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New job is his to tackle

Cherilus on move along Eagles' line

Senior Gosder Cherilus will play left tackle this season for BC. Senior Gosder Cherilus will play left tackle this season for BC. (FILE/GRANT HALVERSON/GETTY IMAGES)

Gosder Cherilus and his offensive line buddies, who will play a big part in the fortunes of the Boston College football team this fall, got together last night for some ribs and some ribbing, as they always do just before practices start.

At 6 feet 7 inches, 318 pounds, Cherilus, who has been moved from right tackle to left, is the leader of this pack, whose success has been constant over the last several years, with winning seasons, bowl bids, and bowl wins.

Now it is the last hurrah for Cherilus, as practice begins tomorrow and the opener against Wake Forest is less than a month away. The offseason included a decision to come back for his senior season, a new head coach, two new offensive line coaches, and last month an off-campus altercation in which Cherilus learned that notoriety is not always good.

Cherilus has been a dominant force since former coach Tom O'Brien named him a starter as a redshirt freshman in 2004. But shortly after Jeff Jagodzinski replaced O'Brien in December, he looked at some tapes and made a instant decision.

"I wasn't watching more than a quarter of tape," said Jagodzinski with a laugh. "You always want to put your best offensive lineman on the left side. The good ones jump out at you. He's [6-7, 318] and he looks skinny, he is skinny. The guy is versatile, he can play both sides and he's got athleticism and length."

Early in the offseason, Cherilus wasn't sure he was coming back. "My head said one thing and my heart said something else," said Cherilus, who was born in Haiti but grew up in Somerville as a soccer player, a very aggressive soccer player. "It was the toughest decision of my life."

Jagodzinski and his staff, including then-offensive line coach Jim Turner, tried to guide Cherilus to follow his heart -- and come back to the Heights.

"If he didn't stay he would have cost himself millions," said Jagodzinski. "He probably would have been a second-day pick [in the NFL draft]."

After talking to his family and friends, Cherilus decided to come back for his senior season, and has taken out an insurance policy protecting him in case of injury.

"I turned in the papers [last] week," said Cherilus. "If I was going to go, I was going to give it my best, but I wanted to come back here and see if we could attain our goal, which is to win the [Atlantic Coast Conference] championship."

But there was work to do this spring, including learning the new zone blocking scheme, the new position, and becoming accustomed to new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr., who replaced Turner in the middle of spring practices.

Cherilus said the changes didn't affect him much. "I do everything I can lefthanded now," he said. "I eat lefthanded, write. Coach Jags said that it's like when you are driving in Europe on the left side. At first it will be strange, but then you adjust.

"Even when the old offensive line coach was there and working with us, Coach Jags was putting his two cents in, saying, 'Do it this way, it's better.' So it wasn't that much of a big deal."

What he hopes will not be a big deal are possible repercussions from an incident in a Boston bar last month in which a man suffered spinal injuries.

"As you climb up the ladder, people pay more attention and you have to be aware of where you go," said Cherilus, who says he now prefers to hang out with his teammates on campus.

Cherilus says the goal for this season is obvious. "We want to win the ACC championship" he repeated. "We want to win. We already know the recipe on how to do it, and [tomorrow] we're going right back at it."

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at