BOSTON (AP) Boston College lost its coach, two of the nation’s top defensive linemen and a pair of outstanding linebackers. The quarterback may be a 25-year-old freshman who hasn’t played football since 2002.

The Eagles streak of 10 winning seasons could be in jeopardy. An 11th straight bowl game — after going 8-2 in their past 10 — is no certainty. They were ranked last in the ACC’s Atlantic Division in the preseason poll, a division BC won last year.

Florida State, Virginia Tech and other ACC schools with bigger football reputations, usually are more highly regarded than BC.

“When’s it not a down year for BC in the preseason?” senior defensive end Jim Ramella said. “A lot of questions have to be answered, but I think we have the team to do it.”

The Eagles don’t have defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace. Raji was drafted ninth overall by the Green Bay Packers and Brace was taken by the New England Patriots in the second round, the 40th overall pick.

They don’t have Jeff Jagodzinski, who was fired as coach after two seasons when he interviewed for the New York Jets head coaching position after being told by athletic director Gene DeFilippo his job would be in jeopardy if he did.

They don’t have Mark Herzlich, last year’s ACC defensive player of the year and BC’s top tackler, who is being treated for cancer. And they won’t have another linebacker, Mike McLaughlin, the team’s second-leading tackler in 2008, for at least the first few games as he recovers from a torn Achilles’ tendon.

“I’m definitely going to push myself,” McLaughlin said, “but I don’t want to step on the field until I feel like this is 100 percent recovered because that’s not going to help the team and that’s not going to help myself.”

The Eagles do have “Uncle Dave.”

That’s what teammates call quarterback David Shinskie, a minor league pitcher for seven years who was released this season by Double-A New Hampshire in the Toronto organization. He spent the previous six seasons in the Minnesota organization, never rising above Double-A.

“I had a little rough time” during the Eagles’ first practice Monday, Shinskie said. “The game’s gotten a lot faster. I haven’t been here in a while but just studying with the quarterbacks coach and the other guys, I’m going to get it down. I should be OK.”

Just two years ago, Matt Ryan was BC’s quarterback. Chris Crane took over last year. After it ended, his backup, Dominique Davis, transferred after being suspended for academic reasons. Four of BC’s five current quarterbacks are freshmen, and Shinskie has an edge in athletic experience although a starter hasn’t been named.

One sign of stability is the new head coach.

Frank Spaziani took over after 13 years as a BC assistant, the last 10 as defensive coordinator, and is adjusting to his changed responsibilities.

“It’s delegation of the time and moving away from some of the internal things I used to do down in the bowels of the ship,” he said.

Last season, the Eagles lost the ACC championship game for the second straight season to Virginia Tech. Then they fell to Vanderbilt in the Champs Sports Bowl, snapping an eight-game bowl winning streak.

Four months later, Raji and Brace were drafted from the team that allowed the fifth-fewest yards in the nation.

“There’s going to be guys playing their position that probably may be 60, 70, 80 percent as good as they were, so the other percentage has to come from other guys,” Spaziani said, “not that we’re not concerned about it.”

Less than three weeks after the draft, Herzlich said he was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a malignant tumor often found in bone or soft tissue. Herzlich said he is determined to return to football after dealing with the disease.

Ramella knows he must take a larger leadership role on a younger defense.

“It’s not like we’re going to have teams run the football on us just because we lost first- and second-round draft picks,” he said. “The young guys obviously have a long way to go, but they’ll step up.”


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