As we continue our pre-season Q&A series, we take a look at the Boston College Eagles. Once the dominant power in the ACC Atlantic Division, Boston College has lost eight straight games to Clemson. There were some lean years in there, but under the guidance of Coach Addazio they’ve steadied the ship and often provide a tough test for the Tigers as they did last season.
To shed some light on what we can expect this year, we connected with Niraj Patel, the football expert over at BC Interruption. Enjoy and let us know what you think in the comments!
STS: In five of the past six seasons, BC has ended with seven wins. They haven’t eclipsed that mark since 2009 – pre-Addazio. Last year seemed like the season they’d do more, but after reaching 7-2, they dropped games to Clemson, FSU, and Syracuse and then had their bowl game against Boise State cancelled. With all the turnover on defense and on the offensive line, seven wins in 2019 would likely be considered a success by most outsiders. What’s the current mood on the future of BC football and Coach Addazio?
BCI: All roads lead to 7-6. I think there is a general sentiment of cautious optimism. Many people were able to convince themselves during last season that this team was for real. In reality, the schedule just lined up nicely and instead of a rocky start out the gate and a strong finish, BC started off hot and crumbled in the end. They flipped the narrative and gave us something we hadn’t seen before, but it left a worse feeling in the end. It was especially tough not being able to end the season on a positive note with the cancelled bowl game (even though they did look great to start). Even the forces of nature wouldn’t allow us to pass seven wins. There were some incredible highs, leaping into the top-25 and hosting GameDay, but I personally try to forget everything that happened in the season after Christian Wilkins knocked Anthony Brown out of that game (save for an electric Michael Walker punt return).
This season has the makings to be very similar with a bit more of a grind-it-out feeling. Considering the turnover you mentioned, namely on the defensive end, it’s tough to believe that this team can get beyond this perpetual state of mediocrity. BC continues to take care of business, for the most part, against average competition, but 38-38 in the Addazio era speaks for itself.
STS: QB Anthony Brown made big strides last year going from 1,367 passing yards with an 11-9 TD-INT ratio to 2,121 passing yards and a 20-9 TD-INT ratio. Still, that’s only 177 passing yards per game. While RB AJ Dillon is undoubtedly the star of the offense, they’ll likely need more from Anthony Brown if they are to earn seven or more wins, right? What are his strengths and weaknesses and what type of improvements are you hoping and/or expecting to see this year?
BCI: Brown will definitely need to continue to improve from last year. BC brought on a new OC in Mike Bajakian, who spent the past few years as Jameis Winston’s quarterbacks coach in Tampa. Brown still needs to improve his accuracy and awareness of game situations, but the coordinator change could be good for him.
His completion percentage is still in the 50s, but he played better overall especially considering he came back from an ACL injury. He took many more sacks last season, and often threw too short on third down, but took care of the ball for the most part. He of course got hurt again this season, and while he didn’t miss any games this time around, staying healthy is critical. He has a solid deep ball and will hopefully do even better with more play action this season. He’s made the most of the receiving talent around him too, even though it’s by no means a position of strength. I’m expecting continued improvement on all fronts. Going into this season healthy and not rehabbing will allow him to build better chemistry with his receiving corps. I would love to see some more RPO, and really anything to take pressure off AJ Dillon and the run game. Brown was really effective rushing his first season starting, but after the injury I definitely understood the more cautious style last season.
STS: BC’s offense has made their living behind tough offensive linemen who can really run block in the trenches. This year they only return one offensive line starter. That could be a big problem for an offense so reliant on grinding it out on the ground. I know they’ve looked to the grad transfer market. Could you share your outlook for the BC O-line?
BCI: I actually don’t have too much concern with the O-line. Strange to say after losing some big time starters. The team has done well building depth at the position in the grad transfer market, and I think some younger guys are ready to step up, namely Alec Lindstrom, younger brother of first-round pick Chris Lindstrom. Ben Petrula is the big name to watch after earning All-ACC honorable mention. Last year’s group consisted of five returning starters, so they had built-in chemistry, but in general I think this group can find its groove as the season progresses.
STS: In a recent video I ranked AJ Dillon as the #2 RB in the ACC. He wasn’t quite healthy last year. Is he expected to be at full strength this year? Will he be as heavily relied upon as he was down the stretch his freshman year? What are you expectations for the star RB?
BCI: I’m guessing you have Travis Etienne as your number one, but I’ll ride with AJ. I have high hopes for him this season. After missing two games and being quite hobbled down the stretch last year, he’s on record saying this is exactly the fire he needed to get himself more focused. It humbled him after all of the hype and fanfare going into last season. He really didn’t like how he played last season, and he admitted he was too lazy on some of his runs—yet he still led the conference in rushing yards per game!
He’s going into this season having focused on his strength and conditioning. There is some good depth behind him with David Bailey coming in relief, Travis Levy providing change of pace, and maybe even Javian Dayne, son of Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne. While I think he’ll be heavily relied on (probably too heavily), the offense should incorporate some of the other guys a little more to make sure AJ can still dominate down the stretch.
STS: Most sportsbooks have BC’s 2019 regular season win total at six. Are you taking the over or under (or right at six) and why?
BCI: The sportsbooks know exactly what they’re doing here. Last I checked, the total inched up to six and a half wins. There’s some value here, so I’ll be taking the over, but I have to advise caution because the inevitable seventh win could come in the postseason. If you have it at six wins though, I would hammer the over.
STS: Lastly, let’s look at the matchup against Clemson. What do you see as the best game plan for a BC victory? What does BC need to do right and where does Clemson need to slip up for the Eagles to get a win? Last year many Clemson fans felt a letdown loss in Chestnut Hill was the most likely loss on the schedule. With it being in Clemson this year, it doesn’t look as concerning for Clemson. How do you feel about the contest?
BCI: Lol. I think Clemson is so far ahead, that even a perfect BC game won’t be enough this year. There doesn’t even seem to be a trap game potential this time around. You’re right, this year being in Clemson definitely makes things much tougher. That being said, BC has at least played Clemson tough some of the past few years (at least for a quarter or two). The best game plan is really to take care of the ball, run effectively, and control time of possession. You can only disrupt their offense so much, so keep them off the field and take risks defensively. Easier said than done of course. I think Clemson fans can rest easy and should find themselves with a ninth straight O-Rourke-McFadden trophy, if anyone knew that existed at all.
Not so sure honestly! A great comeback story, but two years off makes it anyone’s guess. He’ll definitely provide some much needed depth on the Dline though. I think he’ll make a solid impact.— Niraj Patel (@niraj_patel7) July 31, 2019
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