The job Steve Addazio’s done with this Boston College program is pretty much the exact opposite type of magic trick that “The Joker” is doing in this scene, but no less impressive. Addazio isn’t making things disappear, on the contrary he is making wins appear seemingly out of thin air. Two consecutive 7-6 seasons doesn’t really sound all that impressive maybe, but given what the expectation levels have been for both of those seasons, it has been mighty impressive. Now there are still fairly low expectations for this team, so we’ll see if Addazio has anymore tricks up his sleeve.
Even if the most famous play in Boston College history is a pass, pounding the rock has long been a staple of the Eagle offense, and with sophomore Jon Hilliman in the backfield that won’t change this year. Hilliman rushed for 860 yards and thirteen touchdowns as a freshman last season. The Eagles were also so efficient at staying ahead of the chains that they were the number two team in the country in 3rd down yardage. There are also a trio of backs behind Hilliman to ensure that he isn’t overtaxed. Myles Willis was the third leading rusher last year, behind Hilliman and QB Tyler Murphy, but he needs to work on ball security after losing three fumbles last year. Marcus Outlow and Tyler Rouse are also back, and both had over four yards per carry last season.
Quarterback is definitely not where any team wants to have a weak spot, and that may be the case this year for B.C. Darius Wade is very unproven with only eight career pass attempts, and he has not exactly lit the world on fire in those few opportunities either with only three completions for 23 yards. Being unproven is certainly better than being demonstrably bad, but still it’s alway nice to know what you’ve got under center. If Wade can’t step up, then the Eagles could really struggle.
Wade won’t have much proven help outside of Hilliman and the running backs either. Boston College has to replace five starters on the offensive line (sort of), and doesn’t have a single receiver who topped 200 yards last season on the roster. That’s not exactly the type of environment in which you want to break in an inexperienced sophomore quarterback. Going back to that parenthetical sort of for a second, it should be noted that right guard Harris Williams started every game in 2013 helping pave the way for Heisman finalist Andre Williams before hurting his ankle in last season’s opener and missing the rest of the season. It should also be noted that Steve Addazio is an offensive line guru.
Running the ball on Boston College should still prove to be a difficult proposition with five starters back on a front seven that was the second best run defense in the country. Defensive end Kevin Kavalec and nose tackle Connor Wujciak are back to lead a stout line. The four projected starters up front, three of which are returning starter, combined for 29.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, plus they added Richmond transfer Evan Kelly who had six sacks in FCS play last year.
Getting to the second level won’t provide any relief either. Steven Daniels and Matt Strizak are back at middle and weakside linebacker, respectively. Daniels and Strizak pitched in a combined twelve tackles for loss last year. Josh Keyes is tough to replace at the strongside linebacker. Keyes had four sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss. His replacement, Matt Milano, did get a decent amount of playing time last year, and managed a sack and three tackles for loss in relief duty.
As strong as the running defense may be, the secondary is a work in progress. There are only four corners on the team who played in a game last season, and none of them picked off a pass. John Johnson is a starter, but he was limited to only eight games due to injury. Kamrin Moore, Isaac Yiadom, and Atem Ntantang each played in most of the games last season, with Moore and Yiadom appearing in all of them, but none of them had more than twenty tackles and the three only combined for five pass break-ups. Justin Simmons is a legitimate ACC free safety, and returns after a solid 2015 campaign where he led the team in tackles.
Many people are bearish on Boston College’s chances to repeat the 7-6 records of the last two seasons, but I’m going to predict that Steve Addazio does it again. This team ought to be able to ground and pound their way to another winning record. It also doesn’t hurt that they get to open the season with Maine and Howard. Aside from the light start though, there are several tough games and if the passing game doesn’t improve, both throwing it and defending it, then getting over the seven win hump will prove too tall a task.
Credit Cover Photo to Stephan Savoia/Associated Press
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Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Sam Pouncey