line is, the core group of young players that Spaziani recruited, such as linebackers Luke Kuechly and Kevin Pierre-Louis, have had to develop quicker than expected.

Spaziani says the progress is slow and sporadic, clearly a case of on-the-job training.

“I don’t know if it’s going to show in games, but you can see the progress in practice,’’ said Spaziani. “You see signs of players who can do the things you want and need them to do.’’

The Eagles are in a rough patch right now, and it might get worse before it gets better, but Spaziani and DeFilippo think the program is headed in the right direction.

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