BOSTON — Boston College coaches and players remember where they were when they heard the news that Harold Landry would return for his senior season, as if it were the moon landing or the verdict in a major trial.

Defensive coordinator Jim Reid still has the Twitter message. Fellow defensive lineman Zach Allen got a text and sped off to tell his teammates.

“I ran downstairs just telling them, ‘He’s back. We’re so lucky,'” Allen said. “We’re trying to do special things — this year especially. And I think having him is huge, and it’s going to be great for us.”

A 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive end who set the school’s single-season record with 16 1/2 sacks last year, Landry bypassed a chance to enter the NFL draft for the opportunity to get his degree and perhaps graduate with the school’s career sack record, too. He had himself pegged as a late second- or early third-round pick.

“I wanted to make sure that when I go to the NFL that I was actually ready to play,” Landry said. “I want to prove that I’m an every-down player. … I don’t want to be just another developing player.”

By returning to the defense, Landry gives the Eagles an anchor for the unit that was the biggest reason they were able to improve to 7-6 last season. A year after failing to win a single Atlantic Coast Conference game, BC not only returned to bowl eligibility but beat Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl.

But the Eagles have some things to sort out if they’re going to be more than an also-ran in the ACC’s Atlantic Division. Here are a few to watch for:

QUARTERBACKS

Freshman Anthony Brown has impressed the coaches in practice so far, but there’s no decision yet on whether he will start over returning graduate Darius Wade, who has played in 12 games over three seasons but was a backup for Patrick Towles last year.

“Now we’re in a situation where the position is wide open again,” Wade said. “I want to go out, just show my coaches, my teammates that, hey, I can do this, and that I want to prove that I should be the guy.”

RUNNING GAME

Since Matt Ryan graduated in 2007, BC’s success has largely been on the strength of its running game. Behind much-heralded offensive lines, backs like Montel Harris, Andre Williams and even quarterback Tyler Murphy all surpassed 1,000 yards in a season.

This year, returning starter Jon Hilliman (184 carries, 542 yards, 6 TDs last year) and sophomore Davon Jones (91, 361, 2) will be joined by freshmen AJ Dillon and Travis Levy. Senior center Jon Baker is featured on an offensive line that has four players with starting experience.

HOT SEAT

After going nearly two calendar years without a conference victory, coach Steve Addazio avoided the hook by winning his last two games of the regular season and qualifying for a bowl game. The Eagles beat Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl to finish 7-6.

But with a new athletic director, Martin Jarmond, Addazio may still need to prove himself. More wins would be nice, but BC fans would also like to see the Eagles be more competitive against some the conference elite; last year, four of the six ACC losses were by 38 points or more.

“We have the opportunity this year to show that we’re not that team anymore, and that we can compete with these guys,” Landry said.

BUILDING FROM THE GROUND UP

Boston College is pumping $200 million into its athletic facilities, including a new weight room for the football team, an athletics field house and playing fields for other sports.

This is further proof, Addazio says, that they are committed to building something in Chestnut Hill.

“Everything is momentum,” he said. “You don’t have to have the biggest, the baddest. We don’t need a bowling alley and a barber shop and all that because we’ve got so many other great things that other people don’t have. But what we have has to be good and nice and the ability to help us develop our athletes.”


AP freelancer Ken Powtak contributed to this report.