QB has his signals straight

Thrown into the BC mix, Shinskie is all caught up

After a lot of early uncertainty at the quarterback position, 25-year-old freshman Dave Shinskie won the starting job for good in the Eagles’ fourth game. After a lot of early uncertainty at the quarterback position, 25-year-old freshman Dave Shinskie won the starting job for good in the Eagles’ fourth game. (Michael Conroy/File/Associated Press
By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / November 13, 2009

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He’s into it now. The classes. The social activities (limited this semester by his commitment to football). The life of a college freshman. Which is technically what Dave Shinskie is.

“As a student, I feel like a freshman,’’ said the Boston College quarterback, whose team gets back in action tomorrow at Virginia. “I go to class and I try to participate.’’

Which is what the 25-year-old Shinskie has been doing in football as well. He’s emerged as the starter, one of the Eagles’ leaders on offense.

In many ways, Shinskie’s life experiences make him much more than a freshman. He did the “Bull Durham’’ thing for six years, playing minor league baseball, until his career came to a major intersection when he was released last spring.

Shinskie’s goal had been clear: pitch in The Show. After all, he was chosen by Minnesota in the fourth round (118th overall, just four picks behind Jonathan Papelbon) of the 2003 major league draft.

But the road to the majors got bumpy, with stops in places such as Elizabethton, Tenn., and Beloit, Wis. Last spring, it took him to Manchester, N.H., where he appeared in 12 games for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (a Double A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays), posting a 3.44 ERA. It wasn’t good enough, and he was released. His career minor-league numbers: 24-30, 4.61 ERA.

The choices were clear: Try to find another place to resume his baseball career, or go to college and chart a different career path.

Playing football was a way for Shinskie to go in the college direction and have someone else pay for it. He could have done that seven years ago - the plan was to play football at the University of Delaware - but he chose baseball and put his football dreams in the closet.

When he arrived at BC early last summer, it seemed things would be easier than he expected. He was taking classes, working out with the team, and adjusting to campus life. He was going to be BC’s quarterback of the present and perhaps the future.

From a maturity standpoint, Shinskie could handle it. He was not overwhelmed academically as a freshman.

Football? That was a different matter. In that area, he was 25 going on 18 and in the fast lane of big-time college football. The Atlantic Coast Conference is not the Southeastern Conference or the Big Ten, but it’s faster than the Division 1-AA life, which is what he would have had at Delaware.

“In football, I still feel like a freshman,’’ said Shinskie, who started off slowly and then cracked a rib, which set him back even further. “But now it’s coming easier. Back then, it was a mix between two guys learning the offense. It was frustrating the first couple of weeks because I had no clue as to how it was going to turn out.’’

The problem, as coach Frank Spaziani pointed out, was that Shinskie was simply a freshman with limited experience. So was Justin Tuggle, and Mike Marscovetra, the main competition at quarterback through summer training camp. Even Codi Boek, who transferred to BC last season, had limited experience.

“A work in progress,’’ was the way Spaziani described it, and the progress was coming inch by inch.

Tuggle, who won the job in training camp but rotated with Shinskie the first few games, struggled. So did Shinskie, who didn’t become the starter until the fourth game.

Shinskie’s numbers are solid but not spectacular: 97 of 178 for 1,356 yards, 11 touchdowns, 7 interceptions. He is coming off a 31-10 win over Central Michigan in which he completed 18 of 28 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown.

Again, good but not great. Shinskie wants to make it better. Much better.

“I have more of a sense of urgency now,’’ he said. “I’m getting more comfortable now in my situation and just putting more pride in everything I do.’’