The Boston College football season has one game remaining–Saturday at North Carolina State. But despite the Eagles’ 2-9 record, the BC players, as well as embattled Coach Frank Spaziani, have maintained the same focus and the same belief in what they term, “the process.”
Spaziani, who replaced Jeff Jagodzinski in 2009, has watched the Eagles’ win total steadily decline in the past few years, sinking to the 2-9 BC takes into the NC State game.
“You have to believe in the process,” said senior offensive tackle Emmett Cleary. “A lot of this isn’t Coach’s fault. I hope he has his job at the season opener.”
Cleary said he and his teammates have spent lots of time trying to analyze why things turned out differently then they had hoped.
“We have talked about this hundreds of times among the older guys,” said Cleary “I think a lot of these games were lost 3 or 4 years ago when my signing class was, I think 36, including walk ons. I think there are nine of us left. It’s hard to win when you don’t have experienced players and experienced depth. We have had a lot of young players have really played their asses off the last couple of years, but I think you prefer to have those guys redshirt and have experienced back ups when injuries and losses happen.”
“There is some attrition any time there is a coaching change. Certain guys came to play for Coach Jags and just decided it wasn’t for them when he left
“The first year we were here, we were in the ACC championship game and a lot of guys from our class didn’t understand what it took to get there. A lot guys expected to play a lot right away and expected that it would be easy and you know guys who weren’t playing enough their second year, weren’t starting by their third year took that as a shot at their self-confidence and felt they weren’t being treated fairly
“For us to be good, guys need to marinate a little bit. And I guess my class didn’t buy it . Part of the message unfortunately which has been driven home is that it is so hard to win at this level. A lot of things have to work out. You can’t leave any opportunities on the field.”
Cleary said the message the seniors will leave with the players returning is a simple one. “We try to tell them believe in the process and things will work out for you and for our team” he said “That’s why I’m so optimistic about our team. We have a lot of good young guys going forward who I think I know what it’s going to take.”
“It’s hard to win when you don’t have a lot of experience. I think last year we had six fifth years and 11 fourth years. A lot of good teams might have 15 grad students. It’s on us for letting our class fall apart. I’m the only guy left out of 6 linemen in my class.”
One of the returning players is QB Chase Rettig, who has blossomed into a star this season under new offensive coordinator Doug Martin, Rettig’ssfourth OC in three seasons.
Rettig is well aware that another change may be coming and he is not comfortable with it:
“I think social networking is terrible for coaches these days,” he said. “When I was growing up, I said “I want to be a coach one day.” At one time they had a bunch of time to establish themselves. Now in our day of social media and everyone being able to know everything very fast. It seems that coaches have a year to do something great and its on to the next person.”
Rettig says the turmoil outside has not had an affect inside the BC locker room. “We fully support him (Spaziani),” said Rettig.He gave me opportunity to play. But it (a change) is not up to the players. It’s not an easy question because we have no control over it.”
If there is a change, Rettig said he would obviously have to deal with it. “It would be another challenge,” he said. “That would be crazy. If we had a new head coach, everything underneath usually changes. We have done a lot. It would be nice to see what we could do with it for a whole off-season a spring, summer camp and another season.”
Rettig, like Cleary, says he has looked back for reasons why things happened the way they did.
“Sometimes before you go to sleep, you think of all the close games you should have won,” he said “But we can’t have too much of the would have and should have. We have to find ways to win games.”
“This is our last opportunity. We have to be winning overtime games, the close games. That’s how teams like Alabama have gotten to where they are. The best teams are on the same page. The coaches and players are one. We did that. We are close to our coaches. We just have to find ways to win football games. It doesn’t matter how ugly a win is. We just have to find a way to win football games. That’s what burns the fire for the next game. And the next game.”
“We were close this year a bunch of times. We just have to get over the hump. I don’t think there is any magical equation. We just have to keep having a good work ethic. But sometimes you have to make a play.”
Sitting in the middle of this storm is Spaziani, who maintains that he is building a program the way it should be built with players who can make it work.
“We try to see if they are interested in us for the right reasons,” said Spaziani when asked about the type of players he recruits, “We are no better than anybody else, but we’re different and we’re pretty good.
“We want kids that understand what we’re about, then we’ve got a chance. If you take a bunch of those guys with that attitude, then you have that little oomph that you need. If we had 18 (instead of 9) of those guys, that makes it better. Just go through the good teams and look at their roster.”
“Those good teams have a good quarterback and they have some senior leadership. But they have to be a team. What did Knute Rockne say. I want 11 players ,but I want 11 team players. That’s what you need. You need guys to come together as a team. When you have seniors, it helps.”
“That’s why we are short a little bit. The reality is this. When you chop up recruiting (which comes with a change in head coaches). It doesn’t show right away. It has unintended consequences that happen later on. Boston College is a little different. At Boston College you have to identity talent, You have to develop it. And you must have some continuity with it. And then we have had some other issues.”
Spaziani says he likes the future, likes what sees in his group of underclassmen.
“I’m excited.”he said. “I look forward to it. This is our third recruiting class. And those guys are fitting in. There are going to be some real good leaders and good football players. It’s exciting. They are going to need some experience. But they have the stuff that we had in the past.I take responsibility for everybody. I have three classes that I recruited.”
Spaziani says Rettig is a prime example of a player that he wants at BC. “Chase is the perfect example of what I’m talking about,” he said. “We had hoped when we brought him in we could redshirt him. But that didn’t happen. And then certain things that he had no control over happened. We got disjointed. We had a new offensive coordinator. It was not a good situation. We tried to manage our way through. He did everything we asked.”
“Now there is some continuity there. It’s stable and you see what he is producing. He is everything we thought he would be. He’s made some spectacular plays.”
Spaziani says the job is more than simply showing up on Saturday or even putting together the X’s and O’s of a game plan.
“You can not control what is happening outside,” he said. “That’s part of the great part about coaching. Its Xs and O’s but it’s also teaching. Hopefully they will be able to use some of this when they wake up one morning and someone is sick in their family and they have to go to work.”
Spaziani is also learned a lot about himself on the job.
“I’ve learned how important assistant coaches are,’ he said “When I was assistant I thought it was important to have good assistants. When I became a head coach, I said “Man, it’s really important to have good assistants.”
“You have to have those guys that will believe in you. Because they are the ones that are in the trenches with the kids. All of our guys are like the players. They believe in BC. They are here for the right reasons. There are circumstances that happened that I had to manage my way through. Some things have happened. But that’s what you do, you adjust.
“I’m much more experienced. You learn. Take players. You know guys are going to get hurt. You know that something unforseen is going to happen with a coach or a player. But there are certain things that I had to manage my way through the problem.”
Now the journey is almost over.
© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.