Change a familiar pattern for Gunnell

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / August 25, 2009

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Each day has been a learning experience, an adventure, a work in progress. Rich Gunnell has met many challenges during his time at Boston College, and there are still more hurdles to clear as his career winds down.

“This will be my third quarterback in three seasons,’’ said Gunnell yesterday with a laugh. “It’s a challenge.’’

Gunnell is no longer the eager kid who came from New Jersey in 2005, redshirted one season, and then worked his way through the system. Gunnell, who was elected one of BC’s tricaptains, knows his job description has changed this season. “It is a different role. But it’s one I like,’’ said the 5-foot-11-inch, 194-pound wideout. “I’ve always had some type of leadership role. It takes a lot to lead people and I’m going to do my best to keep everybody motivated.’’

One of Gunnell’s strengths is his reliability. He was the Eagles’ leading receiver last season with 49 receptions, averaging 11.2 yards per catch. Two years ago he emerged as a clutch player, making a late touchdown catch in a comeback win at Virginia Tech and catching a pair of TD passes in the Champs Sports Bowl to put away Michigan State.

This season there are four quarterbacks on the roster, none of whom have completed a regular-season pass for BC, and a new offensive coordinator. “It’s going to be interesting to see how the quarterbacks come along and how we work it all out,’’ said Gunnell, who this summer has been catching passes from David Shinskie, Mike Marscovetra, Codi Boek, and Justin Tuggle. “Each one is different, has different styles. I’ve got to get used to dealing with them and get a feel for what they are thinking. It helps a lot talking to all four of them, to try and get in their heads and get a feel for how they throw the ball. Once they name a starter, it will be easier, because he will get more reps.’’

He also has to absorb the changes implemented by offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve had three different offenses,’’ said Gunnell. “A lot of it is the same, but the terminology has changed. It’s not hard to catch on to, you just have to remember the name of it. The bottom line is that we just do our job. The QBs will get us the ball.’’

The Eagles continued their learning curve Sunday by holding their third scrimmage of training camp, a situational workout for the offense. Again, none of the quarterbacks stood out.

“It’s still murky,’’ said coach Frank Spaziani of the QB race. “We have to start somebody [in the opener against Northeastern on Sept. 5]. Who knows, we might play two.’’

Gunnell sees the Eagles moving forward. “We really have to take it game by game,’’ he said. “Take little steps. I don’t think too much about what’s down the road. We have to do what we can do to win games.’’

During Gunnell’s active career at BC, the Eagles have won 30 games, gone to three bowl games, and won the last two Atlantic Division titles in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Gunnell knows the bar is set high. And he also knows the challenges he’ll face this season could be his biggest.