FOOTBALL: Calling For Help
After Losing Spiffy Evans, BC Is Searching Even More Desperately For Receiving Threats
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013 03:10
Steve Addazio’s two biggest concerns heading into the 2013 season are quickly converging on his team, as Boston College prepares to face one of the nation’s top defenses in Virginia Tech this Saturday. The Eagles haven’t had enough playmakers stand out to thrive through the air offensively, and depth issues aren’t making that any easier
“The numbers in the receiver corps are okay, but we’ve got to get some guys to step up,” the BC head coach said at the end of spring practice. “[Senior receiver Alex] Amidon had a great spring. [quarterback] Chase Rettig had a great spring. [Running back] Andre Williams had a great spring. The offensive line took major strides forward … there was real encouragement there. But we don’t have four established playmakers on the perimeter, we don’t have three established tailbacks, you know what I mean? That’s where the issues are.”
And halfway through the season, that’s where the issues remain. After striking a decent balance early in the season, the BC offense has skewed toward an effective run game with inefficient passing lately. Amidon has continued his impressive play from last season, accumulating 585 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 46 receptions, but BC has been short on playmakers through the air outside of the star senior. The Hokies and their talented defensive players will look to take advantage of that lack of balance this weekend.
“They’re going to play man coverage, they’re going to lock you down, they’re really physical, they’re really powerful [on the] interior, so yardage will be tough to come by,’’ Addazio said. “You’re going to have to play the field position game, and you’re going to get your cracks in there, it will happen.”
Amidon has made up 49 percent of BC’s total receptions, 51 percent of receiving yards, and 30 percent of receiving touchdowns. Throughout the Eagles’ first seven games, Rettig has worked to connect with any other target without much success. The outlook became even more bleak when one potential option, junior Spiffy Evans, was ruled out for the season with a fractured clavicle suffered at UNC last week.
This is the nightmare scenario Addazio warned of before Week 1.
“We’re very shorthanded on playmakers so when guys aren’t in there our level drops,” Addazio said before BC opened the season against Villanova. “But when our guys are in there we can make plays on offense and defense. We can.”
Although Williams broke free for 172 yards and a touchdown, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark seven games into the season, Rettig was held to just 57 yards against the Tar Heels—the second lowest total of his long career. UNC, like many other defenses this year, locked in on Amidon. Other BC receivers couldn’t get open, and when they did Rettig either couldn’t hit them or the ball was dropped. The quarterback struggled to get rolling, taking four sacks while holding on to the ball late without finding an option down the field.
Protection isn’t an issue like it was last season, when Rettig got beat up for sacks and rushed throws consistently. Now, with a loaded box of defenders focused on Williams, the challenge for Rettig is simply who to get the ball to and how to get it to them.
That challenge will be enormous this week. Although Virginia Tech is coming off an upset at the hands of Duke, the defense still ranks in the top 10 by almost every important statistical measure.
The Hokies are fifth in scoring defense, allowing fewer than 15 points per game. They’re fifth in rushing defense and second in pass defense. They rank second in sacks per game and first in interceptions—and all of those statistics take into account Virginia Tech’s 35-10 loss to Alabama to start the year.
“Let’s make no mistake about it,” Addazio said. “This is probably the best defense, if not the best, then [among] the top five in the country.”
Although Addazio has talked up other defenses, such as USC, Clemson, and Florida State, heading into big matchups, he thinks the Hokies will be BC offense’s toughest test yet.
“I’ve told you before that we were playing good defenses with these other teams,” Addazio said. “But this defense is better than all the defenses we’ve faced and that’s a fact. That’s not just coachspeak. That’s just the way it is. They’re legit.’’
The Eagles’ best playmakers for attacking Virginia Tech through the air may not come from the receiving corps, but from the backfield instead. David Dudeck will likely be moved to wide receiver to try to replace Evans, and freshman Myles Willis has shown flashes of big-play ability.