It's small steps first, then bigger and bolder ones for Matt Ryan, who runs an offense he knows well in terms of personnel, but not so well in terms of scheme.
The Boston College quarterback went through spring drills under the tutelage of new head coach Jeff Jagodzinski and new offensive coordinator Steve Logan. But that was preliminary stuff.
"It was not even the same team in terms of knowing stuff," said Logan. "We're light-years ahead of that now."
Last night was another first step as the Eagles held their first "fall" scrimmage. Nothing big, just 30 scripted plays for Ryan and the top offensive and defensive units as Jagodzinski and the Eagles get closer to their opener -- Sept. 1 against Wake Forest.
But the offense spent most of the evening playing catch-up to the defense as Ryan had trouble getting into a steady flow in the early going.
"Typical first scrimmage," said Jagodzinski, explaining the early sloppiness before Ryan and the first-team offense started playing better.
Jagodzinski said the main thrust of the first few scrimmages (the next will be Wednesday) will be geared toward form as much as performance.
Before the scrimmage, Ryan had simple goals.
"Just work on fundamental team stuff, getting the offense going," said the 6-foot-5-inch, 218-pound senior, who bulked up some as a result of the team's aggressive conditioning program. "Not making mistakes, not turning the ball over."
Ryan did turn it over early, throwing an interception to cornerback DeJuan Tribble. But gradually Ryan started to get into the flow of Logan's offense, completing touchdown passes to Rich Gunnell and Kevin Challenger.
There was a hint of excitement in Ryan's voice when he talked of Logan's plan to be more aggressive and give him more freedom to call plays.
"That's every quarterback's dream, to call your own plays," said Ryan. "But with that comes added responsibility to do the job."
Logan, who was head coach at East Carolina from 1992-2000 and the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe (2004-05), says Ryan has thus far done the job as well as any quarterback he has had.
"He's faster, more explosive than he was in the spring," said Logan. "The other day at practice, he threw the ball downfield and it went 60 yards in the air."
Logan said the optimum plan would be to let Ryan call every play.
"Matt is very, very good at it," said Logan.
Last night, Ryan and the Eagle offense gave a sneak preview of Logan's attack, but there is still a lot fine-tuning left to be done.
There was some movement in the depth chart as Matt Tennant jumped ahead of Kevin Sheridan as the starting center, and Patrick Sheil, who was battling Clif Ramsey for the starting right tackle slot, now is working as a swing man at guard and tackle . . . In addition to Wednesday's scrimmage, the Eagles will do it again next Sunday . . . Ryan was 10 of 19 for 81 yards and two TDs . . . Steve Aponavicius had a nice night, making 4 of 5 field goal attempts, including one from 37 yards that matched the longest of his career . . . Running backs L.V. Whitworth and Jeff Smith missed the scrimmage with what Jagodzinski described as "nicks." As a result, junior A.J. Brooks got extra playing time.