CLEMSON, S.C. - Surprise! Boston College can fly, too.
Long thought of as plodding powerhouse of 360-pound behemoths, preseason Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Mathias Kiwanuka says the Eagles possess the team speed some think usually lies in Southeastern schools like Clemson.
Kiwanuka agrees that BC's offensive line is overwhelming - its smallest starter is center Patrick Ross is 6-foot-4, 298 pounds. "But some people may be paying a little too much attention to our size and not realize that we can move with a tremendous amount of grace" and quickness, he said.
You don't have to sell that notion to Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. "They've got some guys quick as a hiccup," he said. "They ran with Florida State just fine. And Florida State's a pretty good team."
Kiwanuka says as a player whose strength is his speed, "I take offense" to the idea the Eagles rely on brawn instead of flash.
The Eagles (2-1, 0-1 ACC) can squelch that for good Saturday when they travel to Death Valley for their first league road game.
If it takes power over breakaway runs to come away with victory, that's OK says Boston College quarterback Quinton Porter.
The Eagles massive offensive line averages 6-foot-6 and 316 pounds among the starters, a very large advantage for controlling the line of scrimmage.
"It's like a heavyweight boxing match," Porter said. "We pound and pound and pound. If there's a big shot, we'll take it. But we like to control the match offensively."
The Eagles looked like they had done that against Florida State last week, rallying from 14-0 to take a 17-14 lead into the final quarter. However, once Porter came out with a hurt right ankle, Boston College's offense stalled and the Seminoles came away with the 28-17 win.
Still, the Eagles' ACC debut was enough to raise concerns with Clemson coach Tommy Bowden about how well his Tigers will match up. Bowden was considering moving 315-pound offensive lineman Chris McDuffie to the defensive side for this game, where he would instantly be Clemson's largest D-lineman. "Their 290 (pound) little ones are our big ones," Bowden said.
When college recruiters head to the colder weather high schools, they find players filling weight rooms to work out because they can't do much outside. Down South, athletes are outside so much because of the weather and that lends itself to developing speed and quickness, Bowden said.
But bulk is bulk, no matter how you get it. And if you don't have as much of it, you come in behind.
"I think we'll be really challenged this week simply because of style of play" of Boston College, Bowden said. "With two guys of equal toughness, the bigger guys usually wins."
Boston College's Will Blackmon has enough speed to match with anyone. The senior, who also plays cornerback and returns kicks, had eight catches in his first start at wideout against Brigham Young three weeks ago. He thinks the Eagles showed their wings off against Florida State.
"I felt last week that that's the fastest team we were going to face the entire year and we matched up pretty well," Blackmon said.
A question for the Eagles is their quarterback, Porter. He had to leave the Florida State game after BC's comeback because a lineman rolled on his right ankle, making it too painful to push off. Porter couldn't practice with the team early in the week, but had not been ruled out of playing at Clemson.
The Tigers might have some questions, too. They've had motivational problems in the past after heartbreaking losses - Clemson's 36-30 triple OT thriller against Miami last week was dubbed an "Instant Classic" by ESPN - and will need to remain focused on Boston College.
"It's hard," Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams says. "But we've got to get past it."
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