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FOOTBALL: Changing Things Up

After Five Straight Losses, Spaziani Decides To Switch Up Practice Before BC Faces Maryland

Sports Editor

Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01


Daniel Lee / Heights Editor

Having seen enough of the same lack of execution over the last five games, head coach Frank Spaziani decided to throw a wrinkle into Boston College’s practices this week in preparation for Maryland. The first team offense is going up against the first team defense in shorter practices, which has infused a new level of intensity and competition into the entire squad.

“We had to change practice … to shake things up a little bit,” Spaziani said before practice yesterday. “It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for the last month, but with the opponents, we couldn’t do it for a couple of weeks because of the [triple] option. And then I didn’t want to do it one week and then go back another way.”

Now that the Eagles are done facing the triple option, much to the defense’s relief, Spaziani has implemented the new change in the way his team practices.

On Wednesday, the players seemed to be happy with the mix-up, noting the increased intensity and preparation it brings.

“Coach Spaz thinks that if we can practice against a fast-paced offense–not to say our scout team guys aren’t giving us good looks, but if we’re playing the best offensive guys on our team, I think that’s going to prepare us better for the game,” said fifth-year linebacker Nick Clancy. “That’s definitely going to help us in terms of the speed of the game.”

Usually, the first team offense and first team defense practice against the scout team, which is composed of backups who often never see game action. By playing against other starters and experienced players, the Eagles have found the new practices to be revitalizing.

“I’m actually enjoying it because the intensity of practice is definitely much more tense than it used to be,” said defensive end Kasim Edebali. “For example, on [Tuesday], ones versus ones just coming after [each other], and the intensity’s higher. I think we’re going to get better like that, and ultimately get our first ACC win.”

This season, Spaziani has often said that, while the scout team was doing the best it could, it was never truly replicating the offense or defense that the first team would be facing on Saturday. Because of this, and the ramifications of five straight losses, the idea for a new practice formation came to light.

“[The scout team], as much effort as they try to give you a good look, it doesn’t simulate the same as a starting ACC offense,” Edebali said. “I think the entire team is enjoying it because it’s a little bit more competitive than if you go against the scouts.”

The BC defense, which ranks 117th (out of 120 FBS teams) in total yards allowed per game with 508.71, has been plagued by a lack of execution and letting up big plays throughout this season. The hope is that the change in practice might ignite that defense by increasing the level of physicality and competition throughout the week.

Maryland’s starting quarterback, Perry Hills, was injured in last weekend’s game and was later declared out for the rest of the season. Head coach Randy Edsall has not named a starter for Saturday, but his decision between Devin Burns and Caleb Rowe will come either today or tomorrow.

While BC’s new practice may have been put in place more to help the struggling defense, the offense has been able to reap the benefits as well.

“The competition level increases dramatically,” said senior captain Chris Pantale. “You’re not going to get the same type of looks and effort that you’re going to get from the scout team guys. It forces you to always give 100 percent on a play. It’s forced us to work harder in practice.”

“It really steps the intensity up in practice,” said wide receiver Alex Amidon. “The competition goes up, and the speed of practice goes up with that.”

The first team offense and defense practicing against each other just started this week, but the Eagles have done it before - in summer training camp.

“It really had a summer feel to it, especially going ones against ones,” said quarterback Chase Rettig. “I think it’ll be to our advantage. Getting some good reps against each other will help us for the game.”

Because of the increased intensity with the new drills, the length of practices has been shortened as well.

“It’s more efficient, and we’re getting better work out of it,” Pantale said.

Spaziani said he would likely pit the first teams against each other in practices throughout the rest of the season, but that he’d be reassessing it on a week-to-week basis.

“With our numbers the way we are out here, and where we’re at in the season … we’ll see how successful it is and then reevaluate it,” Spaziani said. “Nothing’s in stone.”

While the change sounds good in theory, the real judgment of Spaziani’s decision will be left up to what the scoreboard says after 60 minutes of play on Saturday afternoon.

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