With spring football upon us, it's always interesting to see which players need to step up their games to the next level to either replace departed seniors or return from injury (or academic mishaps). Led by quarterback Chris Crane at the most important position on the field, here are 10 players who need to step it up.
Chris Crane - So what do we know about Chris Crane other than he has some of the biggest shoes to fill in the country? We know he has good size, standing at 6' 4", 230-235 pounds. We know he's been studying under the wing of one of the best QBs in the country the last few years. We know that he has impressive scrambling ability (see Buffalo game 2006). Besides that, we really don't know a whole heck of a lot about Crane.
The one thing we do know is that nobody expects Crane to be Matt Ryan. It's not because Ryan set the bar so high either (although that's part of it), it's more because Crane is a different kind of QB. Unlike Ryan, if Crane's 1st option isn't open he's going to take off and run more than Ryan did. On occasions, that decision is going to pay off in a BC 1st down, and on others
.well for BC's sake let's hope the "others" are few and far between.
Josh Haden - The freshman RB enters BC as one of the most highly touted skill position recruits in recent memory. Rivals.com ranks Haden as the 3rd best all-purpose back recruit in the entire country. Whether or not that high billing leads to success on the field could be a determining factor in how successful BC will perform this season. Right now, the RB depth chart is thinner than Nicole Richie, even after one of her triscuit benders. The Eagles are going to lean on the freshman right away to carry the running load for the offense.
Ron Brace - With the loss of B.J. Raji in the spring and no assurance, at least for now, that he'll be the same player he was after sitting out a full season and a full spring, Brace becomes more important than ever.
Brace took a huge step forward last season, often times dominating defensive series. However, this spring he needs to learn to be a consistently dominant tackle and pick up even more of the slack left with Raji out.
Brian Toal - Mr.Toal has been around long enough that he actually has Big East hardware at home. In Toal's freshman year, it looked like he was on his way to being a legend at BC, as he registered 77 tackles on his way to Big East Rookie of the Year honors. Sadly enough, that first season was the healthiest Toal has been in his career. For the last three seasons the LB has been struck with injuries, including a shoulder injury that led him to take a medical redshirt last season. Is this the year that everyone's been waiting for when Toal is a 1st team All-ACC performer? He's shown he can play at that level in the past, it's just a matter of him staying healthy.
Wes Davis - Most of the coaching staff thought that Davis was ready to take his game to the next level last season, however like Toal, injuries slowed down the season for the safety. Davis missed 11 games and wasn't much of a factor in BC's ACC Championship run.
During the '06 season Davis looked like a future star. He laid out bone crunching hits, and seemed to have a knack for just making big plays. Will Davis be able to regain that form and help fill the void left by Jamie Silva?
Anthony Costanzo - Next to Matt Ryan, the biggest hole left for Coach Jags to fill both literally and figuratively is on the left side of the line where Gosder Cherilus blockaded the path to Matt Ryan for the past few seasons. Costanzo is the likely candidate to fill this void, moving over from the RT position, where he started last season. Costanzo's had a busy offseason getting bulked up to the 280-285 pound range. This added weight should help improve on his weakness from last year, which was blocking defenders who were more powerful than him.
Brad Newman - Newman is transitioning from one side of the ball to the other. Once a fullback, the sophomore is moving over to defensive end, a position he's familiar with from high school. Newman showed a knack for having a nose for the ball last season registering 8 tackles and a recovered fumble while playing special teams. The move to the end position could give BC a much added boost with outside pass rush.
Brandon Robinson - Check out some of these stats: 9 catches for 127 yards and 1 TD, 5 catches for 128 yards and a TD, 7 catches for 163 yards and a TD--- No these aren't the numbers put up by future 1st round draft picks Limus Sweed or DeSean Jackson, they're the numbers put up by BC's 2nd leading receiver from last season.
On a positive note, those are certainly impressive numbers put up against the likes of Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Florida State. On the negative side these 3 games accounted for 53% of Robinson's receiving yards from last year. The Eagles simply need Robinson to be more consistent from week to week, and become a "go to" receiver.
Jordon McMichael - McMichael is definitely a wild card selection for a player that needs to step up next season, but if he does BC's offense might not miss a beat from last year.
Many had high hopes for McMichael when he was recruited by BC back in 2006. The TE was a 4 start recruit that picked BC over programs like Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. So far, he hasn't lived up to the high billing. After redshirting his 1st year, McMichael's accomplishments from last year are listed on BC's website as "served as a valuable scout team member". Here's hoping that McMichael's 2008 accomplishments list some eye popping stats from a few games.
DeLeon Gause - To say Gause got thrown to the wolves a little bit last year might be an understatement. With star CB DeJuan Tribble down with an injury, Gause stepped in and was a more than admirable replacement in BC's biggest win of the year at Clemson. The performance was so impressive it earned the freshman ACC Player of the Week honors.
Now it's Gause's job to replace Tribble for the season, not just the week. For the last 2 years, Tribble played at an elite level for the Eagles, and was able to shutdown half of the field for a majority of the game. When opposing QB's did throw at Tribble, there was a good chance it was going to get pet picked. It's probably too much to ask Gause to come in and play like Tribble did his last 2 years at the Heights, but it's not reasonable to expect Gause to perform like Tribble did when he was a sophomore.
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