It’s easy to forget how good BC’s linebackers were a season ago, especially with visions of Diamond Ferri running all over the defense still dancing in most of the Eagle faithful’s heads. Despite their horrendous performance against Syracuse- and quite frankly they were not alone in their futility- BC’s starting trio of starting linebackers and their solid depth makes this unit one of the best on Tom O’Brien’s squad.
Brian Toal might be considered the anchor of the unit if not for the two seniors- Ricky Brown and Ray Henderson- starting next to him. Still, the sophomore from Wyckoff, New Jersey, had a stellar campaign in 2004, earning Big East Rookie of the Year honors for his efforts on defense and special teams; without a doubt he has the most raw talent of anyone not named “Kiwanuka” on BC’s defense. But if there’s anything Toal isn’t, it’s complacent.
“Ive got to get a lot better,” he told EagleInsider.com’s Matt Taylor last week. “Last year, I was just running around making plays, I didn’t really know the defense. Now that I know the defense and where I’m supposed to be every play and I know all the different schemes I think I can improve a lot, mentally. Working out over the summer will hopefully make me better physically too.”
Toal has reportedly looked fantastic in camp; he and the linebacker unit are in great shape, and have done a nice job shutting down BC’s corps of running backs during scrimmages. He credits the chemistry with the other two starters for the unit’s success.
“Those two guys are like brothers to me,” said Toal. “There’s a lot of chemistry out there. We just have so much fun just going out to practice every day. Thinking about not playing with Ray (Henderson) and Ricky (Brown) next year is kind of tough but we have this year and its going to be a lot of fun and it’ll make things easier for us. It’s a pleasure playing with those two guys.”
Looking ahead to 2006, the Eagles will boast an all-junior starting linebacker corps of Toal, JoLonn Dunbar- who was tremendous in limited action a season ago- and probably Tyronne Pruitt.
But for now, 2005 is what the BC fans and players alike are focused on. BC opens their season on September 3rd against BYU, and Toal believes that the Eagles’ rigorous summer training regimen will have them well prepared for all that Utah has to offer.
“Two a days will put you in real great shape and get you ready for the season,” said Toal. “To go out to BYU for the first game with the air and everything else that everyone has been talking about, it’ll just get you in better shape.”
“I’m real excited about it, but it’s just another game. We just have to go out there and play our game and we’ll be fine. They have a real good offense which will be a challenge to our defense, but we’ll see what we can do.”
BYU marks the first of many challenges for Frank Spaziani’s defense in 2005. If the Eagles’ defense can rise to the occasion against the high-flying BYU attack in the thin air, it will provide a confidence boost for Toal and the rest of the “D” heading into ACC play for the first time in the school’s history.
Matt Taylor contributed to this article.