Coming off a third-place conference finish at 7-6 in 2013, it's looking like 2014 could be a transitional year for the Eagles with only three returning starters on offense, and following a 2013 campaign that yielded the conference's 14th total defense.
On offense, BC fans may have to be patient this year with the departure of the nation's leading rusher in 2013, Andre Williams (2,177, 6.1, 18), and with the quarterback position seemingly up in the air as former Florida Gator senior graduate transfer and oft-injured Tyler Murphy looks to be the early favorite for the starting spot there with Chase Rettig done and top recruit Darius Wade most likely too raw to content right away.
Starting tackles Matt Patchan and Ian White have also departed leaving some questions along the O-line, but three-year starting center Andy Gallik is a bright spot and one to watch leading up to the '15 draft, and OL Ian Silberman - another Florida transfer - should add some much-needed experience and versatility to the unit.
On the defensive side of the ball, speedy linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis and DE Kaleb Ramsey ,among others, are gone to the NFL, but this unit does see eight of its starters return including a few seniors who could draw interest from NFL scouts in towering DE Brian Mahalik (6'9, 288), and a trio of DBs in safeties Dominique Williams and Sean Sylvia, and cornerback Manuel Asprilla.
Boston College's top NFL Draft-eligible prospects to watch in 2014:
C Andy Gallik (6'3 | 299 | 5.20 | #59)
A three-year starter at center and All-ACC third-team honoree in 2013, Gallik anchored a line that helped generate the nations 20th best and the conference's second leading rushing attack(212.5 ypg), as a junior.
Gallik demonstrates the heady and instinctive nature that you want to see in a next-level center, keeping his head on a swivel and exhibiting good anticipation on inside blitzes and stunts. He's not content simply occupying his opponent with a lock-on, but rather, maintains active hands and makes it a point to try and finish each opponent into the turf. His lower half flexibility and ability to widen allow him to anchor against bigger, stronger linemen and hold ground and his feisty nature is exactly what you want in the trenches.
There's plenty to improve upon in 2014 for Gallik, who tends to over-extend when targeting in space and simply doesn't posses the lateral fluidity or quick-twitch athleticism to correct when he takes a wrong angle. At the second level, he struggles to make adjustments in space when attempting to cut off defender pursuit angles, and he tends to reach and grab.
At the point of attack, although he anchors well and fights to the whistle, Gallik isn't a guy who will routinely move defenders off the ball with drive power, and he doesn't exhibit great upper-half strength. In pass protection, he tends to stop moving his feet making him susceptible to a swim or swat, and he'll allow defenders into his frame occasionally by absorbing the rush with bent arms rather than transferring to his lower half.
Gallik's experience, instincts and toughness already have him on scouts' radar heading into 2014, and with some technical improvements and a better overall display in space, he could be one of the top three centers off the board in 2015.
DE Brian Mihalik (6'9 | 288 | 4.96 | #99)
Though not a routine starter to this point, Mihalik has been a consistent contributor since his true freshman season, demonstrating the versatility to line up at either end position and provide a disruptive presence both as a run defender and even a bit as a pass rusher.
At 6'9, Mihalik possesses rare length and surprising quickness to go with that length as he fires off the ball with good timing and gets up to speed by his second or third step despite being a long-strider. His lean, wiry frame makes it tough for blockers to get into his space and latch on, and he redirects with better control than one might expect considering his height. He shows good instincts and awareness against the run, and uses his length well to extend and wrap up his target.
Where Mihalik needs to improve is in the strength department. Even when he's able to hit top speed prior to engaging a blocker, Mihalik fails to show any real power on contact and struggles to keep his arms extended when battling. Despite possessing enough natural flexibility to get low and establish leverage, he simply doesn't demonstrate the strength in his lower half to control his opponent from that position, and is often neutralized when attempting to bull rush.
Mihalik's combination of extremely rare length and solid instincts certainly makes him an intriguing NFL prospect, especially when considering the upside that his above-average athleticism allows for. Added strength could significantly boost his draft prospects though, as it would allow NFL coaches to consider him as a potential interior option as well.
OL Ian Silberman (6'5 | 293 | 5.17 | #75)
A former four-star recruit out of Fleming Island, Florida, Silberman bypassed offers from Clemson, Florida State, Michigan, North Carolina and Tennessee to jump on with the Gators where, over four years, he appeared in 20 games and amassed seven starts, before transferring to BC for his final year of eligibility.
At 6'5, 293, Silberman boasts a tackle-like frame with a chiseled upper-half and impressive muscular definition throughout, but plays with the nasty demeanor and blue-collar approach of a true trencher. He appears a bit "tight" and doesn't demonstrate a lot of fluidity in space when asked to move left or right, but he gets off the line and into the hole quickly when asked to pull or trap, and demonstrates nice surge to the second level.
As a run-blocker, Silberman exhibits impressive raw power on contact to move defenders off the block, and takes pride in a physical, bullying style when engaging opponents. However, he struggles to break down and redirect in space when anticipating incoming defenders, and his lateral limitations make it tough for him to have an impact outside of the phone booth.
His strong, active hands help him to compensate for lateral issues when sliding as a pass-protector, so he could get a shot at tackle with the Eagles, but all indications are, at least when considering his NFL prospects, Silberman is a much more natural fit at guard where he can put his strength, toughness and limited quickness to use in a short area.
Other Boston College prospects worth watching:
SS Dominique Williams (6'0 | 218 | 4.63 | #9)
Reliable, durable and powerfully-built safety with 34 career game appearances for BC who has been one of the team's most prolific tacklers over the course of his career. Williams is a consistent contributor against the run, demonstrating good in-the-box recognition and strong downhill burst, but lacks side-to-side range in coverage and has made very few plays on the ball (one career pass defensed, one career interception).
Durability, experience and versatility to line up in the box are all pluses, but he'll need to make an impact in the passing game, in order to draw significant NFL interest in 2014.
DB Sean Sylvia (6'0 | 200 | 4.63 | #19)
Versatile, instinctive DB with 36 career appearances, who has chalked starts at both corner and safety in his time at BC, amassing 192 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, eight passes defensed and three interceptions. Sylvia lacks top-notch athleticism and isn't a guy who will consistently keep the top on a defense with speed, but his strong read-and-react skills and solid tackling fundamentals could give him a chance to compete for a special teams spot on an NFL roster right out of the gate.
OT Seth Betancourt (6'5 | 300 | 5.16 | #67)
Primarily a reserve tackle who served as Matt Patchan's backup in 2013, but has 22 games of action under his belt and has shown good versatility having made appearances at both guard and tackle, and on both sides of the line in that time. 2014 will be Betancourt's opportunity to earn a starting role and grab the attention of NFL scouts, but he'll need to stand out at a clear cut position and demonstrate improved strength.