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Eagles QB Shinskie Is Impressive, and Old

Dave Shinskie is Boston College’s true freshman quarterback. He is 25 years old.

“I don’t get treated any differently, but I don’t treat them any differently,” Shinskie said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “They’re athletes, and I’m an athlete. We’re teammates.”

Shinskie played minor league baseball before being released last spring. He came to Boston College after his former high school football coach made a call on his behalf. Shinskie’s return to the gridiron worked well for the Eagles (4-1, 2-1), who play at No. 5 Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0) on Saturday.

“I’ve only heard about it, that it’s a crazy place to play,” Shinskie said of Lane Stadium. “When I get down there on the field, I guess I’ll find out. I’m just glad that I get the opportunity to play against a team like Virginia Tech and glad I get the opportunity to play at a place like that.”

In high school, Shinskie probably would have never figured he would be in this position.

Shinskie was drafted by the Minnesota Twins organization in the fourth round (118th overall) of the 2003 Major League Baseball draft, just four picks behind Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. He reached as high as Class AA as a pitcher with the Twins and then the Toronto Blue Jays organization before being released last spring.

Asked if it was hard to walk away from baseball, Shinskie said: “It was. Not because it was my first love or because it was the sport I was playing, but because you think in your mind that people don’t think your good enough to make the big leagues. As an athlete, it’s something that’s hard to take.”

But Shinskie said he was glad the negative experience brought him to Boston College. As the Eagles quarterback, Shinskie has shown promising signs, even though he has spent six years away from football.

Shinskie stepped in the starting role for the Eagles after their dismal 25-7 loss to Clemson on Sept. 19. While the Eagles do not have a dynamic offense, Shinskie has changed the makeup of Boston College’s attack. He threw for 439 yards in his first two games as starter and protecting the football.

In his first start, he helped lead Boston College to a 27-24 overtime win against Wake Forest on Sept. 26. He threw for 228 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Last Saturday, he threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-21 win over Florida State.

“I see a guy who makes that group better; he’s making accurate throws,” Torrian Gray, the Hokies’ defensive backs coach, said of Shinskie. “They do a great job scheming and trying to anticipate what you’ll be in defensively. That was the most impressive thing, seeing him in command of that offense.”

The Hokies’ pass defense has been generally sound. Although its top cornerback, Stephan Virgil, has missed time and battled a knee injury, Virginia Tech ranks 20th nationally in pass efficiency defense. The Hokies have, however, allowed 20 plays of 20 or more yards this season, accounting for 45.3 percent of the total yards they've given up. The numbers are troubling as the coaches have challenged their players to step up.

Defensive coordinator Bud Foster said Shinskie has thrown the ball well and played with composure.

“He’s been in some battles in some baseball games and things of that nature,” Foster said. “He’s a mature kid, and I’m sure he’s shown a lot of poise.”

While Shinskie may be more mature, he is living just like any college student. He said he lives in a dormitory and eats in a dining hall with his freshman teammates. He said it was “just a regular lifestyle.” Yet Shinskie also said he has perspective an 18-year-old freshman might not have, and he has used that experience to be a mentor of sorts.

“I was once that age and sometimes you don’t make the right decisions,” Shinskie said. “That’s a part of growing up. All I can do is give them advice and stuff about life.”

As for facing Virginia Tech, though, Shinskie said he was unsure what he would face. Although he may be seven years older than some of his teammates, Shinskie has not yet faced a defense as athletic as Virginia Tech’s.

“I plan on seeing a good pass rush, a great secondary that moves around a lot, that plays different coverages on each side and just people flying to the ball,” Shinskie said. “We’ll see on the film coming up these next couple of days, but definitely people flying around the ball. I need to get the ball off quicker and find the holes.”

By Mark Viera  |  October 9, 2009; 10:15 AM ET
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