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New QB poses 'interesting challenge'
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson yells at his players during the second half in the Yellow Jackets’ game against Jacksonville State on Aug. 28 in Atlanta. Georgia Tech travels to play Boston College today. - photo by John Bazemore | The Associated Press

BOSTON — If new Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wanted to know more about the Boston College team that rose to No. 2 in the nation last year, he could cue up some game tapes from 2007 or just walk a few blocks to see former Eagles quarterback Matt Ryan play for the Atlanta Falcons.

It wouldn’t do him much good, though.

Chris Crane has taken over from Ryan, the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year who the Falcons picked with the third overall selection in the NFL draft. And with that change has come a whole new set of problems for BC opponents.

"We’re two different quarterbacks," Crane said Wednesday, "and we’re going to bring two different levels of excitement to the game."

Ryan brought plenty of excitement to Alumni Stadium last year, when BC won its first eight games and he went on to win the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and finish seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting. He did it with a pocket-passing style that will serve him well in the NFL but isn’t really the one Crane brings to the huddle.

"’What produces is my style of quarterback," BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. "Chris is more of a mobile guy who can do it on the run. ... If we did the things with him that we did last year, it wouldn’t have worked, the same as if we put Matt in the situations we’re doing with Chris."

For BC — for one game, at least — that meant allowing Crane to run the ball seven times for 47 yards and two touchdowns as the Eagles beat Kent State 21-0. In three-plus years as the BC starter, Ryan never gained more than 39 net yards on the ground, and he had only two rushing touchdowns all last season.

Of course, he did pass for 4,507 yards and 31 touchdowns.

"We had a lot of success last year," Crane said. "Last year, we wanted to go out and run the ball, but that part of the offense never really showed up. We just ended up having hundreds of pass plays, and that worked out pretty well."

But this year will have to be different.

"Offensively they’ve kind of changed their identity a little bit from last season, at least for the first game," Johnson said. "They are running some option, which they didn’t do much of with Matt Ryan, for obvious reasons, probably.

"We’re not sure which model to get ready for. Last year’s model or the one we saw in the first game. It presents an interesting challenge for us."

A fifth-year senior, Crane played in six games over three seasons as Ryan’s backup before finally getting his chance against Kent State on Saturday. He completed 12 of 18 passes while scoring on 10- and 6-yard runs.

"We’re not going to underestimate him. ... Certainly he’s capable of beating us if we don’t go up there and play well," Johnson said.

"I think you play to the strengths of the guys who are playing. He’s a big guy. He runs well for a big guy like that. He’s got a strong arm. I’m sure experience-wise they feel he’s a freshman, but he’s 22. ... I think the maturity level is far different than the normal guy coming out of high school."

Johnson spent six years at Navy and faced Boston College in the 2006 Meineke Bowl, which BC won 25-24. He will be making his ACC debut today, a week after beating Jacksonville 41-14.

Then Georgia Tech travels to Virginia Tech.

"They didn’t give us any favors," Johnson said jokingly, "when gave us the two division winners on the road back to back."

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